Knowledge Puffs Up: Love Builds Up
In this chapter Paul responded to more questions from the leaders of the church in Corinth; this time it was about food sacrificed to idols. Social life in the city revolved around the pagan temples where animals were sacrificed; and yet most of the meat was sold for food or to be eaten in the temple 'restaurants'. Some believers took the pragmatic line that if the meat was good they should eat it. Others were troubled in their conscience by its association with the pagan deity and cultic worship, and did not want to eat it.
Those who thought there was no problem were hurting the other believers, especially if the meat was served at a communal meal or if they were invited out as guests. They were behaving as though it was only their opinion which mattered, despite the discomfort of those with more sensitive consciences. So Paul addressed the hard hearts of the 'meat eaters' by saying that they actually did not know everything and had no right to assert their opinion over others (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).
Everybody knows something but nobody knows everything, except God. A little knowledge leads to pride and the illusion of power: it is a dangerous thing. On the other hand, the church was designed to be God's family, bound together by love. Love covers over many sins (1 Peter 4:8) and is patient and kind, not asserting itself or demanding its own rights (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). So Paul's words, "knowledge puffs up while love builds up" provide a powerful contrast against which the church members could measure themselves.
The world loves the power which knowledge brings, but its pride will always cause a fall. On the other hand, love is God's way to build up fallen and broken people. Some believers are tempted to use their little bit of knowledge to secure a power corner in the church. Some find it much easier to study than to serve. Although most of us do not have to deal with meat from pagan temples, we all have to deal with our selfish pride which will latch onto something we think we know. Although we need to confront false teaching, we can only build up other believers as we teach the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); otherwise our pride will undo God's building.
© Dr Paul Adams