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Eating and Drinking to the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)

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While we often equate “worship” with singing songs as part of a church gathering (“praise and worship” or “a time of worship”) or with the gathering as a whole (a “worship” service), the Bible speaks of worship as being broader than those activities. We worship when we sing and when we gather together to hear God’s Word, pray, give offerings, and receive the sacraments, but we should also view our everyday lives as a way to worship God since we are to be “living sacrifices” (see Romans 12:1) – this is “wholehearted worship.” A verse sometimes cited in the context of worshiping in everyday life is 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God (CSB).

When we examine this verse in its broader context, we actually discover that its meaning may be less about the fact that we can worship God in our everyday lives and more about how our lives and conduct should encourage others to worship. It is important to remember that our calling as Christians is not simply for us to follow Jesus by living as he did and commanded us (through the power of the Spirit and as a response to God’s saving work), but also to encourage and invite others to worship God through Jesus.

The Issue Discussed in 1 Corinthians 8-10
The Apostle Paul’s words about eating and drinking to the glory of God do not come out of the blue but rather flow from a wider discussion that concerns eating and drinking. Among the many issues and challenges in the Corinthian church that prompted Paul to write this letter to them was a debate about what to do with food sacrificed to idols. Could and should one eat food if it had been sacrificed to an idol? Since an idol is not real but rather something invented by humans, some people thought it was okay to do so because it was not worshiping this idol – just eating some food (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). Others, however, had been so engrossed in idol worship that they associated eating this food with worshiping the idols (1 Corinthians 8:7). Paul notes that because idols aren’t real, there is nothing inherently good or bad about this action (1 Corinthians 8:8) – one is free to eat. However, because some people might struggle to understand that and be drawn back to the worship of idols, one should think through how his or her conduct could impact others and their worship of God and potentially refrain from eating this meat (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). 

Paul then notes how he has many different freedoms but often did not exercise them because he was so committed to helping others come to know Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9). He follows this discussion by looking back to the Old Testament and warning against idolatry and falling into sin (1 Corinthians 10:1-22). He then returns back to the subject of Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 10:23 and notes that while many things are “permissible,” they might not be “beneficial.” Thus, we should not just think about what we can do but about what is good for others (10:24). A specific reference to meat sacrificed to idols pops back up in 1 Corinthians 10:25-30 with directions that it is okay to eat such meat (as everything belongs to God, see 10:26) but not if someone raises the issue about the connection to idols (1 Corinthians 10:28-30). The command to eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) comes after that note, followed by Paul’s instructing them to seek not to give offense to others so that they might be able to come to a saving knowledge of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:32-33) – something that Paul thinks he himself is doing and thus is imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

What It Means to Eat and Drink to the Glory of God
As you might gather from this quick summary, this is a complex and intricate discussion! I can’t discuss all the elements of it in this post, but want to hone in on what this means in terms of our understanding of “eating and drinking to the glory of God.” This points to the fact that “eating and drinking to the glory of God” is a way to give God glory and thus worship Him. When we eat and drink and recognize that these are blessings that flow from God (as everything in this world belongs to Him) and praise God as we eat and drink (Paul makes a similar point in 1 Timothy 4:4-5). Such an activity would not seem limited to the actions of eating and drinking; we can also worship God in other daily activities when we think of them as gifts given by God and do them in accordance with His purposes and design. For example, we can sleep to the glory of God, remembering this is a gift of God. We can laugh to the glory of God, as we think of laughter and humor as things that God gave humans to enjoy. We can discuss and debate to the glory of God, as God gave us the capacity to reason and try to figure things out. 

However, the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31 also points to eating and drinking as being concrete examples of the bigger issue of how we view our actions as pointing people toward or away from God’s truth and worship of Him. We should consider whether our actions and choices will make it more likely for others to give glory to God, or if they are a stumbling block and hindrance to them giving glory to God. We can’t please everyone and should not live our lives as “people-pleasers,” so this is not saying the opinions of others should become the ultimate guide for what we do or do not do. However, these words remind us that others watch our actions, and thus we should not intentionally do things that might alienate others further from God. The broader context makes it clear that this is not about pleasing opinionated people or avoiding hurting people’s feelings as much as focusing on key issues and practices related to one’s view of God. Worshiping may mean not doing things that ultimately aren’t that important for the sake of helping others discover what is ultimately important – turning in trust to the God who made the world and the God who sent Jesus to save those who had rebelled against Him. 

In summary, we are to worship God as we gather for church services and as we scatter in daily life. Our actions should glorify God and are opportunities to  hopefully promote rather than hinder the possibility of others glorifying God. 

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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