Ask RC: Do Christians have a moral obligation to boycott companies that support unbiblical causes?
No. Christians, of course disagree on this. And when we disagree we can usually expect someone to trot out the whole “meat offered to idols” and weaker brother texts discussion in I Corinthians and Romans respectively. Neither of these texts, however, were given to us to squelch discussion nor to leave us blind to moral absolutes. There are things that the Bible forbids. There are things the Bible doesn’t forbid. And there are things that fall into neither category. The key is wisdom to discern what goes in which category. If you say, “Adultery is a sin” and I say, “Whoa there. I think in certain circumstances adultery can actually be a good thing” I cannot accuse you of being a legalist. Neither can we agree to disagree by considering adultery a meat offered to idols issue, wrong for you, but fine for me. In like manner, if I say, “It’s a sin to read any Bible translation other than the King James version” and you say, “There are other acceptable translations” I cannot accuse you of being an antinomian. Neither can we agree to disagree by considering the ESV to be meat offered to idols. What the Bible calls sin is sin, whatever others might say. What it allows it allows, whatever others might say.
So where do boycotts fit in? Rightly they belong right in the middle of the meat offered to idol category. There are two objections that might come up for eating meat offered to idols. The first is that it might be bad for you, spiritually speaking. It might have demon cooties, so to speak. Paul rejects this out of hand. The mature, he argues, know that “an idol is nothing in the world” (I Corinthians 8:4). Meat is meat and foolish incantations spoken over it won’t change that.
The second objection might be this- am I not supporting the work of idolaters by buying meat from them? And here is where we get to the issue of boycotts. Paul, however, still has no objection to buying the meat offered for sale by idolaters. Why? Because we are buying meat, not idolatry. We are not guilty for what they do with the money we give them. When we trade our money for meat, the meat is ours and the money is not. In like manner, if the Home Store supports gay causes, or Red Crawfish restaurant supports Planned Parenthood, I am not guilty of supporting either if I buy some plywood, or a steamed lobster. I am buying wood and seafood.
May you boycott such companies? Of course you may. Feel free. The trouble is, however, that boycotts are most effective when they are widely practiced. Which will likely give you the temptation to move from “may” to “must.” You will be tempted to accuse your brother of sin for not joining you in your boycott, which is just like accusing your brother of sin if he buys meat that had been offered to idols, which Paul says you must not do. Buy from whomever you please. Sell to whomever you please. Or boycott whomever you please. But always remember- “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” Romans 14:4.