Sunday, January 29, 2017
Why We Should Abandon Pride and Selfishness
1 Corinthians 1:27-28, 31 (NRSV): Humble Redirection
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are . . . . 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Throughout the Old and New Testament, a common theme permeates God’s message to his people: The arrogant who boast of their own works, power, and riches fall victim to pride and lose their way to God. The humble and meek, however, look toward God as their strength and power and proudly “boast in the Lord” (31).
Paul reiterates this theme in his first letter to the Corinthians. As a group, the people of first-century Corinth are self-centered intelligentsia who pride themselves on their culture of philosophy, education, and autonomy. Athens, the epicenter of intellectual Greece, is only 65 miles away from the port city of Corinth. Paul reminds them, moreover, of the power the cross, a power that is antithetical to their worldview and even scandalous to their way of living.
As the Incarnation of God, Jesus humbly took on the weak nature of humanity to redeem a sinful world that through millennia proved it could never redeem itself. The “foolish,” “weak,” “low and despised,” and “things that are not” culmiate in the humility of Jesus Christ, a humility that we, too, are called to imitate. And through this imitation, we jettison our selfishness and pride only to be filled with the love, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ.
As we go out to serve others this week, let us keep Paul’s message in mind, especially his focus on humility. For Paul echoes Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew chapter 5: It is the meek, the merciful, the poor, the peacemakers, and the persecuted who, in Christ, are truly happy. When we model simple lives of self-giving to others, we change the world.
May the Scottish theologian William Barclay’s prayer bring us peace and hope:
O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice,
Accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.
This we ask [in the name of Jesus Christ]. Amen.