By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Winter/Spring 2017 – 3
Please explain 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 and Revelation 2:14. Is it wrong to eat Easter eggs, buns or fruitcake that the shops are selling during Easter or Christmas? — M.B. via e-mailM.B.
I can see why you asked the question. You are applying the principles about meat sacrificed to idols to your question about food made for non- biblical religions celebrations. I think it is a valid comparison.
The first Scripture citation, above, seems to say it is sometimes all right to eat meat sacrificed to idols and the other two seem to say it is wrong. The only way an answer is possible is for us to look at the reasons why one should or should not eat these things associated with non-biblical religion. Most of the keys are in the first passage, discussed here, a few verses at a time:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness” (1 Corinthians 10:23-26).
Everything belongs to God. There are no pagan animals, plants or recipes. That includes eggs, fruitcake, evergreen trees, holly berries and rabbits. If a person eats meat offered to an idol, or a baked item that was part of an Easter or Christmas special, but does not even know it—asking no questions—no harm is done. However, if someone knows a believer is eating something that is part of a non-Biblical religious practice, and if it is offensive or causes them to want to join that non- Biblical practice, that is a problem worth avoiding.
If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:27-29).
Here we have cases where a person is an unbeliever, and would think that a believer’s eating things associated with non-biblical practices means he approves of the practice. We also have the case of someone going out of their way to inform the other of the religious association. Then, a believer should sacrifice his liberty to help the other man’s conscience. The Christian life is about bringing salvation to others, not about exercising our own liberty.
The last part of your second Scripture quotation:
What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? (1 Corinthians 10:19-22).
Wood and stone idols are nothing. Meat is still meat and fruitcake is still cake with fruit in it—it can be tasty! But demons are real! If a person is pulled into fellowship with demons through eating meat sacrificed to idols, or through modern day Christmas or Easter practices, then they need to get out. Sometimes, religious practices involve the cursing or demonic “blessing” of people who participate in their religious practices. Sometimes, that curse is extended to those who eat the products from that worship. If eating the products of false worship brings us into the demonic contact, then we want to stay away from it. This is exactly what your Scripture in revelation is talking about. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14).
The problem with ancient Israelites was not their occasional eating “idol- burgers” from Gentile vendors on their way to work. They were eating the things sacrificed to idols and participating so much in the practices that they were forsaking their good marriages and committing sexual immorality with the women of those nations (Number 31:15-17). Also notice:
“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20).
In this case, we are dealing with Gentiles who are just turning to God. If they go back to eating things sacrificed to idols, they are likely to go back to the sexual immorality associated with their former religions. It was better to avoid those sacrifices so they would not get started in the false practice.
So, to answer your question, if one normally orders hard-boiled eggs at a restaurant and if at Easter, the egg shell came dyed in some color, I would not refuse to eat it unless I knew it would offend somebody with me. Similarly, sometimes our homeless ministry receives fruit cake or Christmas cookies. I may eat them if I don’t offend anyone since they were made by the same commercial equipment that makes other cake and cookies—they are not involved in any religious ceremony at all. But I would probably not eat food made by some occult religious group for their ceremonies, especially if it was cursed or “blessed” by some demonic power.
Someone might go to a Christmas meal to see family, but if eating the food there causes one to start kissing under mistletoe, getting drunk or other sinful practices, then one should stay completely away from that.