Freedoms Versus Stumbling Blocks

In 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV), Paul says:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul was writing about meat sacrificed to idols.  This is an issue to which we may find it hard to relate.  We don’t make sacrifices.  We don’t worship idols of wood, stone and precious metal.  What could this possibly refer to in our day and age?  It has to do with anything that makes us say, “I have the right” to do this or that with little regard for those whose faith might be weak or for those who are new to the faith.  Take a look at two verses from Romans 14.
Romans 14:13 (NIV) says:

make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

and Romans 14:21 (NIV) says:

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

There are man made rules for Christians with which we may be quite familiar.  I preached a sermon on them not too long ago.  We have the freedom to pretty much do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t violate direct commands of Scripture.  But what happens when a weaker brother or sister sees us violating one of these human regulations?  What is our attitude?  What is our response?
We might be tempted to be indignant or angry.  “How can they question me?!?  Why is it any of their business?  It’s not against the Bible!”  When we start to defend our rights we are breaking the “royal law” as James puts it in chapter 2, verse 8 (NIV): “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  When we are more concerned about our right to do this or our right to do that with little or no regard for the spiritual health of others, we are not putting their needs above our own freedom.  It is then that we become stumbling blocks.
I know that this is a hard thing to do.  I would rather do what I want (within the bounds of Scripture, of course) than to consider someone else’s spiritual growth and health.  But how could I live with myself if I knew that someone was led astray from their faith because I was more concerned about my rights?

1 Corinthians 8

New International Version (NIV)

Concerning Food Sacrificed to Idols

8 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods,whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.


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