There are many activities that people of the world participate in that you may wonder – “Would it be OK if I did that as well? The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid it. Can I do it?” Certainly, there are some things that the Bible expressly says are sinful. Here is such a list. Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Anything that does something evil, however small, should be abandoned at once. But there are many activities that are not evil of themselves and are not specifically forbidden in the Bible. How do you decide whether to do them or not?
In the first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul gives some very good guidance. 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Similar guidance is given in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” From these two passages, the Apostle Paul gives three reasons to avoid certain activities. Let us evaluate each of the reasons that he gives.
While many things are lawful, not all things are helpful or profitable or beneficial. There are many activities which cannot be strictly proven to be unlawful or sinful, yet they don’t make you better and may cause injury in some way if indulged in. These things might injure the body, produce scandal, lead to sin in your life or in the life of others, or simply not make you better for doing it. Why engage in something that is not helpful or beneficial in the end? If an activity is not truly beneficial or can in any way be hurtful to yourself or others, avoid it.
While many things are lawful, some things can have power over you. They might develop into a bad habit, consume your time, sap your energy, use up your resources or enslave you in some way. 1 Peter 2:15-16 “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” You and I are servants of God and our first allegiance is to Him. Anything that puts Him in second place should be avoided. The Kingdom of God and your service to God can be impacted if you let other things control you or consume you. Galatians 5:13 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
While many things are lawful, some things do not edify. They don’t make you stronger. Rather than edify others, they may actually tear others down. Be especially careful on things that you do that might cause someone else to stumble or fall away. 1 Corinthians 8:9 “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” Romans 14:14-19 “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Many things are lawful but they may not be beneficial. Many things are lawful, but they can in some way control you. Many things are lawful but they do not edify. I encourage you to voluntarily restrict what you do to avoid activities that inhibit you from better serving God and serving your fellow man.