Facing Tricky Situations

Yesterday we looked at the wedding at Cana and how it could be considered a morally ambiguous situation (creating 150 gallons of good wine for a wedding, after the guests have already drunk what the was provided). Today we’re looking at another tricky situation: when is it wise, godly and morally advisable to eat food sacrificed to idols?

Back in the first century, that was a big deal because the butchers in Ancient Rome were located in the temples - they’d slaughter the animal, offer it in the temple to an idol (the priests taking a portion) and then sell the rest. Thus, it was connected with idolatry, which is a major moral issue throughout scripture.

So here are four verses, all dealing with food sacrificed to idols.

  •  I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. Romans 14:14
  • You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols. Acts 15:29
  • Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 1 Corinthians 10:25-26
  • I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols. Revelation 2:14

Notice that there are some real differences in what each of these biblical books say about eating food sacrificed to idols. That should make us scratch our heads a little bit. There are ways to think through the tension between these verses - a careful study shows how insightful each of them is, and how they can work together. But the point of this devotional is to notice a couple of things:

  1. Each of those verses comes from a different book in the New Testament which was written to its own audience dealing with their own issues.
  2. As God inspired each of the authors of those statements, the purpose was to help believers sort through morally ambiguous situations in ways that were wise, godly, and Christ-centered. 
  3. It’s very clear from those verses that the answers God gave were not identical in each situation - but required real discernment to decide which way to go.

So many times today we oversimplify moral situations. While some situations are indeed clear (God’s special provision for the poor, God’s hatred for any kind of injustice, the goodness of sharing Christ in loving ways with everyone we know), there are many where it’s tricky. Like whether or not - or when - to eat food sacrificed to idols.

Pause and ask Jesus to show you what situations in your life you have oversimplified and ask that he give you his Holy Spirit that you might discern true wisdom and godliness in handling those situations.