What does the Bible say about food offered to idols and what should be my attitude when it is given to me?
There is clear instruction in the Bible that a believer should not partake of the food offered to idols. Read the Bible now. “The Holy Spirit and we have agreed not to put any other burden on you besides these necessary rules: eat no food that has been offered to idols; eat no blood; eat no animal that has been strangled; and keep yourselves from sexual immorality. You will do well if you take care not to do these things. With our best wishes (Acts 15:28,29).” Then in the epistles Paul gives some clarifications about the issue. Read below.
In considering this question we need to look at two main passages in the NT. In 1Cor.8 Paul is actually answering the very same question of food offered to idols which the Corinthians had asked him. The whole chapter deals with this question. The passage is straight forward and does not fall into different interpretations. In this passage the first argument that Paul gives is that idols are nothing as there is only One God and One Lord of all. Therefore food offered to idols has nothing special about it all. But Paul went on to say that this knowledge that there is only One God and idols are not gods is not every one’s knowledge. There are some who consider idols as some thing and to them food offered to idols have some specialty about it. So for the sake of the one who has a weak conscience food offered to idols should not be eaten.
The other passage to consider is 1Cor.10:14ff where Paul talks about the question of idolatry. There are some crucial verses in this passage. I am just quoting. Look at 1Co 10:20. “But I say that the things which the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. And I do not desire that you should have fellowship with demons”. V.21 reads “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of a table of demons”. Now let me just quote Paul again from vv.23-29. “All things are lawful to me, but not all things profit. All things are lawful to me, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own, but each one another’s”. (v.25) “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no question for conscience’ sake;” v.26) ‘for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it.’ (v.27) “If any of those who do not believe invite you to a feast, and if you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for conscience’ sake”. (v.28) “But if anyone says to you, This is slain in sacrifice to idols, do not eat for the sake of him who showed it, and for conscience’ sake; “for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it”; (v.29) “conscience, I say, not your own, but the other’s. For why is my liberty judged by another’s conscience?” Paul’s main concern in this passage seems to be that we should not cause an offense to a weak brother for whom Christ died. So Paul concludes this passage by saying whether we ate or drank, we should do it for the glory of God; that we should make sure that we do not offend any one; that my concern should be the salvation of others when I do any thing.
One or two OT references are suitable for this context. Look at Deu 7:25 “You shall burn the graven images of their gods with fire. You shall not desire the silver or gold on them, nor take it for yourself, so that you may not be snared in it. For it is an abomination to Jehovah your God”. (Deu 7:26) “And you shall not bring an abomination into your house, lest you be a cursed thing like it. You shall utterly hate it, and you shall utterly despise it. For it is a cursed thing”. These and other passages very clearly show that any association with idolatry of any sort is to be avoided at any cost. The determination of the Psalmist is some thing that we should learn from. “Their sorrows shall be multiplied who run after another god. I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood; and I will not take their names on my lips” (Ps.16:4).
I remember an occasion when I was given such food by a neighbor of mine who holds me in high respect. He had gone to a far away very famous Temple and ‘prasadam’ (the food offered to the idol) is supposed to have very special power attached to it. When given to me in my house, I accepted it that I might not offend my neighbor. But I made sure that I did not part take of it. In situations like these we need to use great discretion and make sure that the name of the Lord is glorified by what we do and the other person is not offended by it. May the Lord help us. To His name be glory. Amen.