1 CORINTHIANS 9: ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
Most people that I speak to, seem to have two problems when it comes to the Creator God and His People. First, they don’t understand why God allows bad things to happen, when He has all the power in the universe to stop it. And secondly, they don’t understand why, when they go to meet with Him (at a church meeting for example), they have to give money. These two things alone seem to keep them far from entertaining any ideas at all, that this God is worth following.
Today’s chapter, written by a 1st Century Jewish man named Paul, addresses the two topics: our natural resources and our divine source of alternative energy. This is no different to what we’re experiencing everywhere in the world. Today we rely on a combination of natural resources as well as alternative energy. So the first topic Paul discusses in this portion of his letter to those living in the Roman port city of Corinth, is the use and sharing of, natural resources. [v1-18]
Unlike his Jewish countrymen, at least half (if not more) of the new Believers in Corinth were non-Jewish. This meant that they didn’t have all the background information (of how things worked with the Creator God) and what seemed to come naturally to the Jew. So Paul had to take them back to how things worked at the original Tent of Meeting in Moses’ day, 1500+ years earlier.
First, everyone brought something to the Creator God, no matter how small.[a] In fact, no-one was to appear before Him empty-handed.[b] This is not a sign of a tyrannical god. It’s because the Creator first ensured that His Children would not remain empty-handed.[c] Quite the contrary, in the culture of God’s family, to send someone away empty-handed was seen as either the “cherry on the top” of appalling behaviour[d], or else a sign of judgement.[e] But there’s more…
From ancient times, no-one came into the presence of a king – especially when wanting his help – without bringing a gift. That’s how King Solomon of Israel became so wealthy. Everytime someone sort an audience with him, and to gain wisdom from him, they brought an offering. It was a cultural thing that was just normal behaviour right across the world.[f] No-one would think to show up empty-handed.
In this same way, we come to God often for help, for wisdom, for GRACE, and for forgiveness of our sins. When we come to the King of kings and Lord of lords, we don’t come empty-handed. But when they came to the Creator God, in ancient times, they brought animals, birds, grain, wine, flour and oil as offerings. This enabled those without money to enter into the Creator’s “covenant relationship” of blessings.[g] While it’s true that these were called “sacrifices”, it wasn’t the barbaric invocation of some sort of brutal spirit. It was a clever way of recycling the offerings, to ensure that the priesthood was sustained in their service. [v13]
Moving forward in time to something we’d know: if you were a land-owner in England in the 1700s and, wealthy enough to be responsible for a community of workers around your estate, you’re likely to have built a chapel and installed a Parson to serve the people. But you wouldn’t have made him sleep under a tree. You would have built a parsonage, and fed him from the estate’s resources. [v9-11] Any offerings collected are no different to the offerings collected at the Temple in Jerusalem – it goes towards the priests, the training centre/ministry, and the buildings.
So then, parting with one’s money today, is no different to going to the gym and wanting a personal trainer to help you with advice and one-on-one training. You would need to pay for their knowledge and help, so that you reach your final goal. Paul, in today’s chapter, is simply helping these new believers see that, by not coming empty-handed, they’re using their natural resources to ensure that Father God’s Kingdom continues to grow. [v14] They may not have the freedom, calling, or gifting, to walk about as Paul did, spreading the knowledge of the Creator God’s Global Masterplan to unreached people groups. But they can invest in their Maker’s Kingdom by giving to Paul.
At the same time, Paul didn’t abuse his liberty, by getting rich on God’s story. He was a self-employed tent maker and fell back on that when he was free enough. This was especially to avoid wrong accusations against him. [v18] The point that he’s making for us to understand today, is that united in Christ, we’re ONE. And, it’s a privilege for me to give to the God who first paid a heavy price for me, by investing into my Maker’s Kingdom. While I may feel inferior or rejected (as Paul appeared to be in today’s chapter), I should stand tall as he did, because we are all equally needed. [v16,17] Alternatively, I can’t sit alone saying that I don’t need others around me i.e. I can “do Faith” on my own and have no use or need for the group of other Believers. [v21-26]
The more we’re able to invest, through our time, talents, and treasurers, the more we’re storing up treasures in the Kingdom of our Father.[h] We’re in this project together. We’re one body with many parts and all working as we have the means of contributing. Using his freedom and free-choice, Paul decided to invest it all. He became a slave to humanity in order to help save some. [v19] He adjusted his life-style in many ways and in various circumstances, in order to reach out to anyone who’d listen [20-23], just as Jesus had done for us.[i]
Paul explained why he made these lifestyle changes by using the familiar example of the Olympic games. Located in south-central Greece, Corinth was a thriving port city in the Roman empire. They would have been well acquainted with athletes and the “perishable wreath” (the crown of leaves given to the victors) that Paul spoke about. [v25]
Many people can handle the nice stories about how Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and made the blind man see. But these can end up just being “fairy tales”, or nice children’s stories about something that happened in the distant past. But that’s not what the ancient writers predicted before Christ. What was predicted was a New Age of alternative energy given freely from the Creator God. Through the ancient prophets Isaiah (about 800BC), Ezekiel (about 600BC) and Joel (somewhere between 500-800BC), the Creator God predicted:
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” [Isaiah 44:3] “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on my people, declares the Sovereign Lord.” [Ezekiel 39:29] “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” [Joel 2:28-29]
And so, today’s Breadcrumb finishes with this thought: I can do things in my own waning strength and using my own limited resources. Or, I can hold my resources lightly in my hands, and draw instead from my Maker’s alternative energy…
All athletes run to win but only one gets the prize. I’m to run in the Power of my Creator’s Holy Spirit, in order to win what’s waiting for me at the finish line. [v24] With all the self-control needed in every area (including in my time, talents and treasures) I want to strive for the imperishable. [v25] Why? So that after I “preach” to you, I’ll not be disqualified. [v27]
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Mark 12:41-44
[b] Exodus 23:15b; 34:20b and Deuteronomy 16:16
[c] Genesis 31:42 and Exodus 3:21
[d] Mark 12:3; Luke 20:10-11
[e] Luke 1:53
[f] 1 Kings 10:1-2,14-15,23-25
[g] Isaiah 55:1
[h] Matthew 6:19-21
[i] Matthew 11:16-19