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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 8:12-13 I will never eat meat again

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 22, 2023

12 If you sin against your brothers this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 This is why, if food is a cause for my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so I will not cause my brother to fall into sin.

These words end this short chapter, and Paul has come to the bottom line. If something I do in my Christian freedom leads a weaker brother or sister into sin, I’ve damaged their conscience, and I have sinned against Christ. So all of the examples of adiaphora—drinking, smoking, card playing, dancing, getting a tattoo, working on a Sunday, playing or listening to music with obscene language, or whatever the action might be—all of these things crumble to the ground and add to the slime of the spot I deserve in hell if they lead some poor brother or sister into a sin.

Think of Peter in the courtyard of the high priest. Just as he denied Jesus, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Just what sin had Peter added to the debt that Christ would pay? The same goes for our sins against Jesus that involve our weaker brothers and sisters. Just what look across the courtyard from Jesus could we possibly endure without breaking down and weeping? Only a man already slipping into unbelief, already sliding away from heaven forever, would try to lie his way out of that question.

Paul’s conclusion, then, is not a hyperbole, but a compassionate confession: “If food is a cause for my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again.” The word here is skandalizo (σκανδαλίζω). This was originally a trap like the kind I tried to use as a boy to catch rabbits. A box is tipped up by a crooked stick with a string around the stick, so that when the animal tries to take the bait, the trap is sprung and the box falls. The ancient variety killed the animal (I was trying to catch a pet; never with any success), and the entrapment of our scandalous use of freedom can kill the soul of a Christian. No harm done to him is worth my use of my freedom.

So if my brother’s conscience tells him that drinking alcohol is a sin, “I will never lift another beer forever” for the sake of his conscience, and his soul. If my sister’s conscience tells her that unmarried people dancing is sinful, “I will never lift my feet to the beat forever” for the sake of her conscience, and her soul. Just as the Lord God caused his people to be pitied by all who held them captive (Psalm 106:46), so may he cause us to pity all those who are tormented with weak consciences. May we do what would please God most rather than what would please us momentarily. We should want to love one another more than we love ourselves. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), and more especially let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25) and all the more as we see the Day approaching. We should love one another, for love comes from God.

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 visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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