Praise: A Matter of Life and Breath
Read 1 Cor. 10:14-33
In this portion of scripture, Paul both warns against the dangers of idolatry as well as addresses the controversy of whether a Christian should eat food that was offered to idols. The first part of his discussion is understandable to us, the second part seems strange and archaic but when we look more closely both are relevant.
In verses 14-22, Paul makes it clear that Christians are not to participate or join any other religious practice. Any religion that rejects Christ ultimately is driven by demonic beings. In our age of religious pluralism when people, and even Christians, affirm that “all religions lead to God” Paul’s words bring a sharp warning. To participate in them is to become sharers in demons (vs 20) and risk the jealousy wrath of God.
In verse 23-30, Paul then deals with a more controversial issue confronting the early church. To enter a meat market to purchase food, especially in an idol-rich city like Corinth, the meat a person might buy would first have been used in the worship of idolatry. This led to tension in the church as some saw the meat contaminated and to eat it would be to join in idolatry, while others saw it only as a good steak ready to be enjoyed. While Paul distinguishes between participating in the eating the meat as part of pagan worship (in which case, since it was eaten as part of worship and thus tainted), the meat offered in the market, since it is no longer associated with any idol worship, is free from any stigma. But still, some struggled with whether or not to eat. In response, Paul seeks to provide believers with a perspective to help them navigate the inward struggle of their own conscience. The first principle he gives in verse 23-31, namely that we should make our decision not only based upon our individual conscience but also the effect it has upon others. Rather than seek our own good, we are to be motivated by what strengthens the faith of others.
The second principle and the one that gives insight into the true nature of worship is found in verse 31. In this verse, Paul states that the ultimate issue is not our personal freedom of choice. Rather, we are to govern every action by our quest to bring glory to God. Our personal freedom should always be subservient to God’s reputation. In this case, more important than our daily food or water is our pursuit of a life of praise where God is glorified. Ronald Allen, in his book, “Praise: A Matter of Life and Breath,” writes, “True praise elevates God, not the speaker. True praise magnifies God in the community, not just in the thoughts of the one speaking. Praise is constructive worship. It should be a part of everyday living. Praise is a matter of life and breath. As long as the believer has life and breath, praise is due from his lips to our incomparable God.” This is the point Paul makes, that the praise of God should be so ingrained within us that it is more important than food or drink or the exercise of our personal freedom. Praise is to be both to be verbalized as well as lived. Not only do we speak of God’s praise, but we live in a way that God is praised and glorified by our actions.
Are you living in such a way that in our actions people are drawn to the praise of God? Is your life a reflection of God’s character? Is your focus of life upon your own goals and desires, or is it governed by the desire to reveal God to the world around you? Are you basing your decisions are your own choices or what enhances God’s reputation? These are the questions that a true worshipper is focused upon.