Day 1: 1 Cor. 9:1 - 12
Day 2: 1 Cor. 9: 13 -23
Day 3: 1 Cor. 9:24 - 10:10
Day 4: 1 Cor. 10:11 -22
Day 5: 1 Cor. 10:23 - 33
Confession: I should’ve looked at which passages I had to write about before signing up to blog this week. Why you ask?
Because, my friends, chapters 9 and 10 have hard words for us to hear.
At least they are for me.
But maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe I’m the only one that struggles with authority. And submission.
Maybe you don’t have a hard time with discipline and focus like I do.
But just in case you’re at all like me – fair warning – be prepared for a not-so-gentle kick in the pants from our beloved brother-in Christ, the apostle Paul.
I’m imagining what it would’ve been like for the person having to read this letter to the Corinthian church. Pastor Vijay reminded us in last week’s blog that we need to keep in mind this is, in fact, a letter. To people. People Paul knows. And as such whatever he is writing about is at least partly in response to things he’s been asked, or has heard about, or has observed in the Christians in Corinth.
And this seems to be the part of the letter where the niceties are over, and he’s getting down to business.
But don’t just skim the surface of these chapters and walk away confused and disillusioned (like I was tempted to). Because while it’s true that Paul is talking about submission, and authority, and discipline and focus – the heart of his concern is actually much deeper than that.
He’s talking about generosity.
Generosity with finances, maybe…but that would oversimplify his concern.
He’s actually challenging us all about having a posture of generosity with much harder things –
our time, our opinions, our judgments.
Generosity with the freedom we’ve found in Christ.
This mini-rant that Paul seems to be having is about living in a community marked with a generosity of spirit, focusing on each other’s well being, each other’s journey and…get ready for it…edification.
Take most of chapter 9. Paul seems to be defensive, even a little sarcastic. He seems to be making a case for how apostles and those who preach the gospel should be allowed to live. He contrasts how he is compensated with other professions – soldiers and farmers specifically. Take verse 11: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” Ouch.
So are the Corinthians being stingy with Paul? Not in the way you might think.
Paul doesn’t want money or accolades or a wife (I mean, maybe he does…but if you remember chapter 7 I don’t think he’s that concerned about his relationship status).
What he wants is for us to take note of how he is living - living in the way of Jesus - and apply it in our lives, in our context. In our community. What does he want us to see specifically?
A willingness to put aside his rights, to pursue the freedom we have in Christ while being careful not to cause anyone else to stumble. A willingness to be in relationship with people different from him. To live in service of one another. To believe the best of others.
That kind of generosity is much harder than just giving some money away, isn’t it?
That kind of generosity costs much more.
Like Paul, it will cost us our rights, our comfort, our status.
Its messy. And complicated. And often frustrating and difficult.
But it is the way of Jesus.
This way of living won’t happen by accident.
Paul reminds us we have to work for this kind of generosity –
even go into training, like an athlete does. (c.9 v.24-27)
We have to be willing to learn from our past, be honest about our struggles and shortcomings and recognize that how we live affects our entire community – not to mention our witness to those who aren’t following Jesus yet.
We have to be generous about the freedom we have and see that while we are free in Christ, we are accountable to one another. And recognize that sometimes being free to do something also means being free not to. (c. 10v.23-33)
See? This is hard stuff.
Hard because it reveals my tendency to hold on to what I think I deserve – to guard my time, my resources, my pride - with a scarcity mentality instead of one of abundance.
It reminds me that I can be really stingy with my approval, grace, love even, especially within the community God has placed me.
Chapters 9 and 10 may be a tough read, they may be hard words…but oh, do I need them.
Because more than anything, I want to be like Jesus.
I want the people I meet, the brothers and sisters in my faith community, the family God has given me to experience the love of Jesus through me.
I want them to experience the generosity I have been lavished with, the grace I’ve been afforded.
But I’ve gotta work for this. I have to be intentionally pursuing generosity the same way I pursue my work, my diet, my fitness, my relationships.
I’ve got to enter into the mess…have the hard conversations, be in the awkward situations, purposefully release the things I think I deserve.
What about you?
As you read through 1 Corinthians chapters 9 & 10 this week:
1. Begin with 2 minutes of silence. (Warning: this is harder for some than others). Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the passage in new ways and point out what you need to hear.
2. Which rights are you fighting for? What areas of your life do you find the hardest to be generous with? Your time? Your finances? Your judgements? Your talents? Be honest! Talk to God about this. Confess your reluctance to live generously – be specific! And ask for Him to change your heart – and for the opportunity to trust and rely on Him.
3. Are you in training? How are you pursuing this new posture of generosity in your life? Do you have a training partner?
Make a point of connecting with someone (your home group, your spouse, your bff) that you could go into training with! Start by committing to following this Community Bible Reading and then chat about what you've learned!