Humans are, if nothing else, master justifiers. We are great at coming up with excuses and explanations for why we do the things we do. We must have learned this from our forefathers – after all Adam started the trend in the Garden of Eden and Eve quickly followed suit. Even when we know something is generally wrong, we try to explain why it is specifically right for us.
Christians aren’t exempt from this proclivity. We tend to add an extra layer of perceived holiness to our excuses when we twist Scripture to support our bad choices. Perhaps no Scripture is more abused in this arena than Paul’s proclamation in I Cor. 9:22b. “I’ve become all things to all people” has been repeatedly misused as a lame excuse to justify sinful choices.
The reason this misapplication happens so easily, is the same reason that most misinterpretation of Scripture occurs. We fail to read the entire passage. If we did so, we would read:
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (I Cor. 9:22b-23, emphasis added.)
Later, Paul continues on the same topic when he writes,
“just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (I Cor. 10:33, emphasis mine)
Did you notice that last bit? We tend to use this verse to substantiate why we can do the things that we want to do, but that wasn’t Paul’s motivation. He did it so that it might benefit other people. In other words, the advantage wasn’t going to Paul but to the people he was ministering to. It wasn’t about getting what he wanted, but giving them what they needed. And what they needed was Christ.
It’s the same motivation that should drive our decisions. We should ask ourselves whether what we want to do brings someone closer to Christ? Is this beneficial to their walk with God and not just a fulfillment of our desires? Does the advantage go to them or is it about us?
Our focus shouldn’t be on attempts to justify why we should be getting the things we want, and doing what we want to do. Instead we should adjust our lives in such ways that as a result, “many will be saved.”
What do you think? Why are we tempted to misappropriate these verses to justify doing what we want to do?