This past Sunday, we read “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.” It’s from 1 Corinthians 8, starting with the first verse – and as I read it, I found myself thinking of the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
And to me, there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is for the sake of knowing and being right. It is of the brain. Wisdom, on the other hand, is knowledge applied for better life and better living. Wisdom is of the brain AND the heart.
So Paul speaks words of wisdom to a community of Christians in Corinth who excel in the Roman way of knowledge. To put it short, they love being right and have gone to great lengths to prove it.
Just a little backdrop: At this time, in Corinth, most everyone aside from this tiny band of Christ followers would have sacrificed animal offerings to all sorts of gods. Think Jupiter and Mars type gods. The temples where these took place would then go to the market and sell the meat to make money for the temple. This was so much the practice that all meat on the market was second-hand-sacrifice meat.
So a fight breaks out between the band of Christians (probably because they didn’t have a Praise and Pinch team) about whether they can buy and eat meat. The question at hand was, “Is this idol worship to eat meat sacrificed to pagan gods?”
And the Christians who have been Christian for a while get that there is only one God and eating meat sacrificed in front of a pagan statue is the same as one that was sacrificed on a storefront butcher shop. All that matters for these Christians is that you know God is the God and the only God and his son was Jesus. Otherwise, enjoy that nice steak! And they felt like they were right.
For those new to Christianity, this was hard to accept. Eating meat for them had always been associated with supporting those gods. Meat eating was a way of celebrating Jupiter or Mars or name-your-fav-diety and when those older Christians around them ate meat, they felt like they were abandoning Christ for pagan ritual. Eating meat was therefore sinful and so they felt they were also right.
And to this, Paul speaks wisdom: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” To paraphrase, it is not about being right or wrong, it’s about taking care of your little sibling. “If you eat meat, and it causes your sister or brother to falter in faith then give up the meat as you teach them what is important,” Paul says. “Because at the end of the day, it is not about if you have a solid legal argument to justify your actions. It is, ‘Did you take care of each other?’”
So in today’s world, I wonder if there are ways that we can support those new to faith. For instance, does it matter if someone is well dressed to church; after all, that is a sign of respect. Or does it matter if someone brings a snack into the sanctuary since they were late and the kid still needs breakfast?
Are their stumbling blocks that we have put in front of the little ones of faith, and if there are, can we remove them? Because at the end of the day, we may be right, but what matters is if we were wise with love – because that is what builds Christ up.
Enjoy your week!