All for His Glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
[So,] whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. –1 Corinthians 10:31
Years ago when I needed to make some dietary changes, my doctor suggested drinking green smoothies and eating nuts and seeds for breakfast. Back then, that seemed crazy to me. (While I still enjoy eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns, I have since embraced many foods that are nutritious, so it doesn’t seem as crazy anymore!) I must have had a strange or questioning look on my face because I remember the helpful doctor quoting an ancient proverb, “I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.”
John Calvin also mentions this proverb, perhaps from Cicero or Socrates, in his commentary on this week’s verse:
...there is no part of our life, and no action so minute, that it ought not to be directed to the glory of God, and that we must take care that, even in eating and drinking, we may aim at the advancement of it…It was well expressed anciently in a common proverb, that we must not live to eat; but eat to live.
Note his emphasis is not on “eating” as the goal, but “living.” Similarly, Paul is teaching the Corinthians that ultimately the questions of lawfulness and matters of conscience are not the emphasis—the point is God’s glory.
Lawful vs. helpful
The Bible is full of illustrations related to food and drink. Perhaps it’s because nourishment and hydration are such basic, daily needs, and feasting is often a part of fellowship among believers. In the Church at Corinth, the question of eating meat sacrificed to idols was a real life example of navigating faith and culture. Paul affirms the Corinthians’ position that all things are lawful (it was neither criminal nor a violation of God’s command since idols were nothing) but adds a reminder that though something is lawful or allowed, it may not be helpful or for the good of others. Yet, it remains lawful and, therefore, acceptable before the Lord (I Corinthians 10:23-26). Christians today can identify similar gray areas where civil law and God’s law give us freedom. We must decide how best to glorify God.
Matters of conscience
In the outworking of our faith, Christians can exercise freedom and restraint between opposing matters and still glorify God. Paul encourages us to pay attention to other people’s consciences for their sake, not necessarily our own. In fact, conceding to another’s conscience liberates ours before the Lord since our freedom is not denounced (10:27-30). Naselli and Crowley, in the book Conscience, depict a biblical middle where one has a “strong conscience, but [is] free to be flexible in disputable matters in order to (1) edify fellow believers and (2) advance the gospel.” They explain that the goal of every mature Christian “is not simply to stop judging those who are free or stop looking down on those who are strict. Our ultimate goal is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, who gave up his rights for others. He joyfully renounced his perfect freedom in heaven to come to earth and become an obedient Jew in order to save his people” (pp. 94-96).
Do all to the glory of God
Whatever we do, in all things, our aim and highest goal should be God’s glory. Paul’s desire was to give no reason for others to be offended but to try to please them all, so that many would be saved (10:32-33). He said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). His was a heart that wanted to glorify God above all else and love others fiercely for the sake of their eternal joy. It’s humbling to think that every one of my countless small words and actions is to be shaped by this kind of radical living. This is the Christian’s calling. In our every decision, activity, and pursuit, we do well to ask a simple, ever-present, overarching question, the question that should direct all we do: Does this glorify God?
Can you think of some gray areas where there is legal and biblical freedom, but care must be exercised for the good of your neighbor?
Do you have a strong conscience that is also free to be flexible for the edification of believers and advance of the gospel?
Ask God to help you make it a habit to ask in your daily decisions, activities, and pursuits: “Does this glorify God?”
Sherri Moran is the Partner Development Manager at Truth78. She joined the team after many years of teaching her children and other students in a homeschool setting, as well as serving on staff at her church. Memorizing Scripture throughout her life has been a great benefit, and she loves the way the Holy Spirit brings those verses to mind to fight the good fight of faith. Sherri and her husband Ryan live in central Indiana and have one son and three daughters.