Holiness Principle #7 – Holiness means more than just not doing what is wrong, it means striving to do what is profitable for the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 10:23-33
23 “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive.
24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,
26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake—
29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?
30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—
33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (NIV)
I was teaching on these principles of holiness in my Sunday School class recently and the question came up about the holiness of doing things that I enjoy but don’t produce good, righteous, and true fruit. An example was given of going to a football game, but the question can literally extend to many different areas of life. A trip to a college football game here in Alabama can consume most of a Saturday and also hundreds of dollars. So, is there anything inherently wrong with going to a football game, or fishing, or to the beach? No, I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with these kinds of activities. There are things that we all do for enjoyment, for recreation, and for pleasure that the fruit thereof is not readily apparent. Are these activities unholy?
As we attempt to answer this question, let me first of all say that I am not against having fun. I enjoy free time and recreational activities just like any other guy. I don’t care for football, but I do go see a baseball game every once in a while. I say this just so you know that I am not a radical person who has denounced all pleasures of life.
There is, however, a good answer to the question about the holiness of doing things we enjoy but that produce no righteous fruit. The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 10:23. I like the reading in the NASB. “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (NASB) As we think about the activities in our lives, we can consider them in one of two different ways. Some people, as they consider their activities, ask themselves this question: “Would this be wrong for me to do? Would I sin if I did this activity?” Other people look at the activities of their lives and ask themselves this question: “Is this the right thing to do? Would I please God if I did this?” 1 Corinthians 10:23 gives us two criteria by which we can judge the activities of our lives.
First, 1 Corinthians 10:23 tells us that although something may be lawful for me to, it may not be profitable. The NIV uses the word “beneficial”, and the KJV uses the word “expedient”. The Greek word is “sumphero”. The basic meaning of this word is to “collect together”, as in to gather up and carry. Here is an example of this idea. Anyone who has had a child for the last fifteen years knows Thomas the Tank Engine. He is called a “really useful engine.” Why? Because there were times that he performed beyond expectations. How about you? When the world looks at you as a Christian, do they see someone who is performing as they would expect, or do they see someone who is performing beyond expectations. Are you occupied by doing the minimum required to be a Christian, or are you being profitable for the kingdom of God?
Second, 1 Corinthians 10:23 tells us that although something may be lawful for me to, it may not edify the body of Christ. The NIV uses the word “constructive” here. This is the Greek word “oikedomeo.” It literally means a “house-builder.” Another example is in order here. A couple of years ago, our church put a metal roof on the house of one our members. We had a team of guys ranging from children to youths to grown men. I noticed that some of the youths were content to play in the yard, while others were doing great work. Those that were contributing to the work were edifying to the work. Those who did not work were not necessarily detracting, but they definitely were not contributing. So, again, we can ask ourselves if our actions are building up the body of Christ, or are we just standing on the sidelines watching others do the work?
What are some examples of how our own holiness can be profitable for the kingdom of God and edifying to the body of Christ? As we continue our examination of 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, we can find several examples of what is expected of us in order to be profitable and edifying.
In verse 24, we see that we can be profitable and edifying by looking out for the good of other people. “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (NIV) Instead of focusing on what would be good for us to do, we are called to focus on doing things that would be good for other people. That means I need to get away from the “me-centered” focus and move toward a “you-centered” focus.
We can be profitable and edifying if we enjoy the things that God has given you without straining out the gnats of useless controversy. This is seen in verses 25-26. “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (NIV) We often disparage the kingdom of God and damage others around us by constantly looking for the evil in things in which there is no evil. We need to have proper discernment, but discernment is not a license to look for a demon behind every tree.
We can be profitable and edifying if we perform beyond the expectations of the unbelieving world. Verses 27-29 actually present two different scenarios. Both scenarios involving going to an unbelievers house to eat a meal. In the first scenario, the unbeliever serves you a steak. You will perform beyond the expectations of the unbeliever if you dig right in without asking where the steak came from. But in the second scenario, you get the same steak, but it comes with a test. In verse 28, the steak comes with the express verbal statement that the meat had been offered to an idol. You will perform beyond the expectations of the unbeliever if you do not eat the steak because you are being tested.
We can be profitable and edifying if we are thankful to God for all things. We see this idea in verse 30. “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?” (NIV) Let’s go back to the college football game. Even this can be profitable and edifying if you thank God for the fun and perhaps for the fellowship and family time together, unless you go alone. Even if your team loses. Even if your team loses really bad. Would it not be a breath of fresh air to see a Christian at a football game honestly worshipping God instead of their team?
We can be profitable and edifying if we test everything we do against the glory of God. Read verse 31 with me again. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV) An excellent test for any activity is to ask yourself “Can I do this for the glory of God?” Even the most mundane things in life can be put to this test. In verse 31, we are told that we can eat in such a manner that it will bring glory to God, and we can drink in such a manner that it will bring glory to God. In fact, verse 31 tells us that just about everything we do on a regular, daily basis can be done to the glory of God. But those things which cannot be done to the glory of God will stick out like a sore thumb.
We can be profitable and edifying if we take the time to think about the ramifications of our actions. Our actions may seem innocent enough now, but we may never know what will happen to someone else because of what we do. We see this idea in verses 32-33. “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way.” (NIV) Notice that Paul tells us that we need to be concerned about those outside of our immediate circle. He tells the Corinthians to think about the Jews, the Greeks, and the church as they consider their actions.
The end of verse 33 is an excellent conclusion to this matter. “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (NIV) What is our ultimate goal as we seek to be profitable to the kingdom of God and edifying to the body of Christ? We are to seek to do what is good for many, And what is the best thing that can be done for the many? All things should be done so that other people may be saved.
By Berean Husband
Here are the links for the previous Principles for Holiness posts.