Do Not Destroy the Work of God for Food—Romans 14:20-21
"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall" (Romans 14:20-21)
I remember growing up my mom would say, "Actions speak louder than words". She would remind us that what we do shows our real convictions about what we think. We had an obligation to act properly toward our siblings in play, toward our teachers at school and toward our parents at home. This same principle needs to apply toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our actions should be born out of our convictions but must not come at the cost of others. Paul reminds us today that we should "not destroy the work of God for the sake of food".
Paul himself was convinced that every food was clean ( Romans 14:14 ), but his main point in Romans 14 is that we are to accept those weak in faith without passing judgment on their convictions or lack of understanding ( Romans 14:1 ). He stresses that we must operate in love toward one another at all times, this is our goal and if we confuse or cause our brothers to stumble over trivial matters then we are not acting in love ( Romans 13:10, Romans 14:15 ).
At first glance it seems that Paul says the same things over and over throughout this entire chapter, but it is because he really wants us to understand this truth and apply it. We do not belong to ourselves; we now belong to God as we have been bought with a price. We are now included in His large family of believers. As such we have a responsibility to act properly toward one another. It is wrong for us to hurt the conscience of others merely to exert our freedom. What is better is not to do anything that causes our brothers to stumble, hurt their conscience or offend them. This is how we act in love, building up the body instead of weakening and destroying it.
This has implications in the world as well. Jesus told us that we are the salt and light of this world ( Matthew 5:13-16 ). We provide the flavor and illumination here on earth. The world sees us and watches us very closely. Because of this we must act in accordance with the truth we know, the benefit is showing God's love and mercy to a dying world by our actions. Jesus says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" ( Matthew 5:16 ). Our actions can lead people to Jesus or they can drive them far away. Because of this we should be aware of the things we do because others are watching. Our actions should lead people to glorify God.
If we are convinced that something is okay, then for us it is okay, as long as we cause no one to stumble by our freedom. This does not mean that we can live contrary to God's word and use our freedom as an excuse to continue in sin, rather we should live out of the liberty that God has revealed to us. Paul said in I Corinthians, "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" ( I Corinthians 10:23-24 ). Freedom in Christ is what we were born into and we should celebrate it, but it should never happen at the expense of others. We should always be aware of others and look first to their interest. Never using our freedom to crush them, cause confusion or make them fall. This is true freedom in Christ.