Don't Cause Problems
13We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone's faith. 14The Lord Jesus has made it clear to me that God considers all foods fit to eat. But if you think some foods are unfit to eat, then for you they are not fit.
15If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love. Don't let your appetite destroy someone Christ died for. 16Don't let your right to eat bring shame to Christ. 17God's kingdom isn't about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit. 18If you serve Christ in this way, you will please God and be respected by people. 19We should try to live at peace and help each other have a strong faith.
20Don't let your appetite destroy what God has done. All foods are fit to eat, but it is wrong to cause problems for others by what you eat. 21It is best not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord. 22What you believe about these things should be kept between you and God. You are fortunate, if your actions don't make you have doubts. 23But if you do have doubts about what you eat, you are going against your beliefs. And you know that is wrong, because anything you do against your beliefs is sin.
Yesterday we read about Paul acting as spiritual father to the church in Rome: “Stop fighting!” In today’s passage he has not left the issue, but the focus has shifted slightly. He is most concerned with our responsibility to each other. In fact in this section the onus is on the “strong” in the faith to not “hurt” the “weak”. “Don’t let your appetite destroy what God has done” (v 20).
What a powerful thought: our appetites can hurt others. Paul’s argument is centered on our appetite for food, but it is not an interpretative leap to consider our other appetites – our appetites for stuff, for love, for sex, for entertainment, for power, etc. A corrupted (or sinful) appetite is a dangerous thing. A sinful appetite is selfish. It does not think about the other person first. Hence the horrific and exploitative porn industry – children, and women used to satisfy an appetite.
Other things, not evil in themselves, should give us pause. The fashion industry can have a very dark side, where labourers are paid little for long hours and in dangerous facilities (remember the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh). These workhouses exist because of an appetite for inexpensive clothing. Take some time to read about the chocolate industry or research “tantalum” which is used in cell phones.
According to Forbes, Americans spend more than $1 trillion on Christmas alone, and it would cost approximately only a fraction of that ($300 billion) to solve the world’s dirty water problem for good. We call ourselves good as a culture, but our appetites cost others deeply. We have so much at our disposal, yet because of our appetites, most of it is spent on ourselves. And if I wear those clothes, eat that food, and use that phone to satisfy an appetite, then I hurt others too – and I wear all that to church!
Oh Father, I’m sorry. There are things I could do right away, starting with my own appetites. And then, Lord, I need to think about those who are hurt because of sinful appetites (child labourers in the cocoa plantations, miners in Congo, etc). I know that economically and politically some of these issues are complicated, but Lord help me, for my part, to step up.