1 Corinthians 3:3-4, 6-7, 16-17, 21-23 You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other…Aren’t you acting just like people of the world? … I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. … So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
My sister Linda has an interesting perspective of the various expressions of the Christian church. Having experienced a variety of them firsthand, she notes that each one seems to have a specific gift to offer the whole Body of Christ—like the gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, but at a denominational level instead of individual.
I love that perspective. It fits well with this third chapter of 1 Corinthians. All the fulness of the Holy Spirit was in Jesus, and when he ascended to Heaven and then sent the Spirit to the church on Pentecost, he distributed spiritual gifts—like light shining through a prism, diffracting and making visible all its beautiful colors. We need each other, because no single person, church, or denomination contains all the gifting of the Spirit. God fully lives in all of us together.
And here’s the truly wonderful thing: What God gives to you, he gives to me, too. What he gives to me is meant to bless you. “Everything belongs to you,” Paul told the Corinthians, and that “you” is plural. If we are jealous, critical, or rejecting of other parts of the Body of Christ, we lose a part of what God wants to give us. And when we think we are the ones who have it all, we lose too through not sharing.
I’m reminded again of the story I told in the last post. Eight children, eight fun gifts for Christmas. But many of those gifts weren’t fun to play with alone. Games and toys and puzzles are designed to be shared. And if just one or two of my sisters and I tried to play Monopoly by ourselves, we missed out on our brother Steve’s ingenuity. He always managed to make play time more fun by creating new rules and strategies. (He even got us girls to wash dishes when it was his turn, by reading Jeeves to us while we worked. Humdrum tasks filled with laughter when Steve was part of them.)
All was not joy and laughter in our home, though. We’ve all struggled with “zero-sum” thinking: there’s not enough to go around, so if I gain, you lose; if you gain, I lose. That’s a big topic for another time. But listen to what Paul says: Everything belongs to you! To all of you! All of us collectively as well as individually. There’s no need for envy or fighting or squashing you so I can get ahead or stay in power. God’s upside-down Kingdom is marked by the magic of abundance, generosity, and service, not stinginess or hoarding or manipulation. In Christ small becomes big, enough for everyone. A boy’s lunch, a widow’s penny, a flask of perfume, a man’s donkey, a mustard seed of faith, a rich man’s tomb . . . Because when given back to God, he makes our small offerings grow into something much greater than what they would be if kept to ourselves.
P.S. I wrote other thoughts about 1 Cor 3:6 on August 2, 2018. Check it out: Karis and a life-giving story from “Aunt” Claudia!