Daily Devotional

November 16, 2019

Daybreak: Romans 14:1-23

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

When I was young, I was a member of the local 4-H Club. We raised and showed livestock and received training in many related areas, including the handling and care of our animals, animal nutrition, and the like. In another aspect of the program, we were instructed in how to judge animals — how to identify the characteristics of superior quality and ideal conformation in particular breeds. We even entered judging competitions at county fairs and livestock exhibitions where our judging was judged! The evaluation of our efforts let us know how well we were doing in discerning the best attributes, and this helped us when raising and showing our own animals.

Judging never focused on the negative. We were not looking to point out deficiencies, and no animal was ever awarded a ribbon for “Worst in Show.” We looked for the best qualities rather than the poorest. By focusing on the commendable, it was not difficult to see what characteristics we should strive for in our own animals.

In today’s focus verse, Paul pointed out that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, so we should live our lives with that judgment day in view. Here on earth, we are not to be judges of one another. We should not focus on the flaws or shortcomings of others, but on making certain that our own lives and daily interactions will meet with the approval of the Lord. It will be much more spiritually beneficial for us to observe and strive to emulate the godly qualities in those around us than to censure or look down on those we feel are falling short in some way.

Since one day “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (verse 12), it is a worthwhile exercise for us to judge ourselves — to thoughtfully evaluate how we are doing in our walks with God. Paul made it clear that critical or self-righteous attitudes have no place in a Christian’s life, so self-examination can be helpful. Are we respecting those with whom we come in contact? Do we encourage others, especially those who are “weak” in the faith, treating them with charity and forbearance? Do we have a humble and teachable spirit? Are we careful not to do anything that might be a “stumbling block” to our brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Our attitude toward others is a reflection of our inward character. It is up to us to make sure we conform to God’s quality expectations. Let’s purpose with God’s help to make this our focus and our goal.

Background

In this chapter Paul addressed the relationship that weak and strong believers were to have with each other. The words “weak” and “strong” represent two tendencies of mind: one that is hyper-sensitive, possibly even to one’s own detriment, and the other that is more liberal, even to the point of being insensitive to the potential impact on others.

In the first part of this chapter, Paul admonished the strong to be cautious and protective in their dealings with the weak, and for the weak not to be judgmental of those who were doing things that God did not expressly forbid (verses 1-4). The Apostle’s instruction in verse 1 for the strong in faith to receive those who were weak but “not to doubtful disputations” meant that the strong were not to pass judgment on the weaker believer’s perspective, nor to contend with him about an insignificant detail.

In order to make his point clear, in verses 2-3 Paul presented an example of contrasting opinions regarding the lawfulness of eating certain meats. Apparently some of the Roman believers (perhaps those who had been delivered from idolatry) felt it was wrong to eat meat in case it had been offered to pagan gods, so they consumed only vegetables. Paul recognized that since idols were inanimate objects and the meat had nutritional value, there was no spiritual reason for believers to abstain from eating it. However, those who supported either position were not to disparage those with an opposite perspective. Paul asserted that each individual was accountable for himself before God, so believers were to be true to their own consciences.

In verses 5-6, the Apostle offered a second example based upon differing opinions related to Jewish festivals. Though the Roman Christians, who came from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, had varying viewpoints regarding how and when such days should be observed, Paul instructed them to decide on the basis of honoring God. They were not to judge those who held a different view, since both were doing what they felt the Lord required and He was the Judge (verses 10-12).

The limits of liberty and the importance of not causing a weak brother to violate his own conscience is the emphasis of the last half of the chapter, where Paul cautioned against putting a stumbling block in another brother’s way. Seemingly harmless behaviors had the potential to confuse others whose consciences did not permit such acts. Therefore, Paul stated that spiritually mature individuals should be willing to forego personal liberties in order to maintain peace and build up their weaker brethren (verses 13-23).

Paul’s counsel, “Let not then your good be evil spoken of” (verse 16) means that Christians were not to allow good intentions to become objects of misunderstanding. His admonition, “For meat destroy not the work of God” (verse 20) conveys a similar thought: convictions were fine but they were not to be cherished and upheld so strenuously that unity would be impacted, or that a weaker Christian would be led to imitate a behavior that his own conscience condemned.

The word “damned” in verse 23 does not mean eternal perdition, but rather indicates that one who violated his own conscience would experience a sense of personal guilt.

It should be noted that the liberty which Paul espoused in this chapter was not a casual disregard for distinctions between right and wrong. He was referring solely to inconsequential matters such as ceremonial observances and differences of opinion.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.    The results of salvation
    D.    Liberty: don’t judge (14:1-12)
    E.    Liberty: don’t offend (14:13-23)

A Closer Look

  1. In verse 19, what does Paul say we are to “follow after”?

  2. Based on verse 13, what might be examples of “stumbling blocks” for others?

  3. What are some actions we could take to encourage spiritually vulnerable believers?

Conclusion

We must be careful not to adopt the attitude of a judge in our relationships with others — that is God’s role! Our focus should be on making sure our own attitude is always one of encouragement and support for others.

Reference Materials