Jump Start # 2098
1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
As one reads the Bible, context is important. Lifting a verse out of a paragraph can lead to conclusions that God never intended. This is why reading before and after a specific verse is important. Get the idea that the writer intended, not what you want it to say, is the key.
Our verse is a great example of this principle. Paul is using this sentence to lead into some thoughts about the use of our body and immorality. Sex and the Christian was a concern for the Corinthians. The pendulum had swung from one extreme to the other. Culturally, Corinth had prostitutes in pagan temples. That was the norm. That was wrong. Now, that they were Christians, the pendulum swinging the other direction, was sexual relations even between husband and wife wrong? What if one wasn’t a Christian? Those questions are the basis of the next chapter in Corinthians.
Consider three thoughts from our verse today.
- All things are lawful for me. That must be qualified. Taken as a blanket statement, it would imply nothing is wrong. Period. Ever. I can do anything. Murder? Theft? Adultery? Lawfully in what context? Legally? Spiritually? All arenas of life?
Paul is not implying that the laws of the land do not apply to Christians. He is not implying that as a Christian he could do no wrong. We know better than that. Under what is right, Paul can do anything.
- Just because it’s right doesn’t mean it’s useful, helpful, or in his words, profitable. Some things are right but the Christian won’t do them because they are not beneficial to his soul, heart and walk with the Lord. They are not wrong, they are simply not helpful. The measuring stick must be more than, “It’s not wrong.” Is there any value in it? We are trading hours of our life for activities. You do not get those hours back. Was it worth the time and was any good accomplished? Profitable implies value. Encouragement is value. This is why going to worship and sitting through sermons and classes in which you already know the material is still valuable because you are helping others. Taking the time to read things that will build your faith is profitable. Taking moments to call, write and help others is profitable. What good or what value has come from what I have done? Having the right to do something doesn’t mean I should do it. There is more to be considered than is it right or wrong.
- Because it is lawful does not mean I have to do it. I will not be mastered by anything. In a world that understood masters and slaves, Paul is talking about control. I will not be controlled by anything. I am at the steering wheel of my life. Habits, hobbies, activities can be a part of our lives or they can be our lives. We can control them or they can control us.
Let’s focus upon this last expression, “I will not be mastered by anything.” When someone says, “I couldn’t help it,” that certainly sounds like they are mastered by it. How do we keep from being controlled or mastered by anything?
- A person must put Christ before all things. This includes denying himself. This includes taking up his cross.
- A person must develop self control. Peter listed self control among the virtues that a disciple was to add to his faith. The control of self. Controlling our anger. Controlling our passions. Controlling our mouth. Self control comes from making deliberate decisions. It comes from thinking and not impulse. It comes from acting and not reacting. Many struggle right here. They are out of control. When angry, they erupt and explode. When upset, they are likely to say anything. Rash. Impulsive. Out of control. They often must go around and apologize for all the damage that they caused. “I wasn’t thinking,” becomes a regular motto for someone who lacks self control.
- A person must be in charge of his decisions. He must make up his mind ahead of time, like Daniel did. He must know what he ought to do. The words temperate, blameless follow one who is not mastered by anything.
Our words, our emotions, our attitudes are what gets us into trouble so often. We just don’t think. We forget James’ words, “be slow to speak” and “slow to anger.” For many, it’s just the opposite. Quick to talk and quick to get mad, not only leads to all sorts of trouble, but it indicates that circumstances and situations control us. We are mastered by the moment.
Believing that “we can’t help it,” surrenders the power of this passage. Paul said, “I will not be mastered by anything.” Yet, today, “We can’t help it.” Why not? Why have we become mastered? Why have we allowed ourselves to be controlled by the moment? Why have we no more will power and spiritual faith to walk away, not say what comes to our mind, keep silent, and refrain from making a fool of ourselves. Mastered. Controlled. A life of purpose. Decisions made on purpose.
These words are part of a heart that is set on Christ. He will not be moved from that. He may be hurt. He may get upset. He may be accused. But in all of that, he will not be conquered by his feelings, emotions, passions or attitude.
I have heard old, old stories of physical fights taking place in the church building. Really? Out of control. I have witnessed ugly finger pointing and angry shouting taking place when people were upset. I have known people to leave so mad that they have slammed doors, made threats, and even considered suing others. Out of control. Mastered by emotions. Likely to say and do anything. And most times, leaving a trail of destruction that is long remembered and hurtful to the faith of others.
I will not be mastered by anything. Can you say that? Can you live that way? Can you leave your phone in another room and have a conversation with someone? Can you miss a ball game? Can you go a day without TV? Who is in control? Who is the master?
I will not be mastered by anything—except Christ.