Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Our Place Before God

What advantages have your received in life?

Popular Translation

26 Look at where you are in life, brothers and sisters. Most of you were not born into educated families, wealthy families, or families of powerful people. 27 Instead, God chose people the world thinks are foolish so he could put people who think they are wise to shame. He chose people who have no power to shame the powerful. 28 He even chose the hated and truly unimportant people, those who have no standing in society, so he could destroy all social standing. 29 This way nobody can brag about themselves to God! 31 Instead God put you with Christ Jesus, who is our wisdom from God. Jesus shows us the right way to God. He makes us holy. And he saved us when he died on the cross. Jesus did this to show the Bible saying is true: “If someone should brag, let that person brag about the Lord!”

Literal Translation

26 For, look to your calling (in life), brothers, that many (of you were) not wise according to the flesh, nor (were) many in power, nor (were) many well-born. 27 But, God chose the foolish of the world, so that he might shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world, so that he might shame the strong, 28 and God chose the (ones) of no (important) family and the (ones) having been despised, the (ones) without (social) standing, so that he might abolish (such) standing, 29 so that all flesh might not brag before God. 30 But from him, you are in CHRIST JESUS who became our wisdom from God, righteousness, holiness, and redemption, so that, just as it has been written, “The bragging (one), let him brag in the LORD.”

1:26 “that many (of you were) not wise according to the flesh, nor (were) many in power, nor (were) many well-born” Paul simply pointed out the station most of the believers in Corinth were born to. “...according to the flesh” meant “by birth.” So the phrase could be translated: “many of you were born either into educated families, nor families of power, not families of wealth.”

1:28 “ the (ones) of no (important) family” is literally “the unborn.” In this case, Paul was not speaking of those still in the womb, but those without a family pedigree. Even the poor bragged about their family linage. Those without such a family tree were considered to be without identity.

“the (ones) without (social) standing” is literally “the (ones) without being.” Paul spoke as a social critic in this context.

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you belong to the privileged of the world. You are literate and you have access to a computer hooked up to the Internet. Statistically, you, like me, are educated, well-off, and have some measure of power (compared to the rest of the world). Yet, what does this education, wealth, and power ultimately give us? Bragging rights?

From one of more self-evident passages in Scripture, Paul reminded his audience (and us) that social place in the world was meaningless compared to standing before God. The community in Corinth had divided itself into cliques, based upon “doctrine” and presumed “wisdom.” These cliques filled themselves with self-importance. But, where did these groups stand in the eyes of God? Weren’t the rarefied opinions they held of themselves unimportant? Furthermore, don’t the weak and powerless, ignorant and the foolish show off the glory of God to a greater extent than the educated movers and shakers of the world?

If we have any advantage in this world, it is based on grace, not on self-improvement or inheritance. Grace gives us faith, hope, and love, not a street corner pulpit to promote our self-righteous self-importance. Grace gives us the virtue of awe, the sure knowledge of our place as creature before our God. Grace helps us see others as ourselves, saved sinners.

How have you used your advantages for the good of others? How has your service humbled you?