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“Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
The Corinthian church was a mess. A careful reading of the Bible reveals that Paul probably spent a year and a half planting the church, wrote 3-4 letters to them confronting them of various issues (only two of them survived), and made at least one “painful visit,” as he calls it. In chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, Paul seems to quote a familiar Corinthian saying, “everything is permissible,” and then follows it up by admonishing them even if something is permissible, that does not mean it is beneficial or constructive. And he continues by telling them that as believers, they should not simply evaluate things on the basis of whether or not they can do it, but on whether or not it is good for others.
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. There are some things that are clearly sinful according to the Bible: adultery, stealing, lying, etc. There are other things that may feel like they are in the gray area in that they are not necessarily sinful. But before you go ahead and partake in those behaviors, let Paul’s admonishment serve as another lens: is it beneficial? Is it constructive? Are you only seeking your own good, or are you seeking the good of others?
In the ensuing verses, Paul uses an example familiar to the Corinthians: eating meat. On its own, he says, there is nothing wrong with eating meat. But if you go into someone’s house and they tell you that the meat placed in front of you was sacrificed to an idol, Paul tells them not to eat it, lest your host think that you approve of that idol. He ends the section by saying:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-- even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
When you are evaluating a behavior or an action, discerning whether or not is sinful is not the only criteria. In this passage, Paul admonishes us to consider whether the behavior or action is beneficial or constructive, whether it is good for others, and whether it will bring glory to God.
What comes to mind in your life as you consider these verses? What is something that may be permissible, but may not pass the other tests? What is a behavior or action that you might enjoy, but that might not be beneficial or constructive, or could harm another person, or cause them to stumble? Let Paul’s words challenge you today: whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it ALL for the glory of God.
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