Your Motivation Aspiration (I Corinthians 10:31)
Topic: I Corinthians Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:31
Your Motivation Aspiration
I Corinthians 10:31
(One Truth: In All Things)
November 20th, 2016
I. Meals and Motivations
If you didn't know already, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. Yep. Hate to break it to you on such short notice.
But as you know, this Thursday, hundreds of millions of people will be focused on just one meal. But what motivates people when it comes to that meal? Of course, I could be asking about a number of different aspects of that meal. For example, we might ask, “What motivates people to spend all that time cooking the meal?” Or we could ask, “What motivates someone to go back for that second, or maybe third helping of stuffing, mash potatoes, or cornbread casserole?”
A meal and a motivation are not typically things we consider together, but I believe God would have us do that very thing this morning. Turn over in your Bibles to I Corinthians 10.
II. The Passage: “Whatever You Do” (15:1-4)
Let's look again to our key verse for this morning, I Corinthians 10:31. This is what we read...
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Now in light of the fact that we just talked about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, it's not hard to see a connection here. It's not hard to see an application. “Whether you eat or drink” this Thursday, “do all to the glory of God”. Amen, right? Doesn't that sound spiritual? Doesn't that sound theologically lofty? Sounds like a nice verse to put on a small placard right next to the gravy boat this Thursday.
But what does it mean? What does it look like to eat or drink “to the glory of God”? Even more, what does it mean to “do all to the glory of God” in (v. 31) “whatever you do”?
Well to answer these questions, we have to do what we should always do. We need to go back to the context. What can the surrounding verses tell us about this one verse. Well, I believe verses 23-31 helps us understand three parts of Paul's bigger point in this section. First, Paul wants us to understand the priority. Second, to understand that priority in terms of a particular setting. And third, to ultimately think in terms of the ultimate goal.
1. The Priority: The Good of Others (vs. 23, 24)
So first of all, let's look together at 23 and 24. This is how Paul encourages his first readers...
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
So if we started this morning at 9:50am and I used that extra time to read this entire letter, or at least from I Corinthians 1 up to this point, we would see that these two verses, 23 and 24, are part of a larger section that began in 8:1. In fact, it's in that verse that Paul reminds these followers of Jesus that...“knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
He also reminds them in 8:13 that...if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. So when Paul speak in 10:24 of seeking “the good of [my] neighbor”, that is part of the discussion of “love builds up” and not making “my brother stumble”.
But what's does food have to do with loving and building up? Well, if we were to jump in the “way-back” machine with Mr. Peabody and travel to the First Century, we would discover that if you were Greek (like the Corinthians were), a lot of the meat sold in your local marketplace actually came from one of the pagan temples nearby. You see, this meat would be sacrificed to the Greek gods, and then afterward, be served in temple dining halls or sold in the market.
So because so much meat was associated with idolatry, Paul was helping these Christians make wise choices about when and where to eat or not eat these kinds of meals. Paul KNEW “meat is just meat”. He KNEW pagan temples could not actually affect the meat spiritually. But he wanted Christians to use that “knowledge” in a responsible way. And that meant considering how your consumption might affect someone else, like a fellow Christian who was still struggling with idolatry or had just come out of that lifestyle.
So eating such meat might be “lawful” in God's eyes, but that doesn't mean it's “helpful” in every setting; that doesn't mean it “builds up” in every circumstance. The priority is not your appetite, or your knowledge, or your freedom. The priority is the good of others.
2. The Setting: The Grub of Idols (vs. 25-30)
But look at where goes with this idea in verses 25-30. He applies these principles to a very particular setting or scenario. He writes...
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.  For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.”  If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.  But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?  If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So look first at how Paul confirms the truth about the actual eating of such meat. Two times he advises them (vs. 25, 27) to eat “without raising any question on the ground of conscience”. Paul says, “You don't need to ask about where the meat came from.” Why? Because it doesn't matter. The earth belongs to God, and this meat is His gift.
But...but notice where and why things change. If someone invites you over for a meal, fantastic. Go and enjoy their hospitality But if they say, “Oh this leg of lamb is a double blessing: not only was it the choicest cut in the market, but it was also sacrificed to the mighty Apollo during the festival last week”...if they say that, do not eat.
Now wait a minute. What does it matter. Meat is just meat, right? Yes. But the issue is not the meat itself or how it affects you. The issue is the one serving the meat and how your consumption would affect him or her. Again, verses 28 and 29...do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his.
So in keeping with what Paul is saying about the priority of another's good, he writes, “do not eat it”. So in chapters 8-10, Paul is crystal clear about how our choices in areas of personal, individual freedom can actually be destructive to both believers and unbelievers; to Christians and non-Christians.
3. The Goal: The Glory of God (v. 31)
So all of this is what leads up to I Corinthians 10:31. In light of the good of others and the grub of idols, Paul challenges these disciples in regard to the ultimate goal...So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
So here's where we have to put some of the pieces to together. In the setting we just talked about, in that example, it certainly glorifies God when we put the physical and spiritual welfare of others first; when we make choices to love and build up. But the question remains, “How does my NOT eating a meal in an unbeliever's home glorify God; how is it for his or her good?” In most cultures, wouldn't that come across as rude?
