Job 21 & 1 Corinthians 8

Job 21

    Then Job answered and said:

    “Keep listening to my words,
        and let this be your comfort.
    Bear with me, and I will speak,
        and after I have spoken, mock on.
    As for me, is my complaint against man?
        Why should I not be impatient?
    Look at me and be appalled,
        and lay your hand over your mouth.
    When I remember, I am dismayed,
        and shuddering seizes my flesh.
    Why do the wicked live,
        reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
    Their offspring are established in their presence,
        and their descendants before their eyes.
    Their houses are safe from fear,
        and no rod of God is upon them.
    Their bull breeds without fail;
        their cow calves and does not miscarry.
    They send out their little boys like a flock,
        and their children dance.
    They sing to the tambourine and the lyre
        and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.
    They spend their days in prosperity,
        and in peace they go down to Sheol.
    They say to God, ‘Depart from us!
        We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
    What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
        And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’
    Behold, is not their prosperity in their hand?
        The counsel of the wicked is far from me.
    “How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out?
        That their calamity comes upon them?
        That God distributes pains in his anger?
    That they are like straw before the wind,
        and like chaff that the storm carries away?
    You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’
        Let him pay it out to them, that they may know it.
    Let their own eyes see their destruction,
        and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
    For what do they care for their houses after them,
        when the number of their months is cut off?
    Will any teach God knowledge,
        seeing that he judges those who are on high?
    One dies in his full vigor,
        being wholly at ease and secure,
    his pails full of milk
        and the marrow of his bones moist.
    Another dies in bitterness of soul,
        never having tasted of prosperity.
    They lie down alike in the dust,
        and the worms cover them.
    “Behold, I know your thoughts
        and your schemes to wrong me.
    For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
        Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’
    Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
        and do you not accept their testimony
    that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity,
        that he is rescued in the day of wrath?
    Who declares his way to his face,
        and who repays him for what he has done?
    When he is carried to the grave,
        watch is kept over his tomb.
    The clods of the valley are sweet to him;
        all mankind follows after him,
        and those who go before him are innumerable.
    How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
        There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.”

(Job 21 ESV)

1 Corinthians 8

    Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

    Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

    However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

(1 Corinthians 8 ESV)

1 Corinthians 8: The apostle Paul addresses an issue that had arisen in Corinth and ends up agreeing with those who have come to understand that pagan idols don’t actually represent real gods. Therefore, the food “offered” to these idols is still just simply food. However, some still suffering from a “weak conscience” are concerned that eating such food is evil and is still a way of associating themselves with their former ways of paganism. Therefore, Paul urges those with “knowledge” to refrain from buying and eating such foods since it may run the risk of harming the faith of other believers. 

Paul urges those stronger in their faith to use their strength in service to those who may be weaker in their faith (Romans 14). Therefore, the strong are faced with the dilemma of some things being permissible and impermissible at the same time. While I may be convinced that certain things are permissible for Christians; other Christian brothers may be equally convinced that these things are not. 

So what is my responsibility as the stronger in faith regarding such a disagreement? Although my position may be the correct position, I’m not permitted to run cavalier all over my weaker brother. The great paradox for the strong in faith is that lawful things can be done unlawfully. We are not to frustrate the faith of our weaker Christian brothers by exercising our freedom in their face. We’ve been called to defer to the weaker brother’s conviction in non-essential matters regardless of whether they are mistaken or not. 

Suppose I am fully convinced that the Christian is free to have a drink of alcohol from time to time, but you’re fully convinced that a Christian is to absolutely abstain from alcohol. If I invited you over to my house, I would not offer you a drink nor would I have a drink myself in your presence. If you invited me over to your house, I would not bring alcohol, and I would not expect you to have any. 

Paul says that when we cause distress for our Christian brothers regarding these disputable matters then we are no longer acting in love. True love willingly limits our own freedoms out of respect and for the ultimate benefit of others.