During Lent, our culture often announces with great enthusiasm and pride our sacrifices and the ever important first-world things we give up for the “glory of God”. But Paul’s letter to the Corinthians warns them (and us) against the unintentional arrogance that permeates this holy season. The culture that we strive to be in but not a part of impacts us more often then we realize.Today the American church is heavy with the same attitude of the Corinthian Christians. They struggled with worldly success and power. They wanted popularity and admiration, and wanted to be known for their spiritual wisdom. They struggled in judgment and condescension toward the apostles who were poor in materials things, arrested, and imprisoned – the very apostles who walked with Jesus and shared the good news of his resurrection with them! From the outside, it is cringeworthy. But are we that different? We confuse building a good reputation for ourselves and having pride in our church or ministry with the anointing of God. In reading 1 Cor 4:8-20, Paul tells us we couldn’t be more wrong.
In these verses, Paul rebukes the pride of the Corinthians and asks and answers the following*:
- Who is the one who makes you different from one another? If there is a difference between you and someone else, it is because God has deemed it so!
- What do you currently have, that you did not receive? Everything we have comes from God!
- Why do you seek a sense of accomplishment from these things? You have received them as gifts from God!
What we see in the Apostles’ letters and in the people we know who truly love Jesus isn’t pride, but a spirit of humble gratitude. These verses in Corinthians warn us during this Lenten season to cultivate that same humble gratitude in ourselves. The things we have, all of them, we have received from God. We must shift our focus to what we can give back to Him, not what we think we have earned. We must fall on our knees with a burden for those in need, those who don’t have salvation, and those who need love.
Lent isn’t just a time for giving up our soy latte or favorite reality TV show. It’s a time for deep, soul-searching awareness of the incredible love and self-sacrifice that grants each of us hope, faith, and eternal life. It’s a time to reevaluate our gifts and know that there is nothing that we can properly call our own. It is a time to remember that we are called to humility and that our purpose is to form a real and authentic dependence on God. Lent is a time for humble gratitude.
*Questions summarized and taken from commentary by David Guzik