Short daily devotionals for the socially distanced. These are thoughts from my daily time in the word. I use a bible reading plan that will have me in a different section of Scripture every day.
I hope they serve to give you courage and hope. You can subscribe to receive them as a daily email at the bottom of the page.
Saturday, April 4th
Reading: 1 Corinthians 6-8
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
— 1 Co 8:1–3. (ESV)
When Paul wrote to the churches, he was engaging with the difficulties of the contexts and surroundings of the receiving churches. This is obvious in his letters to the Corinthians, which are back and forth correspondences of the Corinthians asking their pastor, “How do we handle X? What do we do about Z?”
There were few societal issues that were as complex or taxing for young churches to deal with as the problem of the source of their meat. Meat was expensive and a luxury for most families to be enjoyed on rare occasions (see what I did there?), and the source of that meat wasn’t always easy to trace. One of the cheapest places to get meat would be from sellers who got scraps left over from idol sacrifices in pagan temple ceremonies. Some Christians were happy to eat this meat, while others felt like it funded and participated in a demonic enterprise of false god worship. Some didn’t even know where any of their meat came from, and so they abstained from eating meat altogether, unless they participated in demonic worship by mistake. They fought about it, a lot. They judged each other’s positions. Imagine if they had social media?
Paul’s response to them is pastorally incredible. His logic goes like this.
(1) I know that some of you “know” some stuff, and are excited about knowing it.
(2) The problem is that in “knowing” this stuff, you are becoming conceited and arrogant. You are puffed up by and you are pushing others away.
(3) Christian love doesn’t puff up the self. It builds up the other.
(4) By the way, on a cosmic scale, you don’t really know anything about what you think you know.
(5) Your best approach is to love God and build up others, because then you will know the love of God, and that is really all you need to know.
Over the last few days, my phone has been blowing up with concerned friends who are starting to get all sorts of “knowledge” about what is actually happening in the world, from viral shares that have come across their phones. They are reaching out, because they are concerned and need help. There are theories, conspiracies, “true wisdom” stories, fake testimony, real testimony, caricature, paranoia, and some genuine fear and concern. It is hard to know what is real and what isn’t. It seems that our 24-hour news consumption, our constant ability to share unverified information, and our deep desire to take back some measure of control has given many of us a sense of “knowledge” puffiness. To be clear, my friends weren’t being puffy, they were asking for help, but the people who created the content were pretty darn puffy about it.
I get it. People are scared. We don’t know who is telling the truth. We worry about what we don’t know. It causes me anxiety too, but this Scripture was so helpful to me today.
Let’s get back to Paul’s simple instruction.
Don’t spend any time on anything that will puff you up through some sense of secret knowledge. Spend your time building others up and loving God. He knows, and so we should be spending our time with Him.
I love how pastor Eugene Peterson put it in his paraphrase, The Message. I get a tough time online every time I quote The Message. I use it as Peterson intended, as a commentary in every day language. He said,
We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.
— 1 Co 8:1–3. (MSG)
Humble hearts beat proud minds. That’ll preach Pastor Eugene.
Let’s not get puffed up. God knows.
Courage, dear friends.