The Earth And All It Contains
“Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake; for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” 1 Cor. 10:26
The apostle Paul, in addressing the believer’s liberty in Christ to eat according to their conscience, reminds the Corinthians of a principle set forth in his quote of Psalm 24:1. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (NAS) Many believe this psalm of David originated with the bringing of the ark into the Tabernacle as recorded in 2 Samuel 6:12-17. If you read the context following (Ps. 24:3) our chosen verse you will note David’s rhetorical reference to ascending the hill of the LORD and standing in His holy place (Ps. 24:3). Based upon the context, one can see why many hold this position.
The Lord, owner and operator
The obvious inference in this verse is David’s acknowledgment of God’s complete sovereignty over all creation. He created it, he formed it, and He brought forth all things in it and upon it; from mineral and metal, to plant, to animal, to human life. As sole Proprietor of the ability to create something out of nothing, He has the right to decide how to use His creation or how to discard of it, in light of His ultimate purpose in creating and forming it in the first place. Since it involves those who dwell in it, He also has the right to decide who (as in people) and what (as in plant and animals) can be used for His purposes.
In the law were the stipulations of how animals and things could be used or considered disabused, according to God’s delineated commands. Some things were considered holy, set apart, for His uses solely; others were considered profane, or common. If you trifled with His directions, there was a severe price to pay. The lesson was clear. Any right or claim that mankind made to anything of this creation or its use was subordinated to God’s. All evidenced the primacy of God’s ownership and operation of the world around him for His good pleasure.
David must have surely understood this well having been plucked from his father’s flocks, anointed by the prophet Samuel and declared king over God’s chosen people after Saul had been removed for His insubordination.
A proper God-centered perspective acknowledges He is the Creator and sustainer of the earth and all it contains, even those who dwell in it. The gold and the silver are His (Hag. 2:8), as well as every beast, every bird, and anything that moves in the field (Ps. 50:10-12). From this principle comes appropriate stewardship of whatever we’ve been given or have taken from the earth, the fitting role of good governance of its citizens, and the basis of a just market system among men.
Owned and operating for the LORD
Christian liberty is one of the most important principles upon which the New Testament instructs the church. Jesus knew the parameters of His liberty in accordance with the principle that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” He had no problem eating and drinking with sinners and tax gatherers (C. f. Matt. 9:10-13) even though He was attacked for it; nor with the Pharisees (Luke 11:37) who were ultra concerned about religious propriety. He demonstrated His ultimate purpose in using His liberty was for the glory of God and “the profit of the many, that they may be saved” as corroborated by Paul through the Holy Spirit in the surrounding context of 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. In His personal life, Jesus executed the perfect example of a God-centered perspective as the One operating for the Father’s good pleasure.
One may ask, ‘Why would anyone ask questions about the meat sold in the market if it’s ok to eat it?’ In pagan idol worship, it was common for the pagan priests to receive a share of the meat presented for offering to the idol, similar to what was done under the Law. These priests would often then take this meat and offer it for sale in the meat market. You can see the real quandary this could present.
Paul through the Spirit is exhorting the Christians not to worry about this. They needn’t ask endless questions about its origin and use, etc. That’s still the case today for Christians. We don’t worry about where we buy our groceries (Is the business owned by Christians or nonbelievers?), what other products they may sell there (such as alcoholic beverages), what are the owner’s using their profits to promote, etc. Just know the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.
If invited to an unbeliever’s home, we don’t worry about eating what’s placed before us, going through the mental gyrations of approving what we are about to partake. You can see how this constant questioning would lead to analysis paralysis, neutering our service to He who owns us. The ultimate goal is to consider all things in reference to how will our actions glorify God and will they ultimately edify or injure my neighbor’s conscience.
We’ve been bought with a price, the blood of the Lamb; therefore we are owned by Him. That purchase price granted us all the freedom in the world, literally, in executing our purpose and operating for Him as long as our motives and intentions are pure. Let no man judge our freedom; rather let them judge our personal example of God’s ownership over us. As His new creations, the subordinating of our right or claim to execute our liberty should be demonstrated out of concern for others and how our actions may impact them. This is evidence we acknowledge the primacy of He who created us.