LCN Article
Attack of the Unleavened Tacos

March / April 2024

Wallace G. Smith

Every year, God commands us to remove leaven from our homes in preparation for the Days of Unleavened Bread—activity that pictures how we should be seeking to remove sin from our lives. The act of going through the house and the cars, cleaning and dusting, generally provides many moments every year to reflect on the process we are symbolically picturing. But we must remember that we’re not just avoiding the leavening of sin, but also daily taking in unleavened bread: Jesus Christ, the bread of life. And sometimes, the practical aspects of these observances can lead us to lessons that we may not commonly associate with the Spring Holy Days—but that are important to our growth nonetheless! 

One such lesson was brought home to me many years ago. I had a trip out of town on ministerial business that saw me leaving rather hastily and not taking anything to eat with me, though the trip would end up keeping me out until far past dinner time. Because I didn’t want to lose any time on the road, I eventually visited the “drive thru” of a popular fast-food joint to grab some unleavened, corn flour, “hard shell” tacos

Well, it wasn’t long before I realized that eating “hard shell” tacos and driving my van didn’t mix well at all, no matter how unleavened they were. How I managed to eat them and drive at the same time, without making a total mess or colliding with any of my fellow highway travelers, is beyond me. (Yes, I have repented!) Those crunchy tacos may have provided a quick meal and may have been completely “legal” during the Days of Unleavened Bread, but it was readily apparent that they had been a bad idea.

At that moment of realization, a scripture leapt to mind: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).

Now, some fall into the error 2 Peter 3:15–17 describes concerning these verses, acting as if Paul truly thought that the law was abolished and nothing is unlawful anymore. That’s just plain hogwash. The context of 1 Corinthians itself makes clear that Paul knew there are unlawful things—case in point, his disfellowshipping in 1 Corinthians 5 of the fellow whose relationship was condemned in Leviticus 20:11. Paul was addressing the licentious attitude of the Corinthians and their abuse of proper Christian freedom. For example, while the Corinthians were certainly not to stone the fellow discussed in 1 Corinthians 5, they were expected to “put away from yourselves the evil person,” as Paul says at the end of that chapter, which is what the law describes in numerous places as the ultimate result of stoning (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:6–7).

That said, let’s not allow those who abuse these scriptures to distract us from what Paul is saying: There are times when the fact that something might be lawful does not change the fact that it is not helpful—it does not edify, or it represents a danger of bringing us under the power of another, as opposed to our being slaves of Christ alone. As I experienced eating perfectly “legal” crunchy tacos while trying to stay in my lane on the highway, keep my eyes on the road, and not coat my pants or the upholstery of my van in taco meat, some things that are technically lawful are definitely not helpful!

Beyond What Is Lawful

When we focus too much on simply what we are allowed or not allowed to do, we can often miss the mark on a whole host of very important issues, such as whether we should or should not do something. Paul understood this—and, what’s more, he lived it. Again, speaking to the Corinthians, he reminded them of the time he had spent with them while completely supporting himself financially, even though he could have received their tithes and offerings, to which he had a lawful right (1 Corinthians 9:6–11).

Why did he not exercise this right? “Nevertheless,” he writes, “we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). Winning and strengthening the Christians in Corinth was too important for Paul to risk putting a stumbling block in their way. There were “bigger fish to fry,” so to speak. As these confused people were groping for God, Paul saw the opportunity to help them, and he viewed that opportunity as more valuable than exercising his lawful right to collect their tithes and offerings in support of his work. While he saw that it was lawful for him to receive their financial support, he also saw that it would not be helpful.

So, while I don’t plan to repeat it, I am thankful for my crunchy-taco highway adventure. As we keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and as we take their lessons with us on our journey to grow in grace and knowledge, may we all strive to make lawful and helpful choices.