Daily Readings: Numbers 27-28, Proverbs 8, 1 Corinthians 4
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
1 Corinthians 4:8-14
There are some letters from Paul back to churches that he planted where you need to look a tad deeper to discern exactly what was happening in that particular church at that particular time. The Book of 1 Corinthians is not one of those books! It is clear throughout Paul’s first letter back to the church at Corinth that a large number of church leaders have become quite pleased with themselves and the successes they have been having and that this arrogance is beginning to cause divisions within the church.
I have heard it said that you judge a person less by how they handle failure and more by how they handle success. I have seen this to be true over and over again.
This is such a critical thing to remember as marketplace missionaries. It is easy, during periods of abundance, to feel like God is smiling down on us and that our walk being in line with his will in our lives is the source of all of these blessings. That is close enough to accurate to feel biblically sound, but far enough away to be extremely dangerous.
It is true that all of our blessings come from God. This is undeniable and a fundamental truth that is so important to remember as a Christian. Anything that we have here on earth is a blessing that we should show constant thanks for.
However, when we begin to say, “Look at how closely I am walking with Jesus! No wonder things are going well! God is blessing me because of what a faithful follower I have been!” pride can very quickly set in. We begin to feel like these blessings are something that we have earned and are entitled to “because of our amazing faith”.
It is pretty easy to see this happening in the church Paul planted in Corinth.
Paul has some pretty sharp words for them and challenges them to think twice before embracing this logic.
I have many friends and family members that are working diligently as overseas missionaries in incredibly difficult locations to minister to. They have far fewer luxuries, face constant threat, and from the outside looking in it would appear that they have far fewer worldly blessings than we have. In some of these regions of the world it takes years to break through to even a handful of people. If, in the meantime, things are going relatively well over here on our side of the Atlantic in terms of income and we have also seen numerous people coming to Christ, does that mean we must be walking more closely with Jesus and that is the source of our blessing? Does that mean that we are doing a better job and preaching a truer version of the gospel message that is breaking through in a more powerful way?
Arrogance is a dangerous poison to allow into the lifeblood of a church. Once we begin to view a specific pastor, church leader, author, speaker, etc. as the key to why the church is thriving, we take the focus off of Christ. We take the focus off of the gospel.
The best leaders within the Christian community operate with humility. They understand that they are simply vessels for God to utilize and not the authors of the message itself. A key distinction.
Many sin issues we struggle with, as Christians, are far easier to diagnose than pride. It is much easier to know if you are struggling with jealousy, lust, anger, etc. Pride is sneaky. Pride disguises itself well. Pride is one of the most useful weapons the enemy has to take well meaning, actively engaged Christians off course.
Paul offers us the same warning that he offered to the church at Corinth.
As marketplace missionaries, especially when things appear to be going well, it is a warning worth listening to!
Thought to ponder
When have I recently fallen into an attitude that might have resembled the attitude of self-righteousness seen in the Corinthians? When this occurs, how can I refocus on Christ and giving him the glory?