God’s ways are the opposite of the world’s. So Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians that they shouldn’t try to discern God’s working by looking at the usual people and places that the world says produce great outcomes. As the ultimate object lesson, Paul instructs the Corinthians to take a good look at themselves to better understand how God works in the world. Most of the Corinthian Christians are average, ordinary citizens. Theirs isn’t a congregation of wealthy businessmen, socialites, celebrated academics, or politicians. Yet God is present among them and uses them to spread the gospel and bear witness to a life lived by God’s standards. Paul wants believers to understand that God initiates our work because God defines the boundaries of our relationship with God and the terms by which we dwell and abide in God and God’s ways. This reminder contains a lesson in recognizing our inherent value and worth in God despite what the world says makes someone valuable and useful and worthy.
We so often gauge our usefulness by the world’s standards. Are we making enough money to be worthy? Are we saying the right things to be considered intelligent? Are we doing enough to be seen as useful and valuable? Are we attractive enough to be noticed and lauded and wanted? But for God, none of these attributes is required for us to be called and used to change the world.
We might be rich and intelligent. We might have jobs with plenty of responsibility. We might be physically beautiful. God can use us with all of that. But, according to scripture, God can also use people who don’t seem to have anything extraordinary to offer by the world’s standards. God’s work in and through us is not about our own abilities. The power always comes from God. We just have to be willing and obedient.
Lord, thank you for calling and equipping me. Help me believe that I am capable of being who you are forming me to be. Amen.
We must beware counterfeit gospels. According to one current counterfeit gospel, we deserve God’s favor based on our deeds or intellect or status. The readings for this week remind us that this is false. Yes, the Israelites offer sacrifices, but they are first and foremost called to show mercy because they have received divine mercy. The psalmist asks who can stand in God’s holy dwelling and so provides a list of ways to live morally. Ultimately no one can stand before God on merit alone. Paul reminds the Corinthians that human wisdom is foolishness compared to the wisdom of God, and thus we should not puff ourselves up based on our intellect. Jesus teaches that those who may seem insignificant in the eyes of the world are great in the kingdom of heaven.
Read Micah 6:1-8. How have you let down God? What changes can you make to recommit to your relationship with God?
Read Psalm 15. Consider the notion that the requirements for dwelling with God are in how we treat our friends and neighbors. How does this change the ways you seek God?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. When have you seen God’s work in the world in a way that is antithetical to human standards?
Read Matthew 5:1-12. How do you maintain a poverty of spirit in your relationship with God? How does this help you to serve God and others?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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