“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. – 1Cor. 10:23-24 NIV
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The Apostle Paul had spent a considerable portion of his first letter to the Church in Corinth, letting them realise that accepting the teachings by advocates of Judaism was like losing the freedom that became available when they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ. Similar to his advise to the Galatians (Gal. 5:1), he made them realise that the freedom that the gospel of Jesus Christ provided was not only that from the burden of sin but also from the encumbrances that are inherent in human efforts at achieving righteousness and justification before the Lord. Salvation was no longer going to be about all those restrictions with regards to what to eat and touch or what not to eat and touch, neither was it going to be about strict observance of all the ordinances associated with the Old Covenant, but simply about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. There is no doubt that those restrictions came with lots of emotional, physical and financial discomfort, all of which were eliminated in the requirements associated with new Covenant that was been preached by Paul.
In the exercise of this freedom, he advised them to be careful not to find themselves unknowingly entangled or involved in the sin of Idolatry. This really was a follow-up to his earlier advise that they should remain careful, even when they believe they are strong in faith, so as to avoid the fall that can come with being overly confident about who they have become – 1Cor. 10:12-13. Using the case of their participation in the thanksgiving activities involving the sharing of the Body of Christ, he reminded them that the simple fact that they were all sharing and eating one loaf of bread was what made them all part of one body. Likewise, those who offer sacrifices to idols also set up an altar and together, they partake in a single meal, an action that unites them all, so anyone who is a believer could easily be an idolater without knowing, by simply eating all these sacrifices that have been made in honour, or before the altar of idols and demons – 1Cor. 10:14-18.
As much as he was not in anyway attaching any significance to the sacrifice offered to idols or even to the idol itself, his advise was aimed at preventing believers from participating in activities that glorify demons, as that could trigger the jealousy of the Almighty God, who has always made His desire to be worshipped alone, very clear to the believer – Exo. 20:3-11. He will simply not want the same person who is glorifying Him, to do same in honour of any other, including idols and demons – 1Cor. 10:19-22.
In the scripture that is the foundation of today’s Devotional, and probably in his desire to make it clear that no attempt is being made to control their style of living, he re-affirmed their still existing rights and freedom to do all that they want to do in Christ Jesus, but made them aware that the exercise of those rights will need to be guided by their response to the two questions;
- Is it beneficial?
- Is it constructive?
Although these considerations will be better addressed in subsequent devotionals, but he, cautioned the one who will answer those guiding questions not consider only self but to also consider the effect of the exercise of such freedom on others.
If the Christian today applies these guidelines recommended by the Apostle Paul to all actions, especially, as it relates, not only to their relationship with Jehovah but also to their interaction with others, there will no doubt be a greater manifestation of the presence of God in Christendom and also more peaceful co-existence amongst the brethren. The Christian today, as evident in prayers rendered to God, is very egocentric, with hardly no consideration for how desired actions affect the things of God, and also fellow men. You may indeed be free to do all that is within your ability to do, but you should never see things simply from the perspective of how it benefits you alone. The entire world is an interdependent community with the actions of one person likely to always have an effect on another. Not to assess the effect of that good thing that you desire on anyone else could actually be the reason for the strained relationship you have with the Almighty God or even amongst those people that you are accusing of not been nice to you. It is very easy to fall from respectable heights, either social or spiritual, when desired actions are not properly assessed from the perspective of its effects on others. There is simply no way that anyone will be contented with a situation, where the cause of his/her life challenges are traceable to actions that bring you comfort, just as the Almighty God will not even allow it with regards to divine things, as everything that the one who claims to love Him must be done according to His wish – Matt. 6:10.
May God grant us all the wisdom to consider the effect of our actions on others before exercising our rights in Jesus name. Amen.