A Lesson from the Cricket Basket

In first-century Corinth, there was a great debate over food offered to idols. It was an old pagan practice around which everyone in the region grew up. The pagan temples would offer sacrifices to the gods. The meat from these sacrifices would be sold in the marketplaces and at banquets sanctioned and or hosted by the temples.
 
A shift to a monotheistic (one God) worldview was wrought by the introduction of Christ to the city. Converts began to have a conflict of conscience about the tradition. Soon, everyone had an opinion. That is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “now concerning food offered to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge.”
 
The majority of people held one of two opinions. One group held that the meat was the derivative of pagan worship and inherently evil. No Christ follower should be able to eat any meat from the marketplace with a clear conscience. The other group, quite strong in their faith, stood on the truth that there was only one God, so if the pagan gods to whom the animal was sacrificed did not exist then there was no harm in consuming the meat.
 
One group condemned the other for presuming upon God’s grace. One group held the other in contempt for being legalistic. The two were vehemently opposed and divided between one another. This is why Paul said, “this knowledge, puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b).
 
He is explaining to them that nothing good can come out of this debate. It reminds me of when, as a child, we used to buy a basket of crickets for fishing bait. If they were not all used and got left in the boat for a few days, they would eat each other one by one. Soon all you would have was one big fat cricket in the basket. That is where this debate was headed in the first century.
 
There is a huge debate going on in our nation right now. The debate centers around flags and monuments. The two sides, those who want to see the emblems removed, and those who want to see them kept, are diametrically and sometimes militantly opposed to one another.
 
I imagine Paul speaking into our current situation, “now concerning flags and monuments: we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up…” All of us have an opinion, and that is the problem. The harder we grip our knowledge the more convinced we are that we have to win and our opponent has to lose. Our opponents are just as convinced of their position and that they must come out of the contest on top. Anybody see a problem here?
 
Friends, there is a better way. Love. Take a look at the rest of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
 
What we see daily played out on the evening news is a demonstration of our collective ignorance. It is obvious that we know nothing when we imagine that we know everything. If we imagine that we know, then we demonstrate that our “knowledge” is immature. But when we love God, we show ourselves to be known by Him. When we are known by him, our actions and reactions show themselves to be in submission to Him.
 
I wish I had space to explain the rest of the chapter. Paul goes on to conclude that neither side is right because neither of them is loving God (looking to God). If they were, then they would know as they ought.
 

This is the knowledge to which we should all cling: one single soul is worth more than all the flags and monuments in the world. Arguments could be made for leaving them standing, and arguments could be made for taking them down. You are free to have your own opinion. Only, do not allow your freedom to become a stumbling block for your brother. It is better to sacrifice your freedom for the sake of your brother’s soul. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).