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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 10:24 the good of the other

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, March 23, 2023

24 No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other.

I won’t apologize for my translation here. Paul says “other” in the singular, not “others” in the plural. And he uses a definite article, “the.” No one should seek his own good, but the good of “the” other guy. In other words, Paul is not telling us we should be idealistic in a general or random way, because we might still ignore the spiritual needs of the man or woman who is right in front of us.

The Holy Spirit wants us to think of the spiritual needs of the other fellow, the one right in front of me or behind me, and in this context, the one who might be offended if I eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol. I must not brush him off the way the chief priests did with Judas when they said, “What is that to us?” or “That’s your responsibility, not ours” (Matthew 27:4). They didn’t have his good in mind, but only the murder that they were planning (Mark 14:1).

There is no word “good” in Paul’s Greek here. It is rather, “No one should (or: “Let no one…”) seek for himself, but for the other (one).” So whatever is best, whatever is good, whatever is helpful, whatever is beneficial (“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,” Philippians 4:8), this is what we should seek for the other. And to pull a word down from the previous verse, whatever builds up (oikodomeo) is what we should seek for the other.

Solomon proclaims that there is “a time to tear down and a time to build,” (Ecclesiastes 3:3), and the time for my fellow man to be built up is when my actions and words might help or hurt him, depending on how I use my words and actions. But however I do this, and whatever my thoughts might be, let them be for his eternal good over against my momentary happiness. For the one will last forever “in joy and gladness” (Jeremiah 33:11) but the other is ephemeral and passes away like dry and withered grass in the evening (Psalm 90:5-6).

If the good of the other is that I give up my desire, then I should give it up. If the good of the other is that I should encourage others to do the same, then I should do that. If the good of the other is that I should do these things along with teaching him the truth of Christ fulfilling the law on our behalf, then of course I should do that if I am able, but not all are apt to teach (2 Timothy 2:24). If I cannot teach him, I should seek out someone who can.

For all of those times when I have been selfish, or neglectful, or didn’t notice that what I thought was good for me was not good for someone I should have been looking out for, I am desolate. I am nothing but a miserable man with blood on my hands. Forgive me, Father, for these sins, too—sins I did not even consider until your holy Word shone a new light into the clean room I thought my life was, but which is nothing but a filthy dungeon of shame and guilt. What a tireless and compassionate God we have, who would forgive such a man! What a thoughtful, glorious and brilliant God we have, who would still choose to work through such a man as me despite my sins and my failings! But for me, his forgiveness is above all other things. May I live in his forgiveness and share that above all else.

This is how we love our neighbor, which James called “the royal law.” Love does no harm to a neighbor (Romans 13:10); God’s will is that a man will love his neighbor as he loves himself (Leviticus 19:18), and Paul said that this is the summary of the whole law (Galatians 5:14). John put it this way: “The children of the devil are obvious: Everyone who does not do what is right, and everyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). And although I would never have thought such a wicked song lyric could be brought into a devotion such as this, I will admit that in this context only, I could agree with this much of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song in a Christian sense: “Love the one you’re with.”

Within me, Lord, your vision traces
A heart of deep humility
That mourns its sin and yet embraces
The merit you have earned for me
Lord, may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good.

(I Come O Savior, To Your Table)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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