As we open to 1 Corinthians 4, I want to start with a big thank you to all those who sacrificially lead believers to more Christ-like lives! What Paul unwraps in this passage shows how powerful a personal example is for the church.
Paul calls himself and other leaders “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Servants often referred to a slave-like position of complete servitude. And yet a steward is someone in charge of a business or a bank: controlling the input and outflow of a product. And if the product is God’s mysteries, the trust He gives us is amazing!
That leads to a life evaluation. If you think you’re doing great, and everyone else says you’re doing great, take two steps back and remember who the real Judge is: King Jesus! Don’t count your golden deeds before they are proven, and let your kudos come from God. It is very easy for me to begin a good habit, become satisfied, and not even notice if it slips away. It’s amazing how true it is that “pride comes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). I guess it is a blessing when I can see the immediate pattern. I wonder how often I don’t even notice I’ve fallen until I’m far down the road and suddenly realize that I am eye-level with where my feet used to walk.
Pride is so slippery…it leaves us with a huge blind spot. Sometimes it is individual and sometimes it is a group mentality. We forget that God is the One who created us, framed the situation, and deserves the glory. Paul presses his point home with some pointed sarcasm and rhetorical questions. And this is where he outlines the life of sacrificial leader: providing a contrast to the status quo.
The apostles lived like fools in the world’s eyes. Paul calls them spectacles to men and angels…that is a sobering reminder. I forget that there is another realm watching how we live. The apostles lived with none of the “rights” that we demand: food, clothes, a consistent shelter, respect in the community. And yet, “when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
This is the distinction between those who live their faith, and those who like the idea of faith. Paul lovingly appeals to the Corinthians to see that they have fallen and follow his example to a better place. He is jealous for them to live more fully and freely in Christ. This leader’s heart amazes me! He will get on their case to push them to change their act, but he does it out of love, not out of a power-struggle. Paul is not slapping people down, but pricking their bubble of pride, then offering a helping hand to choose a better way.
There are many people in my life who lead sacrificially, who are disciplined and not satisfied with where they are at, who pray for me, encourage me, and challenge me. I am so blessed, and I pray that I will take the lessons and run with them, so I can give a hand to help others up as well. Just one couch potato helping another learn how to run this marathon of life.
God, thank You for the leaders You have given through the centuries who do not let Your people get away with slippery sins, but call them out and help them up. Please bless the leaders around me, and help me to see where I need to climb and help others. Amen.