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Puff Up or Build Up?

August 13, 2023

1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble.

The beginning of this passage starts off the topic by saying, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” It then goes on to explain that even if a believer has the knowledge that something may not be a technical sin, in this case eating food offered to idols, they shouldn’t do it in the presence of someone who may be led to sin through eating that food based on their belief. By this they show love despite their knowledge. It ends with verse 13, that if meat causes another believer to stumble, I just won’t eat meat anymore. What I notice especially is that the goal Paul gives here isn’t to educate the other believers with more knowledge, to correct their erred beliefs. The first course of action is to love them, which will build them up rather than puff up myself. Correcting someone may make me feel better about my own knowledge, but it doesn’t mean that is what the Holy Spirit is asking at that moment. The first action should always be to love, which at times may mean giving up my own ‘rights’ that I have through knowledge, and instead willingly abstain from that right in order to love my brother or sister in Christ. When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a great example of this in her own life that has stuck with me. While she didn’t personally struggle with alcoholism or believe drinking alcohol in moderation was wrong, she has chosen to never drink in a public place. As she doesn’t know who may be around her and could see that she is drinking. She doesn’t want even a chance of causing someone to stumble, as for them a drink may not be innocent or benign. This is something she has done out of love for other beloved children of God, despite her knowledge that drinking alcohol in moderation is not a technical sin. I think this passage is meant to show that just because we have the right to do something, doesn’t mean we necessarily should. Just because an action might not hurt us personally, does not mean that it might not hurt someone else. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. And we have in the example of Jesus someone who gave up ALL his rights in order to love us fully, “who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). So, my challenge to myself and to you is not to think in terms of what we are allowed to do, but instead what is useful for building up other believers in love and let that be our measuring stick for every action at every moment of the day. Don’t cause your brother or sister to stumble.

Brittany H

 ’94 / ’08  San Jose  Costa Rica

CoLaborers International Missionary

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