Before today I never thought much about eating food sacrificed to idols. After all, few people are likely to have myriad household gods that they pray, sacrifice food to, and believe in, right? Such was my mindset when I started thinking about what Paul said to the Corinthians about stumbling blocks and eating food sacrificed to idols.

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

1 Corinthians 8:13 (NIV)

I know very little about other religions in the world. After looking it up, I know the top religions are as follows:

  1. Christianity 2.3 billion
  2. Islam 1.8 billion
  3. Unaffiliated 1.2 billion
  4. Hinduism 1.1 billion
  5. Buddhism 500 million
  6. Folk religions 400 million
  7. Other religions 100 million
  8. Judaism 10 million

These statistics are from 2015, so those numbers have changed since then. What I found surprising was the unaffiliated “religion” made up of non-believers who see their non-belief as a religion. What started me on this trek today was the issue of sacrificing food to idols. Before I start, I profess my ignorance of these other religions and their practices, so please forgive me for whatever it is I might get wrong. I’m not here today to demean other people nor their beliefs.

For the Christian out there, you should know that there are idols that people do offer food to. In Hinduism, there’s Krishna, to whom people offer food and prayers before eventually eating it. What I find fascinating about the process, in the little I read about it here, is the time is taken to “consider the spiritual value of the food.” Although we know that eating food sacrificed to idols “does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8 NIV). It is believed that eating this food, sacrificed to Krishna, does bring “purification” to the one who eats it.

In Buddhism, food is “offered to tantric deities and hungry ghosts.” Tantric comes from tantra that is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

One of the later Hindu or Buddhist scriptures dealing especially with techniques and rituals including meditative and sexual practices.

The hungry ghosts “represent all of our greed and thirst and clinging, which bind us to our sorrows and disappointments. By giving away something that we crave, we unbind ourselves from our own clinging and neediness to think of others.” This food is eventually given away for animals to eat.

When Paul wrote about not putting a stumbling block before other Christians, was he just talking about food? This section of Paul’s letter ends with Paul’s statement to not eat meat if it causes someone else to stumble, so that’s where we might end the matter, right? For an answer to this question, let’s take a look at what Paul first says about eating such food.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)

The keywords here are love and knowledge.

Love is considerate of others and builds them up.

Knowledge can be a source of pride and if wielded with ignorance without thought for others can be harmful. I’m certain we all believe in common sense. However, over the years, I’ve learned that common sense isn’t so common. When we assume that others know as we know we are opening up a pathway for sin. I know that eating a salad sacrificed to Krishna is just a salad and before I eat it, I will thank God for it. However, the people who first offered it to Krishna believe it to be made “holy” by Krishna. Does eating it or giving thanks to the One True God damage the Hindu believer? Paul was talking about Christian believers and putting stumbling blocks in front of them. He said nothing about non-believers and their beliefs.

What about love, hope, and faith in Jesus Christ? Is it not the desire of God that none would perish but all come to repentance? (2 Peter 3:9) If I eat the salad presented to a false god and my Hindu friend believes this salad is something holy, aren’t I participating in the ritual, whether or not I believe in it? How does this affect the faith of the unbeliever in Jesus Christ? We are to do everything in love, so I’m not sure that the right thing to do in such a situation would be to eat that salad, delicious as it may be.

Again, is it just food Paul is talking about? How about drinking alcohol? I might like a glass of red wine every now and then because it’s good for the heart. However, should I tell other people it’s okay to drink alcohol? What if I go out to eat and order a glass of wine when there are those around me who might know me or perhaps know me in the future? How can I say that we ought to be of sober mind when I’m drinking wine for all to see? In damaging my witness for Christ, I could be putting stumbling blocks in front of those who do not yet believe! Or, worst yet, cause other people who are saved to think that drinking is okay for the Christian.

A friend of mine once told me a story about his wife and a pair of shoes. Someone had bought her a pair of Prada shoes. These are very expensive brand-name items that many people adore. My friend’s wife destroyed those shoes when she discovered they were Prada. Why? Because of the popular movie at the time, The Devil Wears Prada. She didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about the shoes. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to minister to the people, He told them.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

As Christians, we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We are also ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). When people look at us they should see Jesus in us. When Jesus told His disciples to be like doves, He meant for them to be meek, humble, and unassuming. To be innocent in speech and action while also being shrewd in their daily dealing with people. We know how the people of this world think because we were once in the world. We know how we viewed Christians before we were saved. We also know how we view Christians as Christians. Especially the thoughts that come into our minds when we see someone do something we perceive as a sin.

My friend’s wife didn’t destroy those shoes because she thought they had anything to do with the devil. She destroyed them because other people might. Believers and non-believers alike. I’ll confess that I thought destroying those shoes was silly, back then. Over the years, praise the Lord, I have matured in Christ and can see that we ought to do nothing, nothing, to put any sort of stumbling block before anyone that might cause them to sin, or God forbid, choose not to follow Christ.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.