The Situation: You and many of your friends are out to eat during one of the church fasts at Restaurant ABC. You, being the lazy spiritual one have decided not to start fasting yet and will postpone for another week. As all of you order your food and it finally arrives, you begin to eat.
All of your friends have ordered some non-dairy, non-meat item on the item. But, you are currently enjoying that nice 10 oz. new york, rib-eye cut steak. As Tiny Tim, sits next to you looking down at his plate of guacamole, rice, and black beans, his stomach aches for just a sliver of the fat from the steak.
All of you leave the restaurant filled and go home, except for Tiny Tim, he keeps thinking of that sliver of fat, and caves in. He drives to the nearest fast food joint, and grabs himself several Double-Double burgers from In-N-Out.
You have been at home happily asleep since dinner time when all of this has taken place,
Q: What is the definition of a stumbling block so to speak? Who has the responsibility/burden?
I think Saint Paul answers this one directly:
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
– 1 Corinthians 8 (RSV)
Basically, the rule is love. Whether the person is lazy about fasting or simply was given a lighter rule of fasting than the others, he should have consideration for those around him, because the greater rule is love.
We have to think about ourselves in light of the community, not just in light of our own immediate wants. What I do affects others, and thus I must mind that when I make a choice that is public.
5 thoughts on “On steak and stumbling blocks”
What are your thoughts on the converse situation?: Guy breaks his fast so his friend who isn’t fasting isn’t offended for whatever reason…
It really depends on the situation. Am I breaking fast out of the law of love, or because I just want to break fast? This really requires a person to be very honest with himself. I think an example would be helpful, holler if you got one in mind.
In general, the “law of Love” requires a person to be consistent and honest. I mean, if I’m visiting someone’s home and there’s lots of non-fasting food but some vegetarian dishes, I can help myself to the foods that are fasting as much as possible. If the host is offended and then says, “oh, you didn’t try this or that”, then depending on your relationship with that person will dictate how you respond. If this person is someone not familiar with the Church etc… and it’s very offensive that one not eat, then that person ought to eat. The person, however, doesn’t need to pig out on the other foods because it’s his only chance to do that! Today, though, a lot of people ask “any dietary considerations?” – because now there are many vegans or people who need gluten-free foods etc…
If the person who invited you is Orthodox but for some reason didn’t realise it was fasting day (let’s say they don’t fast Wednesday and Friday, as an example), then perhaps it’s best to stay quiet and eat the food, rather than to shame them. If it’s your buddy from Church, however, and he just didn’t feel like fasting and it’s someone you chill with a lot, then it’s not hard for you to say, “Bro, you don’t got anything fasting?” I can’t go through every facet because there are so many, but again, it’s going to depend on your relationship with the other person coupled with internal honesty with self.
What say ye?
One time I was studying with a friend at his house and it was dinner time with his family who are Muslim. I was fasting and I had my own food, but to my ignorance that was actually culturally offensive (even in our culture too). So I regret the decision to be overly strict of my rules in this specific situation. However the family was kind enough to say next time just let us know your restrictions and we’ll accommodate for you. Nevertheless, I think it’s not right to try to tell them what I can or cannot eat if I’m not allergic to the food. So this is a personal experience where I believe it is okay at this particular moment to break the fast because it is rude not to eat the food that family offers you unless you’ve grown comfortable enough with them that they can accommodate for you. So don’t let “siyami” food offend either 😉
Absolutely! This is a good example. I mean, had they before coming said to you, we’re going to make you dinner, is there anything you can’t eat? It would’ve been easy to explain it to them, especially because they also have a concept of fasting themselves. But if you’re a guest in someone’s home, then I think the proper thing to do is to accept their act of love and not offend them. Even the hermits in the desert broke their fasting rules for the sake of visitors.
Thanks for sharing this experience! 😀