1 Corinthians 8:7 & 8, “ It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”
This knowledge that Paul is referring to is the oneness of God, the oneness of Jesus.
When I was reading this, I was thinking about how this could apply to my little life. I will not be deciding whether to buy idol meat or kosher meat today. I will not see a statue of an idol on the grocery store shelves, or my neighbor’s lawn. So, what does this mean for me?
Even as Christians, we are accustomed to a divided loyalty. We do believe that there is one God and one Jesus, but our idols are nuanced. We have personal idols and cultural idols. You will have to define your own, which should make for a fun day. Here is a cultural example for women:
The way that I think about sex is different than God intended because of the world that I live in. Everything around me tells me that I should behave a certain way with my body and my attitudes, my sensuality. I am accustomed to seeing advertisements, billboards, teenage girls in the mall, and magazines that spell out my role. In our culture, sex is an idol.
There is the possibility that because I have been so indoctrinated with sexual definitions, that I could have a difficult time separating my role as a mentally healthy, and godly woman and wife from that which I have seen and been taught. Sex can remain something in my mind that is defiled because I am accustomed to seeing the idolatrous form. My understanding of sex is tied with my association to this world.
There are so many examples of this in the world. I could go on and on. How about one more highlighting individual idols?
I once led a women’s accountability group, which was a wonderful experience. One of my biggest lessons came because I underestimated my influence. I bought this expensive purse and it had the brand all over it. I really, really hate brands all over things. I refuse to buy sunglasses that has a brand all over the side, or bags that are decorated in the brand name. Just hate them. So, this purchase was really unlike me.
I noticed one girl, who really struggled with materialism, eyeing my bag. She touched it and liked it, and talked about it. This girl worked so hard, and was struggling with expenses, so this temptation was a true burden for her. The next week she showed up with a bag like mine. She walked up and showed it to me. I was so ashamed. I sent my bag to Goodwill. I can influence the weaker conscience, too.
Our culture makes it very easy for us to adopt idols, and adapt behaviorally for their incorporation into our everyday life. We do not have impenetrable shields as Christians. We have to be on our guard.
There are areas for all of us where we cannot say, “It is just a purse”, or, “It is just a car”. Some of us struggle with food, sex, alcohol or drugs…being a servant, being busy, or being liked. 1 Corinthians 8:4, says, “Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” I can say that about some things, but others…well, my conscience is weak.
If you heard my entire life’s story, you might see how some areas are weaker than others. You might understand why there is more temptation in certain areas for me. I can definitely say that I have my own personal idols.
I was sitting and praying about this, this morning. These idols, we embrace them, don’t we? We make room for them, even if it is only a crack. They are like caulk; they will just fill the cracks and solidify. They want to fill the gaps, leaving us feeling solid and whole…leaving us defiled.
I heard something important this morning. While I was praying God revealed that these weaknesses, these areas where my conscience lacks, are where He wants to shine. He literally wants to shake the foundation enough to crack the caulk and reopen the gaps. Sounds humbling. Here is my other option…as long as I want to pretend that I can handle the world and its idols, I will be left defiled.
God is a gentleman. He does not come in and take over the things that we call friends. He does not barge in uninvited. He waits for the offering. He waits for us to set our friends, our little idols, down on the steps of His throne and walk away. He can fix the cracked defiled part, then. He can change the way that we think about these former idols.
My work comes with putting, and keeping things in their proper mental space. We place improper weight on things in our environments because we lose sight of their true worth. The question to ask is, does this bring me close to God?
Are their areas in your lives where you confuse worth? Are their things that you are placing ahead of others that would bring you close to God?
Father, thank you for your intentional unshackling that you desire for us. Point out the areas that carry undo weight in our lives. Show us the things that bring us close to you and renew our minds with your priorities.