Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 16:1-21, Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 31:6-8
Almost everybody works in some way. Whether we’re raising kids, conducting high-powered business meetings, teaching in a classroom, or polishing nails at the local salon, most folks know what it’s like to have a job. You know what’s frustrating, though? Doing a ton of work, but having no idea what’s expected of you. This is what the apostle Paul is trying to avoid in his letters to the Corinthian church.
The Corinthian church was multicultural, multiethnic, and socioeconomically diverse. It seems the only thing everyone in this group of folks had in common was their decision to follow Jesus. I’m guessing the members of this community had their work cut out for them! Not only were they charged with the tasks of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but they also had to figure out how to live and work together in order to present themselves to Christ and to the world as a unified body—not an easy undertaking.
Paul is aware of this, and so, in a way, the book of 1 Corinthians serves as a job description for the early Church. The apostle makes clear what is expected of the community of believers who bear the name of Jesus Christ, and in the very last chapter, he closes with highlighting three growth areas for the Corinthian church.
Generosity. Paul is encouraging this church to share liberally from their financial resources to support the church in Jerusalem, which was experiencing difficult times. Note this: he didn’t ask the Corinthian church as an institution to support the Jerusalem church, but instead asked each person to set aside a portion of their income for the cause, every week. And if you earned a higher income, you were expected to give more.
Humility. Paul acknowledges four leaders who should be honored because of their work in the Lord. For Paul, honor and submission go hand in hand; you honor others by submitting your will to theirs.
Love. Paul commands, “Do everything in love” (v. 14). The motive for every word and every action should be love. It’s love that compels Paul to labor for the sake of the gospel, and it’s love that prompted him to write this letter to the Corinthian church in the first place.
Generosity, humility, and love. What do these three have in common? They are major attributes of Jesus Christ, the common denominator in the Church. Jesus was generous to humankind, becoming poor so that we could become rich. He humbled Himself by obeying the Father, even to the point of death. Jesus’ love was so great that He laid down His life for those who were His enemies.
This is good news for us! Just like the Corinthians, working as a unified Church is tough. But thanks be to God that we’ve got clear expectations lined out for us in God’s Word. And not only that—we have a perfect example in Jesus Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to be the people God has called us to be.
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.