In today’s New Testament lesson, the Apostle Paul opens his first letter to the church at Corinth; and in his greeting, he finds much about their life in Christ to celebrate:
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)
Now, I have little doubt that Paul was sincere when he expressed his gratitude for these qualities. And yet, as scholars who far more insightful than I am have pointed out, these blessings for which Paul gives thanks are also the source of problems, which he’s forced to address in this letter. The Corinthians “have been enriched in every way — with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge”; but unfortunately, the blessings of ecstatic speech and prophetic insight have become a source of pride and division. They “do not lack any spiritual gift”; but rather than using these blessings for the common good, they’re acting as though their gifts can be used to establish some sort of “spiritual hierarchy.” (For a little perspective, check out 1 Corinthians 12).
I think that most of us would acknowledge that we are richly blessed. But how often do we, too, need to be reminded that our blessings can get in our way? They can focus our attention on the “gift” — rather than the “Giver.” They can fool us into thinking that they’re a reward for good behavior — rather than an expression of God’s grace. They can incline us to “hoard” God’s goodness to ourselves — rather than remembering that we’re blessed to be a blessing.
I thank God for all the grace-gifts that I trust He will give to my friends today; and I pray that these blessings will be a source of true joy. But I pray, too, that they will move us toward gratitude and humility and service to others so that we will prove to be good stewards of everything that He entrusts to us.