It is established thought in current culture that everyone can (and should) do whatever they want, whenever and however they want to do it. However, our family abides by a counter perspective, and we say it often: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” As a parent, I want my daughters to understand that they are free in Christ, but that their freedom should never be exercised at the expense of their good or the good of others. Paul said it this way: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor. 10:23). The idea that liberty has its limitations, and that it should, is something we see in today’s passage, too.
- Do you believe that your freedom has limitations? Why or why not?
READ THE WORD: ROMANS 14:20-23 (ESV)
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Jesus taught that there were no ceremonially clean or unclean foods; he said defilement comes from within us—it’s a heart issue (Mk. 7:15-23). Keeping this in mind, if the work of God is building his kingdom, then how could believers “destroy the work of God” all because of their partiality to certain food or drink?
- In verses 20-21, the specific examples of eating/drinking were used, but Paul opened the net even wider by saying that, “It is good not to… do anything that causes [other believers] to stumble.” Take some time to consider if there are any current behaviors/actions/adherences in your life that might cause others to stumble.
- Unpack what Paul said in verse 22 in light of verses 20-21. How would you define “faith” here, and what does it mean to keep it between oneself and God? Again, in the context of verse 20-21, how can we, as believers, pass judgment on ourselves because of what we approve?
- Within the greater scope of Romans 14, which addresses believers’ personal liberty and their responsibility to keep unity in the church, how does verse 23 encourage personal freedom within the framework of faith?
- What is at stake in these verses? What does this look like for you today? How might you be impeding another in their relationship with God by your lack of restraint?
RESPOND TO GOD
In his letters to the Christian church, Paul stated repeatedly that believers in Christ have freedom. But, he also argued that a Christian’s liberty is never to be exercised at the expense of the spiritual well-being of ourselves or others. If we knowingly invite others to sin or struggle because of our lack of restraint, then we have abused our freedom and our faith in the worst way. As believers living in community with other believers, it is essential that we concede this point: Our choices have the capacity to either lay a spiritual trap for others, or to strengthen their faith in Jesus.
- Ask God if you are living to please yourself or him, to self-gratify or to serve others. Wait upon what he reveals.
- Ask God if there’s anything you need to forgo in order to keep someone from stumbling in their faith journey.