1 Corinthians 8
Tips for dealing with food offered to idols
Idols are fake gods1 Now let me answer your question about whether or not it’s okay to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. All of us already know a thing or two about this. Knowledge, however, can give us a big head. What we need is a big heart, and that comes from love. 2 We might think we know all we need to know about something. But we don’t know as much as we think we know.
3 Know this. If someone loves God, that soul is known by God. 4 When it comes to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know two things. An idol isn’t really a God. And there’s really only one God. 5 Even if there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth, and people certainly do worship a lot of different gods and masters, 6 for us,
There is just one God,
He created everything that exists.
We exist for him.
There is just one Lord,
Through him everything was created.
We exist because of him. 
Not everyone knows idols are fake7 Not all believers know this. Some believers used to worship idols, so they eat idol-sacrificed meat like they did in the past—as a religious ritual. Afterward, they feel guilty about it. 8 But our relationship with God has nothing to do with food. Eat the food or don’t eat. It won’t matter. Eating the food isn’t going to affect our relationship with God one way or the other.
Don’t hurt others with what you eat9 But be careful with this freedom you have to eat whatever you want. It could trip up a weaker soul and tumble them into sin. 10 You know there’s nothing to idols. But some weaker soul might see you eating in the temple of an idol. This might lead them back into eating the sacrificial meat—and worshiping the idols, too.
Knowledge can kill11 Think of it. You have the knowledge. You know there’s nothing to idols. Yet your knowledge about this could spiritually destroy a weaker believer. The Messiah died for that believer. 12 It’s a sin to encourage your fellow believers who are weak in faith to do something they believe is wrong. When you sin against them, you are sinning against the Messiah. 13 Here’s the way I approach it. If I know that eating sacrificial meat might spiritually trip up a fellow believer, I won’t eat the meat. I sure don’t want to be the reason another believer trips up and falls back into sin.
Christians could go to their local meat market and unknowingly buy meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. One of the ways priests earned a living was to sell some of that meat to local meat markets. Christians could also be put in a position of eating meat offered to idols if they were invited to someone’s home for a meal. When the homeowner slaughtered the animal, they could have done so as part of a ritual honoring one of the gods.
This reads like it was part of an early Christian ritual or a song. Some scholars say it would have worked well in a baptism ritual, for example.
Not everyone who ate in temples of idols were eating there out of devotion to the god. Social and business meals were sometimes eaten in the temple, treating the temple as an event space. The host would have the animal sacrificed as an offering to the god. Then the people would eat the meat available to them, after the sacrifice along with the cut of meat given to the priest as payment.
Paul uses the “k” word a lot in this chapter: knowledge. After reading the chapter, which one-liner do you think best represents why he is focusing on this word?
- “Knowledge, however, can give us a big head. What we need is a big heart, and that comes from love” (8:1).
- “We might think we know all we need to know about something. But we don’t know as much as we think we know” (8:2).
- “You know there’s nothing to idols. But some weaker soul might see you eating in the temple of an idol” (8:10).
- “You have the knowledge. You know there’s nothing to idols. Yet your knowledge about this could spiritually destroy a weaker believer. The Messiah died for that believer” (8:11).
The poetry in verse six seems to show that the early church was trying to get a sense about who Jesus was in relation to the Father. Based on the words you read here and in other Bible translations, what do you think the early Christian song said is the difference between the two?
In Paul’s day, when just about every city had temples devoted to idols and people eating meat sacrificed to idols, do you think it should have been a rule that Christians should not eat meat sacrificed to idols?
LIFE APPLICATION. Some newcomers to the faith in Paul’s day grew up worshiping idols. After their conversion to Christianity, they assumed it was sinful to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Other Christians, however, saw nothing wrong with eating it because they knew that meat sacrificed to idols was nothing but meat to eat. Can you think of any modern-day parallels? What are some things that mature Christians do that could spiritually trip up new Christians?
LIFE APPLICATION. What are examples of people not doing something they normally feel free to do but they don’t do around certain people because they know it might hurt them in some way?