Posted on Nov 29, 2019 by Mike LeDuke Next article:An Attitude of Gratitude
Have you ever thought about that? In our culture of independence and freedom, it perhaps feels wrong to consider serving. Nevertheless, Scripture gives a clear picture of this service:
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
There are only two options: either we serve sin or we serve righteousness.
And yet, how do we put this concept into action? While Scripture appears to be quite black and white here, life is a bit more difficult to discern. What about going to work? What about playing a game or having a hobby? What about reading books or watching TV? How do these choices fit into our binary options––they all appear to be somewhat “grey” items, and yet, somehow, we either serve sin or we serve righteousness.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul presents a challenging concept that perhaps helps to elucidate some of this grey. In context, he is discussing whether or not believers should eat food that is offered to idols. He argues that idols don’t actually exist (1 Corinthians 8:4) and that food isn’t really associated with righteousness or unrighteousness (1 Corinthians 8:8)––thus, eating food offered to idols was essentially a grey area. At the same time, for those who used to be pagans, and used to believe in the idols, seeing believers eat this food could have pricked their conscience––and thus, believers needed to keep in mind the impact that their actions would have on other believers. Paul even goes so far as saying that if eating the food offered to idols would cause his brother to sin, then he would never eat meat again (1 Corinthians 8:13).
In that context, Paul argues that certain actions that are grey can essentially become black or white. They can be made either righteous or unrighteous by the way in which they impact others. At the end of this discussion, he ends with a powerful admonition:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
And did you notice how Paul suddenly expanded the argument here?
Whereas he was simply referring to food at first, he ends by saying “whatever you do” and “I try to please everyone in everything I do.” This isn’t just about food. This is a general principle. Paul is arguing that it is possible to look at our actions and to turn everything we do towards the glory of God––and in those grey circumstances, what determines whether or not something is for God is its impact upon other people. Does it bring them closer to the faith or further away? Is it an action filled with kindness? Does it show the Jesus’s character to them?
When we act, we have a choice: we can serve sin or we can serve righteousness.
This next series of posts will probe deeper into this idea of service––pushing all of us to evaluate what we do each day, our attitude during the time in which we do it, and how we can take that action, which might perhaps seem so mundane, and turn it into an act of service for our God. And perhaps surprisingly, much of this transformation of our actions is connected to the often neglected characteristic of generosity.
-- Jason Hensley