Ezra 7:27-8:20; 1 Corinthians 4:10-21; Psalms 31:1-2; Proverbs 11:14
NT: “We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Up to the present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; we labor, working with our own hands. When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage. I’m not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children. For you may have countless instructors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me… For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-16, 20 CSB)
Corinth was a wealthy city, and apparently the members of the Corinthian church had become arrogant in their “prosperity,” especially as they compared their lives to the challenging life of Paul. They thought themselves to be better than Paul and may have even belittled him in their speech. Beginning in verse seven of this chapter, Paul began challenging their arrogance with some intentional sarcasm. He wrote, “You are so full… you are so rich… you live like kings, and I wish that I could live like you, but God has called me to be on display before you and the world as a spectacle.” The Greek word translated as ‘spectacle’ is theatron – where we get the English word theater. Paul was referring to the Roman theater, where gladiators and slaves fought for their lives as the audience looked on. The English word ‘spectacle’ means: something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining; an object of curiosity or contempt.
The Corinthian church was viewing Paul’s struggles and humble way of life as contemptible, and had abandoned their father in the faith for leaders who were much more attractive and agreeable to their standards of living. We in America often fall into the same trap. We see trials and tribulations, modest living and hard labor as contemptible and arrogantly consider ourselves as better than those who struggle and suffer, because we, relatively speaking, are so much better off than the rest of the world. And we gravitate to leaders who preach prosperity instead of those who call us to sacrifice and humility.
It is not in our prosperity and strength that God is glorified. In fact, our strength and prosperity actually becomes our weakness and downfall, because they convince us we have no need of a savior. Instead, it is through our weaknesses, our trials, our challenges, and our perceived lack of resources that God is made strong. As His strength overcomes our weakness… as His abundance overwhelms our lack… as His grace sustains us through our trials and tribulations, God is glorified through us. When the world looks upon us and reviles us, persecutes us or slanders us; and we endure all of that with grace by grace from the Lord, we become a spectacle – not of contempt, but of curiosity – that demonstrates the power of the life of God in us.
Instead of forsaking the teachings of Paul for a more appealing “gospel,” the Corinthian church needed to remember that it was Paul that led them to faith and freedom in Christ in the first place. Instead of boasting about how good they had it, they needed to humble themselves and imitate Paul, as He imitated Christ. Instead of being all empty talk with no action, they needed to obey the teachings of Christ that Paul had taught them, and allow their lives to be filled with the dynamic power of God. The kingdom of God is not a matter of empty talk, but of demonstrated power as we humble ourselves and let God make a spectacle of our lives as He proves Himself strong through our weaknesses.
Psalms: “Lord, I seek refuge in you; let me never be disgraced. Save me by your righteousness. Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly. Be a rock of refuge for me, a mountain fortress to save me.” (Psalms 31:1-2 CSB)
As we humble ourselves, offer our lives to the Lord in faith, and allow our lives to become a spectacle before the world for God’s glory; Our Lord and savior will not allow us to be disgraced. He will defend us, avenge us, strengthen us, uphold us, and save us.
Prayer: Lord, it is Your desire to glorify Yourself through me… and that is my desire as well. Help me to not get so comfortable in the “American dream” that I am unwilling to allow my life to be used as a spectacle that demonstrates Your power through my weakness. I don’t want to be a believer that is all earthly talk, but has no heavenly power. So I humble myself before You and commit to obey the words of my Father and follow the example of Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.