Stop the food fight
You’re not the judge, God is1 Welcome newcomers to the faith and others who don’t have much faith at all. But when it comes to their personal opinions, don’t argue with them.
2 You might believe it’s okay to eat anything. But someone who doesn’t have a mature faith might eat only vegetables. 3 Those of you who feel free to eat whatever you want shouldn’t look down on those who refuse to eat certain food. The same goes for those of you who choose not to eat certain food. Don’t start passing judgment on those folks who do eat it, because I can assure you that God approves of those people. 4 You don’t dictate the hiring and firing of someone else’s worker do you? The boss is the one who decides if the worker stays or goes. I want you to know that these workers are going to stay because their Boss is going to make sure of it.
5 Someone might figure that one day is more important than another, while another person thinks all days are pretty much the same. They’re both convinced they’re right. 6 The person who treats one day as especially sacred does it to honor our Lord. And the person who eats whatever is on the table honors our Lord by thanking God for the food. On the other hand, the person who refuses to eat certain food also honors our Lord by thanking God for the food they do choose to eat.
We belong to the Lord7 We don’t own our life or our death. 8 In living and dying, we belong to the Lord. So whether we live or we die, we belong to him.
9 Our Messiah died and rose again for this very reason, to show us that he is the Lord of both the living and the dead. 10 So why are you criticizing each other about these things? Why are you holding grudges against each other? Why bother? We’re all going to stand in front of God and face his judgment.
11 Our Bible says, “I guarantee this. As surely as I live, everyone will come before me, take a knee, and thank me.” 12 So remember that each one of us is going to have to answer to God.
God’s kingdom isn’t a deli13 So let’s do two things. Stop judging each other. Agree not to do anything that would put someone else’s faith in harm’s way. 14 I believe that because of what our Lord Jesus did, we can eat any food we want. There’s no such thing as non-kosher food anymore. But some folks disagree. They think it’s wrong to eat certain food.
15 If you know that a fellow Christian believes it’s wrong to eat certain food, you shouldn’t eat it when you’re together. That’s not something you do to someone you love. You don’t damage the faith of a fellow Christian. The Messiah died for that person, too. 16 Don’t flaunt your right to eat what you want. Otherwise, this practice that you believe is good is going to get talked up as shameful.
Stop the food fight17 Come on now, food and drinks are not what’s important in God’s kingdom. What’s important is what you have through the Holy Spirit: spiritual integrity, peace, and joy. 18 So live like it, in the way you represent the Messiah. If you do, you’re going to please God and earn the respect of a lot of people.
19 Chase after everything that promotes peace and that helps you build each other up in the faith. 20 Don’t let food get in the way of what God is doing. All food is ritually clean and acceptable to eat. But it’s not acceptable to hurt another’s faith by eating food that you know they think is forbidden. 21 If a fellow believer thinks it’s wrong to eat meat, take a pass on the meat. If they think it’s wrong to drink wine, skip the wine. Don’t do anything that could undermine the faith of a fellow believer.
22 Whatever you believe about these things, keep it between you and God. Be happy about the freedom you have to do these things with a clear conscience. 23 If you have doubts about eating something, yet you eat it anyhow, that’s the wrong thing to do. Stay true to your faith when you eat. It’s a sin to do something that you believe is wrong.
Possibly a reference to eating meat offered to idols. Temples helped support their operation by selling some of the sacrificed meat to local butcher shops. Some Christians said it was sinful to support idolatry by buying and eating the meat. Paul said in other letters that he was okay with eating the meat, but that for the sake of someone who disagreed, he’d pass on the meat. “If someone just happens to volunteer the information, “Oh, by the way, this food was offered in a sacrifice to a different god than yours,” don’t take another bite. Just push away from the plate. Do it for the sake of the one who spoke up, to show some respect for the conscience” (1 Corinthians 10:28).
It’s unclear what special days Paul is talking about. Many Bible experts say he is talking about sacred Jewish days such as Sabbath worship on Saturday along with all the religious holidays such as Passover and Pentecost. Apparently, some non-Jewish Christians were not observing these, and Jewish Christians were getting upset about it. Some Bible experts say the argument probably wasn’t a matter of Sunday worship bumping aside Saturday Sabbath. Many scholars say it was too early for that tension to erupt. Christians didn’t start regularly worshiping on Sunday until later in the century, many scholars agree.
The Greek word is often translated “righteousness.”
Christians in Paul’s day struggled with food restrictions in a couple of ways. Many Jewish Christians still observed kosher food laws from the time of Moses. They didn’t eat pork, shellfish, and other kinds of meat. Some Jews and non-Jews alike struggled over whether or not to eat meat sold in the local butcher shops. That’s because pagan temples earned an income by selling some of the meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Many people of faith thought it was wrong to eat that meat. Paul’s policy seemed to be “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” Don’t ask if the meat was sacrificed to idols. Don’t tell newcomers to the faith that it’s okay for them to eat this kind of meat when they think it’s wrong. Do you think Paul had a good solution to the problem?
Not only did some of the Christians in Rome apparently disagree over what kind of food Christians should eat, they disagreed over what day—if any—to consider sacred. “Someone might figure that one day is more important than another, while another person thinks all days are pretty much the same” (14:5). Today Christians are worshiping throughout the week. Some churches have daily services. Some people worship online. Do you see any advantages or disadvantages in offering these alternatives?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul encourages Christians in Rome to welcome newcomers into the church. But he advises them that “when it comes to their personal opinions, don’t argue with them” (14:1). What do you think would be some examples of topics we should avoid arguing about when we’re talking with new Christians?
LIFE APPLICATION. Christians in Rome, apparently, are arguing a lot about what kind of food Christians should be allowed to eat. That’s not a conversation we have today. Most of us eat anything we want and more than we need. If Paul had to write a letter to us and ask us to stop arguing about something, what do you think he would be writing about?
LIFE APPLICATION. What do you think Paul meant when he said “In living and dying, we belong to the Lord. So whether we live or we die, we belong to him” (14:8)?
LIFE APPLICATION. This is another chapter in which Paul offers a fair amount of practical advice that would have been good not only for Christians in Rome, but is good for Christians today. If you had to pick out just one piece of advice you think would be most helpful for Christians today, what do you think it would be?