There is one last thing that I should mention before leaving this chapter, and that’s the motivation of our hearts. Why do we do the things we do?
Paul makes it crystal clear here what our attitude should be. He said,
Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. (6-9)
Paul’s reminding us here that we are not living merely for ourselves but for the Lord. So when we regard one day as “holy to the Lord,” we do it not merely because of tradition, but because of our love for the Lord. Whenever we eat or drink something, we do it not just to indulge ourselves, but we do it with a heart of thankfulness for God.
In short, whatever we do, we do it to the Lord. Paul wrote in another passage,
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
But if you are not doing things out of that kind of heart, that is sin. Paul wrote concerning eating meat offered to idols,
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
Here, Paul is talking of a person who is bothered by the fact that the meat was offered to idols. They can’t get out of their head that it was offered to something spiritually impure. And because of that, if they were to eat it, it wouldn’t be out of a heart of thankfulness to God. Rather it would be from a heart of, “I’m doing something wrong. I’m doing something sinful.” And if they were to eat from that kind of heart, it would become sinful to them. Because it would come from a heart of, “I feel this is wrong but I will do it anyway.” And God is never pleased with that kind of attitude.
My point is, we should never break conscience. If our conscience tells us something is wrong, we should avoid it. Even if we know other Christians think something like drinking is okay, if in our hearts it bothers us, don’t do it. Even if we know other Christians sometimes watch R-rated movies, if it bothers us, don’t do it.
Everything we do should be done with a heart confident that we have God’s approval.
This is not to say that if we are confident that we definitely have God’s approval. That’s why it’s important to read the Bible: to be certain. But where the Bible is silent or says the choice is up to us, let us live by our conscience, asking God to continually shape it and mold it so that we can live in a way that’s pleasing to him.