God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1 - 1 Corinthians 9-11: Paul on Paying Workers, Holiness, Authority in Marriage, and the Lord's Supper

Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 9-11

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have made it 11 months through the Bible in a year (or two months through the New Testament)! Only one month to go! You can do it!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Corinthian church had more issues than Time magazine.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God's Workers should be supported. Barnabas and I gave up our rights but that does not mean others should, too.
I meet people in their lifestyles so I might help them set things right.
Run as to win the spiritual race. God will help through any temptation and does not put up with cheating partners, like our ancestors.
Don't let freedom lead you to lethargy. Do everything to God's Glory and be considerate.
In marriages, each must respect authority—both males and females came from each other.
The Lord's Supper is meant to unify. Wait for each other before eating.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

A person is worthy of support when they work for God.

Paul wants the Corinthians to realize that they have an obligation to help people dedicating their lives to setting things right in God's Name. God does not want slaves who never benefit from their work. To an extent, this is a major reason communism failed or is failing. Farmers will not stand to let their family starve while others benefit from their work. They either sell their produce on the black market or rebel. A person who does not financially benefit from teaching God's Message will not stand to have their family starve while others benefit from their work. They will either go to a different type of work or rebel. Pay those who dedicate their lives to setting things right in God's Name. Paul's reason for going on his own was to make sure they did not take possession of his message or use his authority to cause divisions. Not everyone needs to take that precaution.

God helps people through all temptations if we allow Him to help.

This verse is very difficult to swallow. In the midst of temptation it seems we have no other course than to sin. God wants us to remember that He provides an escape, though that escape may not be painless. God will not tolerate double-minded people—see the many examples during the time of the Israelites. We must rely on God to get us through temptations because He wants us to be wholly for Him. We are unified in Him and He is patiently waiting for us to live His Way.

Our freedom in Christ is not meant to make us lethargic to setting things right.

Paul doesn't want the Corinthians walking through life scared they are going to do something wrong or trying to find problems with everyone else's actions. As long as a person can't question your loyalty to God through your intentional actions, all things are permissible. Again, this is not about theoretical worship of idols, it's about known worship of idols. You might say that God is willing to meet us halfway—few things will break our relationship, but we must make sure we stay away from them.
Paul set aside his freedom to help Jews set their relationship with God right. He became subject to the Law of Moses so that they would not find fault with his teaching. It makes him a greater role model for us.

Husbands have authority, not priority.

Of all things Paul writes on, his discussion of women and men in marriage clashes with American culture the most. Americans want radical equality in everything. Although it may sound good, everyone knows there is no such thing as complete equality. Politicians have authority over citizens. Company presidents and boards of directors have authority over workers. Neither have complete power because citizens can vote politicians out (at least, in theory) and workers can go on strike and force changes. Homes and churches, therefore, are never a fully-flat authority setting. Paul will have more to say about this in future readings, but in this one he wants to make sure wives honor their husbands. Women should honor men because Eve was created from Adam. Men should not lord over women because women give birth to men. All of the bad examples of men lording over women in our past do not negate Paul's suggestions. In the end we all submit to God, yes, but women should still submit to men.
Does that mean women have no voice? I believe that is a misconception that both sides get wrong. To say men have authority does not negate a woman's voice. Women should have a voice—even in Corinth they were praying and prophesying in public—but that does not mean they should have equal authority to men. Politicians and company presidents can listen and let citizens and workers make decisions, but the decision comes through the leader. Men should—I would even say must—listen to women and allow them to have input on decisions. But if we would not want husbands to consider themselves equal to Jesus, wives should not consider themselves equal to their husbands.
What does that look like? I believe every community should make that decision. There is no hard-and-fast rule to go by. Even Paul's suggestion of head coverings was not meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. If we remember the above discussion, all things are allowed but not everything is helpful.

The Lord's Supper is meant to unify the congregation to God and each other.

Paul has harsh things to say about their observance of the Lord's Supper. The problem is simple—they don't wait for each other. Some get there early, eat all the food, and leave nothing to share. That does not build the unity that God meant when He gave us the loaf. They need to wait until everyone is there because then they will be unified. Those who can't wait should go home, have a snack, and return. Don't eat God's Meal without everyone present because it is meant to unify us to God and each other.
How does this challenge us today? Use the Lord's Supper to unify the members of a congregation, not separate them. I am amazed at this passage being interpreted that we need to sit quietly by ourselves and think hard on our lives. How does that unify? Our quick, silent ceremony should be just the opposite—a long conversation over a meal where we examine ourselves through intimate discussion with a small group. Then it can call us to unify with God and those around us.

Are you ready to call me a heretic yet?

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