1 Corinthians 8:8 “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, no better if we do.” NIV
Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church about food sacrificed to idols. He stresses here that food does not bring us close to God. This leads me to the question, what does?
In the Old Testament there are many verses on what food was “ceremonially unclean” and what food for fit for consumption by God’s people. Jesus talks about food and the fruit that our lives produce:
Matthew 12:33-34 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” CEV
How amazing is God! The things that fill our hearts and flood out of our mouths show if we are unclean or not. Not whether you prefer bacon to chicken sausage!
I once attended a lecture on food, the pastor told us about the conditions during the Old Testament. Of how people would cook the meat before eating it, probably on a small fire. Now pork is deadly if not cooked until well done. Can you see how God was protecting them from sickness and disease by telling them not to eat it? Another meat that was prohibited is rabbit, these animals can carry parasites that can be transmitted to you even after the meat has been cooked. They embed themselves in your muscles and cause major problems.
Know this, God never told us to not do something without a very good reason. Do not murder, do not lie, do not commit adultery. These are all commands where if you brake them, someone (including you) gets hurt. God does not want to spoil your fun by making rules that are impossible to live by, spoiling your breakfast by prohibiting you from eating bacon or pork bangers, God has the best in store for us and He wants only the best for us. Naturally, He would tell us to stay away from things that would hurt us.
Jeremiah 7:23 “But I commanded them this thing, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it may be well with you.” MKJV
God has always wanted us to be His people. In the Garden of Eden, the very first sin that was committed was the sin of disobedience. God said, “You shall not”, and they were disobedient to Him and His command.
Jesus talks about the importance of sacrifices. There were many sacrifices listed in the Old Testament. These were very important, but there is something more important than rituals:
Matthew 12:7 “Don't you know what the Scriptures mean when they say, "Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others?" If you knew what this means, you would not condemn these innocent disciples of mine.” CEV
Luke 11:42 "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” CEV
Tithing is one of the most important rituals that we have as Christians. We give of our income so that the church and the people who work there can be provided for. But the Pharisees Jesus mentions tithe to be seen, with the wrong motives. Some things they esteemed as important (like doing things to be seen), while others (like justice and the love of God) took a back seat and were considered less important.
GOD WANTS YOUR HEART! He is not satisfied with you doing the right thing, like going to Church, tithing, helping others, etc. if your motives are all wrong.
Jeremiah 31:33 “but this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, says Jehovah, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” MKJV
Why does God want to put anything in your heart? Because He cares what is in it! God wants us to do the right things, for the right reasons! We are not to pretend to be Christians – we are to live what God has made us to be. God does not want us to pretend to be anything. If you are not doing things for the right reasons, then stop. Get your motives right and then continue.
Hebrews 6:1 mentions dead works. One of the meanings for this is something which has no reward. Jesus spoke of the Pharisees again in Matthew 6:1-4, saying that people who do things to be seen have already received their reward. What have they received? Recognition from people and a feeling of self righteousness. This is all you will get when you do things to be seen. God does not want us to live like this.
The apostle James has this to say:
James 2:20 “But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” MKJV
If faith that does not lead to works is dead, then works that do not originate from faith are also dead. It is not about being seen as someone who always attended church services or who donates thousands to the church every time they ask for money.
What God is looking at is what you are doing and why you are doing it. Does God do anything for us with ulterior motives? A scary question indeed. 1 John 4:16 says that God is love, not that God has love or feels love, but that God is indeed love. God is motivated by love, sent His Son Jesus because He loved us (John 3:16). I really hope that you get what I am saying here. God is motivated by love, not by hatred, spite or malice. God wants us to be motivated by His love as well. It’s a supernatural love, so we cannot produce it by ourselves, but we can ask Him to fill our hearts with His love so that we may love others as He loves us.