Implications of I Corinthians 13, Part 3

Part 3, the hardest for me to swallow) our own gifts (however dubious the equivalence between our supposed list of gifts and Paul’s) leave us empty and barren if they are not for the benefit of the church.

3) In combination with the many other places in this letter alone where Paul speaks of the way he conducts his ministry, this text serves as an indictment of our ambition and career-driven approach to ministry. There is no reason to doubt the motives of most in ministry, or begin searching for profiteers under every leaf. In fact, all humanity is driven toward this sort of ‘zeal’ for our own fame, this ‘self-seeking’. We don’t have to look further than our own lips and thoughts to see the shallow and harsh ambition that pushes us to cheapen fellowship with the body of Christ for our own ends, for "τα ἑαυτῆς". Sadly the Corinthians own ambition was not checked by, but was blinded to the gross sins that filled the body. Our ambition has such a powerful effect on our imaginations that we are easily blinded to our own heinous sins.
Rather than our gifts securing our position as deserving, or superior (as many in Corinth did cf. chapter 8), we ought to seek the good of our neighbor (10:24). We ought to imitate Paul, in "not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved" (10:33). Indeed the "more excellent" (12:31) way to use our gifts and roles in the church is to "seek to abound for the edification of the church" (14:12). To use our gifts to our own ends and for our own glory is to totally pervert the Lord’s intention in giving them to us. This tendency is the same that was present in Adam and Eve. We ought to be careful then to meditate on the love God has shown in Christ who showed us patience and kindness, did not envy the glory of earthly kings or of Satan, did not brag, did not puff himself up, was not rude to the rude disciples and followers and Jews, did not seek his own but that of his Father, and did not hold against them humanities rejection and crucifixion of him, but prayed that they might be forgiven. Paul’s own summary of his relationship to all of this is helpful to remember, "Yet for this reason I found mercy so that in me as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life." (I Tim 1:16)


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