Christians from different churches and denominations, or even from the same denomination have different opinions regarding a lot of practices. For example, some agree to dance, others do not. This list includes a lot of things such as watching TV, make-up for women, different clothes, jewelry, clapping hands and many other things. Some believe that it is wrong to wear a tie and others do not allow you to come in front of the church unless you have a tie. What does God say in His Word concerning these things, that are also called “doubtful things”?
What are “doubtful things”?
This term is used only once in the Bible and it says:
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (Romans 14:1)(NKJV)
The Scripture doesn’t give any definition here what a doubtful thing is, but it is clear that these are some certain practices, that are not so important before God how they are fulfilled by people, but people pay too much attention to them in their religious life, and they judge or despise others who do not act according to their opinion.
Doubtful things concerning food
Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire, and a lot of people from different cultures and nations came to the church from Rome. Jews were not allowed to eat the meat of the animals, that were listed in the Old Testament as “unclean animals”. Since they became Christians, this list was no longer available for them, nevertheless, it was still difficult for them to pass beyond this custom they had had for their whole life and they preferred to eat only vegetarian food. But others ate all kind of meat, as the text says:
One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. (Romans 14:2)(NASB)
It is more important the attitude we have regarding those who act differently than us, than what we eat or what we don’t.
The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. (Romans 14:3)(NASB)
So, according to this verse, God accepted both the one who eats and the one who doesn’t eat anything. More than this, the Scriptures ask:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)(NASB)
Doubtful things concerning holidays
Apostle Paul writes about a thing that provokes doubtful disputations among the Christians from Rome, that is:
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)(NASB)
Nowadays Christianity faces a lot of misunderstandings concerning holidays. That is the same with the date we celebrate Easter or Christmas or the day of rest. But it is more important than all these things to be fully convinced from the Word of God that what you do is right. Because…
He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:6)(NASB)
Why do you do what you do?
This is more important than to do or not to do any of these doubtful things. Does it really honor God? Or are these only some personal interests, to judge and to despise others. Some apply some “holier” practices to seem “holier” in one’s sight. That’s why, the Word of God says:
For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7–9)(NASB)
Every Christian will give account of himself concerning the way he acts regarding “doubtful things”
We don’t have to think that these doubtful things are so unimportant. It is very important the way we act, and the Bible says that each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God to give account of the way we acted.
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ”AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” (Romans 14:10–11)(NASB)
Do not do anything that will have a bad effect on others
A mature Christian will not walk around to correct all those near him how they should or shouldn’t behave concerning doubtful things, but he will try to be attentive in all things to show respect for them and not to provoke them to do things that are not according to these people’s opinions.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)(NASB)
Our beliefs make a thing clean or unclean for us
It is a more difficult to understand concept, but this is what Apostle Paul says as it follows:
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (Romans 14:14)(NASB)
If one considers sin to eat a certain food and he eats it, or if he considers that it is a sin to observe a day and he observes it, or he does any other thing that he considers as sin, he goes against his own beliefs, and so, he goes against God in his own conscience. This is the sin, to go against the knowledge of God that you have in your conscience.
Don’t make your brother be hurt
The context we live in creates our opinions concerning some things. I know a person who became Christian in a context where he was taught to respect women and not to have many discussions concerning their clothes. Then he left for another country, and moved to another context and it seems that he was greatly influenced by that context. When he came back once to visit his country, he was with some other people, and he tried to show that he was more spiritual and said to a friend of his, that was Christian and married at that time: “Don’t you have money to buy other clothes to your wife, so that she may not wear only trousers?” This question was so humiliating, that his friend was hurt many days. Here is what Paul wrote:
For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:15–18)(NASB)
Do not destroy your relations with other people because of your opinions
If you try to convince others that your opinions have to be theirs too, this will lead only to destruction, hurt, judge and disregard. Then stop doing this, because you are not right. Here is what God says:
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19)(NASB)
Do not despise what others think about “doubtful things”
This can have a very bad effect on them, if you do something they can not accept, and that may lead them to their old way of living:
Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. (Romans 14:20–21)(NASB)
Do not impose your opinions on others
The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22–23)(NASB)
Do not practice things that will make you lose your peace with your own conscience, or with people who are around you.
Translated by Felicia Djugostran