For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Rom 14:17)
This verse has been on my mind for the last few days; I believe that there is a great truth here that could change a one’s life if one would make it the foundation of one’s being.
Let’s begin by putting this verse in context; Romans 14 is dealing with issues that are not covered in Scripture. Specifically mentioned are eating meat (or not eating meat), and whether one observes special days [holy days or holidays] (or not).
As an aside, many people think that the “meat” listed here is meat that had been offered to idols, but the Holy Spirit does not use the word “idol” anywhere in this chapter. It may be that such is the case, but we need to be careful when we make assumptions about Scripture. In I Corinthians, there is a specific question about meat offered to idols, and that may have influenced the thinking about this passage.
This verse under consideration has a great reminder of where to focus our attention, and there are a couple of ways we can be in error.
The first way is an outward view; a constant or frequent examination of the lives of others to see if they are “measuring up” to what we think they should be doing. Oh, we are so holy! We would not watch what they are watching; we would not allow our children to watch what they allow their children to watch; we would not read what he is reading! We think the colors she is wearing may be a bit worldly! We don’t have a television; clearly, those that do are not as spiritual.
NO! We are to honor and glorify Jesus Christ with our lives – but we are not the judge of other people. Yes, we are not to be worldly, the Bible commands us, but it is for each believer to evaluate his actions in the light of Scripture while seeking enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to create lists of “worldly” activities and pass these along to every professing Christian we meet. Christianity is a relationship, not a list of things to “do” and “not do”. Let us work on our righteousness and work at being peaceful and showing forth the joy produced by the Holy Spirit.
Remember, we are NOT talking about things that the Bible is clearly against – see, for one list, the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:19-21.
The second error is an inward view… we are obsessed with ourselves and our actions. I’ve met people like this (and you probably have, too) – they live in almost fear that somehow and in some way they are doing something wrong. These people seem to live under a burden of trying to “measure up”; the last thing you think about regarding them is “peace and joy”.
A help for these people is to seek an honest answer to “measure up to whom?” If it is some other human being – your boss, someone you are trying to impress, or your pastor, then perhaps such a person’s focus needs to change to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light – it is not so with the burdens of man. Some may give the spiritual-sounding answer “God”… but He knows our frame, that we are dust. Even the very best person’s works are still “filthy rags” in God’s sight. He loves you, even though you fail. Success is not His standard, but did you try to please Him? He is well-pleased with such things. Again, we need to remember that His way is a relationship, not merely a list of things to do or to avoid doing.
As in so very many things, it is a heart matter – are we trying to please Him? If so, don’t obsess over how well or poorly you did. Let us take our eyes off of “meat and drink” and focus on righteousness and joy and peace!