But this is exactly the point where we have to be crystal clear about what it means to “do all to the glory of God”. There is a lot we could say about this idea of God's glory. But I think the context here helps us to sum up the idea. In light of the context, I think we could express verse 31 like:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all as an affirmation that God alone is God. (2x)
When that unbeliever wants to glorify Apollo by boasting about the meat, a follower of Jesus has the opportunity to direct the glory to God; to affirm that God alone is God. To glorify or give glory to God is to proclaim, “No one is like our God!”
What greater good could we do, what greater blessing could we give to another, than to give them an unobstructed view of our radiant, perfect, holy God?
You see, Paul's hypothetical situation in this passage assumes that the believer will explain why her or she must abstain. Without an explanation, the decision not to eat could be motivated by any number of things, and come across as unnecessarily offensive.
Will taking such a stand cost you something? Yes.
It might be very uncomfortable to say, “No, thank you”. And it might be uncomfortable at first explaining why you are not eating. But that cost is well worth it when God uses our courage and our gentleness and the truth we proclaim, in our actions and words, to bless that other person.
You see, your choices, your words, your priorities, your attitude, they will glorify someone or something; they will exalt someone or something. They will either give glory to some worldly idea, or to some other person, or to some false philosophy, or to you...OR, they will bring glory to God; they will be an affirmation that God alone is God.
The priority. The setting. The goal. The good of others, the grub of idols, and the glory of God.
III. That They May Be Saved
Like I mentioned at the outset, this passage is about a meal and a motivation. In fact, it describes for us what we could call a 'motivation aspiration'. What greater motivation could any of us aspire to than to “do all to the glory of God”?
And though we will not find ourselves in this same exact setting, at the table of a polytheist, looking at a plate of Poseidon-blessed pork chops, we are nevertheless still living in a land of idolatry. We are still tempted every day in terms of giving glory.
When people say, “Well, if you just made more money...”, or “It's okay if it makes you feel good”, or “This is the newest version. You have to have it”, or “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything”, or “Only this candidate can save us”, or “Time to give”, or “Another drink or one more pill will take the edge off”, or “If you just ignore it, it will go away”, or “Your happiness is what matters most”...when people say such things, they are giving glory to the idols of our age.
But we are called to take a stand; to do all as an affirmation that God alone is God.
Are you motivated to “do all to the glory of God”? At first this seems overwhelming, doesn't it? Like me, you do lots of different things for lots of different reasons. Many things motivate you, right? Some good, some not so good. And when it says, “do all”, does it really mean “all”? It does. It says, “whatever you do”.
But before you begin to think about what it means to buy chewing gum “to the glory of God” or pick nose hairs “to the glory of God”, think in broader terms: your family, your career, your school, your finances, your marriage, your words, your hobbies, your health, your thought life, your goals, your security, your future.
In all these areas, is it your prayer and intention to speak and act as an affirmation that God alone is God?
To be clear, giving glory to God or glorifying God does not first involve someone else seeing or knowing. Paul's example might lead us to believe this is just something we do in the presence of others. No, those choices must flow from a heart that seeks to affirm that God alone is God and to reject idols at all times, even when no one else is looking.
A meal and a motivation. Those First Century believers were surely tempted by other motivations: to be accepted by their neighbor, to be thought of as open-minded, to avoid conflict, to be comfortable, to use food as a means of escape. There's all sorts of things that must have tempted them in that situation.
And every day, you and I find ourselves at something like that meal. We find ourselves at crossroads where we can choose to affirm the greatness and uniqueness and beauty and power of worldly ideas (correction: the so-called greatness and uniqueness and beauty and power of worldly ideas). OR, we can take the road less traveled and affirm that greatness and uniqueness and beauty and power of God; to affirm that God alone is God, and nothing even comes close to rising to His heights.
If that is your ultimate motivation, then it will ultimately drive you back to God's word. That's the Essential were focusing on today: One Truth. You see, some really see the Bible as just a rule book, a list of exhaustive dos and donts to be followed for healthy living. To be clear, that is true in some sense. But it's bigger than that.
Above the commands, the Bible reveals the good God who give commands...for our good. And it reveals the truth about His awe-inspiring greatness and uniqueness and beauty and power. This then is the flame that should drive you, that you would live for His glory...in every single area of your life, and...at all times! This guards us against compartmentalizing: making a box for God's rules, for religious things, and then a box for the 'everyday' things, 'the mundane', the things God's word does not explicitly mention.
But no matter what we're talking about, no matter the topic or area of your life, it all falls under the deep and wide call of I Corinthians 10:31:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
But as we finish, look at where Paul goes next, in verses 32-11:1...
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. [11:1] Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
The call is not to be offensive or act in an offensive manner (even though someone might feel offended when we take a stand). As we talked about, our priority is the good of others. The call is not to seek “my own advantage, but that of the many...[to what end?]...that they may be saved”. When we live to “do all to the glory of God”, we are lights. One Truth should always lead to One Mission.
Do you want others to know that God alone is God, that God alone has the answers, that God alone holds out hope, that God alone can save, that God alone is in charge, that God alone will satisfy? If you do, then you will be imitating Paul, just as he imitated Christ.
The only reason we sit here today opening our hearts to such amazing things is because Jesus made our good His priority, because He took a stand (saying “no” to sin and “yes” to the cross), and because He did all for the glory of God. Let's praise God together for our Redeemer and ask Him for that very same motivation, in “whatever we do”.