‘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.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)
Read: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
Consider: Paul takes great care to speak to the Corinthian believers about the use of their freedom. Paul understands human nature which can say: I have the right to do anything (1 Corinthians 10:23). When you listen to or watch the news there are always people who are prepared to flout rules, regulations and even recommendations, because they think that no-one has the right to tell them what to do. There are also some who think that these rules, etc. contravene their right to freedom. If this is what the world thinks, what should the Christian think and do?
It is often said that the Christian view is diametrically-opposed to the world view, but what does the Bible teach us? The first thing we should notice from this passage is that Paul is not concerned with a person’s rights, but with their responsibilities. Throughout his letters Paul is very clear in expressing the view that Christians have great freedom, but that this freedom should be carefully and thoughtfully exercised. Earlier in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 8), Paul discusses the matter of Christian freedom, using meat sacrificed to idols as the context. The primary lessons from that passage were that the Christian, in exercising their freedom, should ask themselves if it:
- is glorifying to God;
- could cause a weaker Christian to stumble;
- could turn a non-Christian away from following Christ.
Paul not only asks us to think about the effects of exercising our freedom, he tells us that the other person’s needs should have greater influence over our decision than our own rights. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:24 – Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
Let’s think about this for a moment within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many countries there is a gradual easing of the lockdown and this has given people more and more freedom to enjoy life as it returns to normal. However, we all know that the COVID-19 virus is still active worldwide and there are some common-sense restrictions we should place on ourselves. Rushing headlong to exercise our freedom could have dire consequences, both for ourselves and others.
Paul also sees the exercise of freedom as an opportunity to serve others. In Galatians 5:13 we read: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. If we can use our freedom in this way, it naturally takes the focus of us and places it on others.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Pray: Father, help us as Christians to use our freedom to glorify you and to serve others, turning our rights into responsibilities for the good of others. Amen