Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Matthew 28:1-10; 1 Corinthians 4:1-13; Psalm 78:54-64; Joshua 7-8
Underlying 1 Corinthians is strife and disunity resulting from disputes within the church. In chapter 4, Paul addresses the arrogance that sometimes surfaces in the midst of such disputes – or that can be the source of the disagreement. Paul does not respond to the accusations against him by arguing about the details. He says that he does not care if he is judged by humans. This is not an arrogant dismissal of anyone raising issues in his life. He is not saying that he is right just because he really believes he’s right. “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.” It is God’s judgment of the situation that matters. God is the one who knows the motives of his heart, and those will be revealed in due time. We should not judge people based on our alleged insight into their motivations and intentions.
Neither should we base our judgments on external circumstances. We may be tempted to look at our lives and think that if everything is going well, we must be on the right path. We may seem to have everything we want, to have everything under control, to be highly regarded (vv. 8-10). We may start to think that the powerless, those who don’t have enough to eat, the rejected, must be in the wrong. Paul exposes the irony of this situation: the apostles were regarded as the rejected scum of the earth.
Thinking that success indicates God’s blessing easily leads to arrogance. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” You might be wealthy because you have a great job because you worked hard in earlier jobs or in college. But where did you get the brain that allowed you to study? Where did you get the desire or ability to work hard? Where did you get the health that allows you to do things? Why were you born into a situation where you survived those first years of complete dependence on others, while others have not been so fortunate? Much of what we have can be traced back to circumstances beyond our control and to others who helped us get started.
Arrogance easily leads us to despise those who haven’t attained ‘our standard.’ We can look down on others who are not as successful as us. Or we constantly clamour after more so that we continue to look good to others. In contrast, remembering how others helped us succeed should bring gratitude and humility. Focusing on how much we have received, we become grateful for what we have and those who helped us. We remember that we are no different to those who have less than us. That should lead us to become more willing to share what we have and help others succeed.