1Co 10:23-26 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”
Paul was a man set free by virtue of being a prisoner to none except the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived a life of joy in the Lord in spite of the afflictions of the flesh. He understood that the legal service he had been raised under no longer held sway in his life. Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles could require anything of him or bind him. He could eat meat offered to idols because he knew these idols were nothing and therefore the offering was nothing.
Along with Paul’s knowledge of his liberty, we see a careful and wise consideration of its use. Just because we can do a thing (lawful) does not mean that we should do it (expedient). The “not” that Paul uses here is, according to Strong’s,
is “the absolutely negative adverb.” There is absolutely no advantage (expediency) in doing a thing just because we can. As a matter of fact, the result is often anything but advantageous.
According to Paul’s admonition, if what we are doing is not edifying, then it is better that we do not do it. The word edify comes from the Greek word “oikodomeō”: the fist meaning given is “to be a house builder.” When we edify, it is not a matter of being concerned over our own edification but rather the building up of the whole house. Knowing that all things are lawful enjoins upon us the responsibility to always think of others before we act.
It is this principle of being concerned for others that causes Paul to instruct “Let no man seek his own.” The grace and liberty we have in Jesus enables us to rise above that self-centered, self-righteous nature and be concerned instead about the welfare of our neighbors. If you are not sure who your neighbors are, please read Luke 10:25-37 and let us learn to show mercy. In seeking another man’s wealth (well-being), we are not coveting what he has but rather making sure his needs are met before our own.
Today, when we think of “shambles,” we think of something being in a state of chaos and disrepair. In Paul’s day, the shambles was a butcher’s stall in the meat market. As Paul pointed out earlier in this letter, it was not expedient to inquire whether the butcher worshiped idols or not. For the believers in Christ, it was just the simple act of purchasing meat to eat. According to Paul, we are not under obligation to ask the butcher whether he made an offering to an idol (which is nothing in this world).
If we have meat to eat (literally or figuratively), and it is lawful for us, then we can eat it with good conscience. We do this, recognizing that the earth and all its fullness is the Lord’s. We receive His blessing with joy and thanksgiving and are sustained, as long as we are not failing in our responsibility to edify another! When we fail in that, we are using our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness (1Pe 2:16).
May we always seek God’s grace to edify others and be neighbors indeed, showing His mercy to all we encounter and maintaining a good conscience before Him!