3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
There are two exhortations in verse three. The strong are not to despise the weak and the weak are not to judge the strong. Paul looks at the problem of doubtful things from both sides—the one who does not eat meat and the one who does.
3 Let not him who eats despise [disdain] him who does not eat,
“Despise” means look down on. The idea is to have contempt for someone. The strong believer should not look down on the weaker believer who does not have a solid view of his liberty in Christ. An attitude of disdaining another Christian is an attitude of superiority.
and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats;
The weaker believer should not “judge” the stronger believer. The natural inclination for those with a legalistic perspective is to condemn those who hold to greater liberty in the Christian faith. Those who hold to a strong view of liberty do so not from a sense of permissiveness but of principle.
for God has received [accepted] him.
“Received” is the same word as that in verse one. The idea of God accepting the strong believer’s liberty should temper the judgmental attitude of the legalistically oriented Christian. The prerogative of judging a servant belongs to the one in authority.
God rejects both attitudes of contempt and condemnation.
Believers who know what they believe have the temptation to hold a supercilious attitude toward those who are not as strong in the Word. The strong have a tendency to diminish the weak. That is why it is necessary to develop a welcoming attitude toward those weak in the faith.
A centuries-old quote (commonly attributed to Augustine of Hippo) says, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Mutual forbearance is the operating principle in matters of secondary importance. There is something in all of us that wants to change the other person. We prefer people to operate on our personal standards.
Mature Christians are to avoid a critical attitude toward weak believers. If we ridicule them, then we will wound their momentum toward maturity. Weak Christians are to avoid a judgmental attitude toward the mature.