“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
We live in an age where we can hear opinions from more people than ever. With YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and more, we all could add to the relentless chatter of the internet if we so desire. We also know that the abundance of talk that can be found on social media platforms is not always helpful, especially when the subject matter is being discussed in a forum that has no power to do anything about it. People just start ranting and raving. We’ve all seen it.
I think Paul is getting at something like this in today’s reading. People in the congregation at Corinth had been wasting a lot of breath, scheming and huddling in little groups about how things should or could be done in the church. The problem is they had no actual power. So, what did they do? They got caught up in a relentless cycle of talk.
Meanwhile, Paul was in the mission field, so he let them know how he was going with building the kingdom of God. He told them that he had become like a man sentenced to death, labouring and working with his hands. As Paul wrote to them, he was hungry and thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted and homeless. He said it was like he had become the scum of the world! He castigated the Christians at Corinth for acting like kings while he suffered to show them their arrogant ingratitude towards God’s blessings — blessings that they had received from God through Paul himself. They could not see that they had been blessed to reach beyond their church and were called to support and continue the growth of the kingdom of heaven. Instead, they were like selfish little children protecting their treasure, boasting about their good fortune and forgetting those who suffered for them.
Out of fatherly concern for his children in the gospel, Paul did not rebuke them in order to embarrass them but urged them to return to their lessons in the way of Christ. He promised to send Timothy to help them, so they could return to Christ and his word, to discover and remember that all the power in the church comes from Christ and his word alone.
Lord, create in me a renewed spirit for listening and following Your Word. Let Your love and mercy fill me to overflowing, so that I can do nothing but reach out to others and share that goodness with them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.