Permissible But Not Profitable
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." In order to understand what Paul meant, you must read the scripture in its context. Paul just didn't say that statement out of the blue. He was continuing a conversation with the Corinthians because they were using God's grace as an excuse to sin.
Context of the Scripture
Paul was teaching about sexual immorality when he made that statement. He was also responding to the Corinthians' popular belief that they could engage in immoral practices if they wanted to do so.
They were under the impression that because of God's grace, they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do so. Paul made the above statement to warn the Corinthian Christians that God's grace was not a license to sin.
Permissible means that which is allowed, approved and authorized. Permitted behavior is that which is within the bounds of morality and of the law. It is morally permitted to act in any way that does not bring harm to yourself or others. Permission is the first step to consider when you want to do something. Make sure what you do is permitted and not forbidden by God and the law of the land in which you live.
Profitable means that which offers some benefit or some gain. It might be a financial or some other type of benefit. After you ascertain that you have permission to do something, then determine what the benefits are for doing it. Permission and profitability should go hand in hand.
Is Everything Permissible?
There are laws of the land that prevent people from robbing banks, going through red traffic laws and assaulting one another. Those things are not allowed, but that doesn't mean people don't do them and get away with most of them.
When Paul says everything is permissible, he was referring to making moral decisions that he had been talking to the Corinthians about. Paul emphasized that everything is permissible when it comes to moral indifference and making moral decisions. Everything is permissible when it doesn't really matter to God one way or the other. For instance, eating pork is not a sin. Even though many people don't eat pork, it is a person's choice.
Some things might be permissible, but they might be enslaving. Drinking coffee, liquor, alcohol, and smoking tobacco are lawful activities for adults, but they keep the user in bondage. It is permissible and not a sin to have coffee every morning, but to say, "I can't function until I have my first cup of coffee" is enslaving.
A thing might be temporarily beneficial to the believer but not always profitable. It might be profitable for a new convert to attend a new members class at his or her church. That person is expected to begin putting some of that information to use. The new members class is indeed permissible and profitable temporarily, but after a while, it will no longer be profitable for that person to learn the same information over and over without ever using it.
The next time you quote the scripture or hear someone quote it, remember Paul's points:
- Everything is permissible when it helps, but not profitable when it hinders.
- Everything is permissible but not profitable when it enslaves.
- Everything is permissible but not profitable when it goes unused in the kingdom of God.
- Everything is permissible on a temporary basis but not profitable all the time.
Paul's Statement Was Personal
Notice in 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul's statement was personal. He said, "Everything is permissible for me." He used himself as an example to get the Corinthians to see his point and heed his warning.
The bottom line and the life application from this scripture is that everything is permissible in some ways, but everything is not beneficial or profitable. Therefore, we can't do everything we want to do and use God's grace as a loophole for doing those things.