Summary: Paul, Pt. 6
THREE SIDES OF THE EQUATION (1 CORINTHIANS 10:23-33)
A farmer wanted to breed his three sows (adult female hogs). He had a friend who owned a few boars, so they made arrangements to get the sow and boars together. One afternoon the farmer loaded the sows into his pickup truck and hauled them over to the nearby farm. While the pigs were getting very well acquainted, he asked his friend how he would know if his pigs were pregnant.
“That’s easy,” said the man. “They wallow in the grass when it (works) takes, but they wallow in the mud when it doesn’t.”
Early the next morning the farmer awoke, glanced out the window of his bedroom, and noticed all three sows wallowing in the mud. So he loaded them back into his pickup and took them for a second round with the boars. Next morning...the same result. All three were wallowing in the mud. Disappointed but determined, the farmer once again took them back, hoping the third time would be the charm.
The following morning the farmer had to be away from the farm on business, so he anxiously phoned his wife, “Are they wallowing in the grass or the mud, dear?”
“Neither,” she replied. “But two of them are in the back of your pickup and the third one’s up front honking the horn!” (Charles Swindoll, Simple Faith 184-85).
Like the farmer, good, godly Christians are so serious about changing others’ opinions, beliefs and convictions on non–essential issues that they cannot see eye to eye or have a heart to heart talk with others who differ from them. Some churches split and members leave over Bible versions, worship wars and Jesus’ coming.
One of the most contentious issues in the church at Corinth was whether to eat food sacrificed to idols. The believers there comprised of Jews and Gentiles, so their background and diet is different.
What factors govern our decision-making in differences? What is the best and greatest motivation?
Paul gives us three principles to free us to worship, serve and thrive in a church community.
Seek the Gain That Counts
23 “Everything is permissible”- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”- but not everything is constructive. (1 Cor 10:23-24)
In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?” “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“Well, no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…” “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“Umm, no, on the contrary…” “So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left—the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.” “Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?” (Appleseeds.com)
Why did Paul rehash the case on food sacrificed to idols? Did not the church in Jerusalem ask the Gentiles to abstain from four things upon profession of Christ - food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality? (Acts 21:25) Did Paul undermine the apostles’ teachings? The apostles and the church had previously faced and handled at least two food fights. First, on the subject of ceremonial washing of hands and feet and the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles that was part of tradition of the elders. (Mark 7:1-4) Jesus summarized, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matt 15:18-20)
Paul, too, had his hands full with the debate over eating vegetables or meat. He says in another book, Romans 14:1-3 - “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”