Look at the Israelites; those who eat the sacrifice are partners in the altar. What pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God. Do not be partners with demons.
1 Cor 10: 18-20
The word eat in the Bible means to take part in, to internalize, to align yourself with. We eat the bread of Christ, but we also eat tennis, or shopping, or sex, or TV marathons. Thus Paul is not just talking about food here, but anything we might conceivably do or care about. That’s the first thing to keep in mind while reading this passage (and the whole Bible, really).
The second thing we have to keep in mind is how we’re using the word “worship”.
15 Second context: Those Greeks who were not the converted Christians to whom Corinthians is addressed were called“pagans”. They used to sacrifice animals during worship ceremonies to stone/gold/wooden idols and then eat the meat in a feast directly afterwards.
So many of these words- pagan, idol, sacrifice- have negative connotations to the Christian ear, but they are simply ideas which all humans carry out every day. Any decision we make involves a sacrifice to an idol- giving up one thing in order to have something else. This is an act of worship. We worship whatever we sacrifice for. We make it an idol- even temporarily- and put it above all other desires, implying that it deserves to be the pinnacle of our obedience. To worship doesn’t mean fall on the knees and bow down, or write songs and poems about, or say high words, or burn in a golden cup. Worship simply means to choose first.
Think about going to the gym. You pay money for memberships, you avoid certain foods, you get up off the couch and stop watching Friends. Almost anything is better than going to the gym. But if you care about the results, you go anyway. You sacrifice all the wonderful, lazy things in life to the idol of fitness, and worship your body by working out.
At Chili’s there’s a 16 dollar plate of ribs which is awesome, and there’s a 12 dollar bowl of pasta that’s just OK. If you’re cheap like me you choose the 12 dollar pasta every time, and live with the mediocre decision. You make a choice to keep your four dollars, and in doing so you’re worshiping money.
Here’s a final example: I read the Bible every morning, which is where I get all the posts for this blog. Before I start my Bible study, though, I sometimes spend about 20 minutes on the computer checking email, facebook, this, that, and the other. In my heart I would like to make the Bible study first and foremost- that feels more important to me. Certain days, however, I sacrifice my desire to have Bible study first thing to my desire to satiate my digital idol. I worship whatever is waiting for me on the internet, and put God second.
I chose these mundane examples to make a point. It may sounds ridiculous, or extreme, or like a technicality, but the psychological minutia of our daily, hourly, minutely choices is extremely important if we want a clear picture of what we hold at the center of our lives, as opposed to what lies just to the outside. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend less money or checking your email first thing in the morning. The choices we’re making aren’t “bad” or “good”, but we need to be aware that even our smallest sacrifices form the foundational characteristic of our being.
Thus, the first tactic toward getting God into the center of our lives is to think about and be aware of the duality of what we’re sacrificing and what we’re making sacrifices to. With this in mind our choices are tinged with the knowledge that we are worshiping whatever we’ve just decided on. This allows us to be keenly aware of what we’re partnering ourselves with- what we eat- and if we want God to be at the center of our lives we need to make sure we’re sacrificing things for Him, and not the other way around.
Tip #1- Keep an eye on what we’re making sacrifices to, so we can make sure we’re making sacrifices to God.
The clearer our focus is on what we worship through our sacrifices, the clearer our understanding will be of where we are, how we got there, and most importantly where we’re going. If God is the End Result, then making movement toward Him through sacrifice means we are not lost, and the abundance of His joy (as detailed in Isaiah 55) becomes ours more and more completely.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of the “Putting God at The Center” series. Follow along next week for a look at how our bodies can be the perfect place to focus our efforts. Comments, feedback, shares, suggestions, criticisms are always encouraged.