God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 10:32-33 The house is on fire
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 12, 2023
32 Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please all people in all things, not seeking what is best for me, but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
There will always be people that you cannot please. But you can do your best not to give actual offense. Paul tells his Corinthian readers to be careful toward Jews, and toward Greeks, and not to forget the church. Jews will be concerned about the holiness code; being clean and unclean. New Christians who had once been Greek will be especially concerned about this business of meat sacrificed to an idol. The church in general will be more concerned with our words about Christ, the sacraments, the gospel, and the doctrine of salvation.
Paul talked about all of this in chapter 9 but be brings it up once again to be sure we understand: People’s souls are at stake. Some of my younger colleagues have young children at home. If I’m asked to come over and babysit while mom and dad go out for a well-earned date night, and I find the children in the kitchen playing with knives, then that’s something that needs to be addressed right away, isn’t it? But what if I find the children in the kitchen playing with knives, and the house is also on fire? Isn’t there a more pressing problem than the knives? We’ll come back to the issue of those knives, but right now I need to get those children to safety! So it is with looking out for what is best for people. Is there a big problem to be addressed? Does your loved one belong to a church that denies that Jesus rose from the dead? That’s a house that’s on fire.
On the other hand, choosing to give up some of my Christian freedoms in order to be gentle with tender souls is Paul’s main focus here. Walking the difficult line between Jew and Greek and Church is never easy, and sometimes it might seem impossible. The new believer is concerned about one thing. Perhaps they are shocked that so many families don’t pack the pews every week, and they think they are offended by this. The long-time Christian is troubled by other things; by people he knows are sinning and living a sinful lifestyle. He might be confused by a pastor who gives them communion, because he doesn’t know about their state of repentance and the battles that they are fighting against their sinful nature, battles that go unseen. Another member is disheartened by a new Bible translation, or a new hymnal, or a change in the church’s schedule. The pastor will be concerned with things that cause people to fall into sin, not merely with things which cause people to be upset. Someone will always be upset about something. The church doesn’t change enough. The church doesn’t change very quickly. The church changes too much. The church changes too quickly. This only proves the ancient proverb: “No one can please everyone.”
When our people leave the church over matters of preference (such as liking the old Bible translation), there might be other battles, battles against sin and soul and eternal life, that are more pressing matters. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he could have addressed a hundred problems, but all through the letter, he is concerned with only one: You are giving up on grace and you are trying to be saved by keeping the law. The house was on fire! Souls were at stake!
“Trying to please all people” also means that Christians generally and pastors certainly will strive to live a godly life, bearing crosses in a way that gives God glory, accepting adversity so that no one can blame us of favoritism or greed, lust, envy, laziness, shirking our duties, being poor neighbors, being bad citizens, or things like that. We will also strive not to play favorites with any political parties, for Christ, not politics, belongs in our pulpits and Bible classes. Issues of democracy and voting and positions on current events will only prove to alienate half of our people at any given moment. We must encourage our people to be good citizens on account of the Fourth Commandment, but we must never dictate to them how they should go about that, just as Paul does not tell anyone whether they should be a lay person or a minister but encourages us instead to be faithful with whatever gifts God has given to us (more about this in chapters 12-14).
Pray for your pastors and the other workers who do the work of the Lord in your church. Build them up as they build up your faith. Seek what is best for them as they seek what is best for you. They are concerned for your soul. Their call is to shepherd you to everlasting life. “The grazing lands are becoming green. The trees are bearing fruit. Celebrate, you people of Zion!” (Joel 2:22-23).
Pastor Timothy Smith