Normalizing Idols

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 8.9-13
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. 

Reflection: Normalizing Idols
By John Tillman

The ancient world was filled with gods and temples. Sacrifices in these temples were often of food that would be sold in the marketplace or even served at banquets in the temples themselves. Scrupulous Jews went to extreme lengths to avoid even accidentally purchasing and eating meat that may have been sacrificed to an idol. (Acts 15.29)

But if idols are merely fake gods made from wood and stone by men and I serve the God of Heaven who made the wood, the stone, and the man, why should I worry? If their god isn’t real, there’s nothing wrong with the meat. If my God is real, all things are clean that he has called clean. (Acts 10.15) Why shouldn’t I eat?

What should we do when someone’s convictions about moral choices are more restrictive than our own? What should we do when our rights interfere with someone else? When we are enlightened and they are repressed, when we are right and they are wrong, why should we defer to them?

When speaking into such controversy, Paul began by saying, “…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”

Knowledge is freedom. Knowledge is power. Freedom is often abused and can be deceptively destructive. Power is often abused and corrupts those who wield it. It should not surprise us then that knowledge can be abused.

The Corinthian’s knowledge was leading them toward pride and boasting. Paul pointed out the dark path their so-called enlightenment was leading towards. Their boldness and boasting would normalize something that could destroy others’ faith.

It might seem that we don’t have temples on every corner, sacrificing animals to false gods and selling meat. But the false gods in our culture don’t go by names like “Aphrodite,” whose temple was in Corinth, or “Artemis,” whose temple was in Ephesus. The temples of our false gods aren’t selling meat but that doesn’t mean there aren’t sacrifices. Are we buying what they are selling? Should we be?

What idols of this age are we normalizing? Even if we, in our knowledge, “haven’t done anything wrong,” are we harming others by participating? Are we “puffed up” with knowledge or “building up” in love?

Love is a greater ethic than knowledge or freedom. When knowledge leads us toward pride, let love lead us toward humility. When freedom leads us toward boasting, let love lead us toward sacrifice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. — Psalm 96.2-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 34 (Listen 2:59)
1 Corinthians 8 (Listen 1:54)

Read more about Ready to Exit the Desert
May we leave sin and doubt in the desert, crossing the Jordan toward God’s calling to be his city on a hill.

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The Best We Can Do

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 27.1
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”

Reflection: The Best We Can Do
By John Tillman

We have to always be careful when reading the Bible not to assume that actions described in God’s Word were prescribed by God’s command. 

This is especially difficult with characters such as David. We tend to over-glorify David as a hero archetype who can do no wrong. We misapply the description of David as a “man after God’s own heart” to mean that every decision David made was wholly righteous. This is a terrible way to understand any Bible character, but an especially damaging way to understand David.  

Harold Wilmington, in his commentary on 1 Samuel 27 states that David did not seem to trust Saul, “Nor, apparently did he trust God to protect him.”

This is despite the fact that God has just miraculously assisted David in proving to Saul that David meant him no harm. David suggests that people near Saul must be poisoning him against David, telling David to “go serve other gods.” Saul has confessed that his pursuit of David is sinful, sworn off searching for him, and predicted great things for David.

After this spiritual and political victory, David does exactly what the people poisoning Saul against him suggested. David becomes a servant to king Achish, enemy of Israel, servant of Dagon.

This is a practical political decision (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) but is not depicted as a spiritual decision. Scripture often tells us that David consulted the Lord or prayed, but here it tells us only his human thought process. (Scripture does not tell us that David prayed or consulted the Lord once while in Philistia, except in crisis when their town of Ziklag had been burned and captured.) David’s words are “The best thing I can do…”. 

Rather than the best thing, this decision may have been the worst thing David could have done. Through this decision, David becomes a liar, a war criminal, a slaughterer of women and children, and feigns madness to carry out his desperate plot. Achish, assuming David’s war crimes are against Israel, notes that David is now trapped and will be his servant forever.

The best we can do—in our strength and wisdom—may not be God’s best for us.

May God deliver us from decisions that are “the best we can do.” 
May we never be enslaved to decisions of political practicality.
May we never compromise our souls to maintain convenient alliances.
May we seek God’s best rather than our human best.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. — Psalm 67,1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 27 (Listen – 1:59) 
1 Corinthians 8 (Listen – 1:54)

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Read more about Christ, the True Hero
We cannot live up to oaths such as Psalm 101. Neither could David. David would eventually bring corruption, rape, murder, and the ravages of civil war to the city which in this Psalm he pledges to protect.

Read more about Prayer From the Cave :: Readers’ Choice
Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the act which brought such misery upon his later days.