I went back and watched the Bible Project Overview for this letter (we don’t always include those links anymore, because we assume y’all know about it as a resource by now). It was helpful to frame the context of this letter and understand the dynamic which had formed between Paul and this church. They are not buddy o’ pals.
The Corinthian church culture is all too relate-able. The tendency to be attracted to successful looking leaders (you know, the ones with book deals and cool podcasts and maybe even a helicopter), to view wealth as a sign of God’s blessing, and to be choosy about which aspects of Jesus’ example to follow or ignore… are things we can often find in ourselves and those around us.
When becoming more like Jesus equals unbridled self-sacrifice, it’s not going to be attractive to someone who hasn’t been touched by His Spirit.
“For we are not like many, peddling the word of God.” (2:17)
Expense communicates value, in many cultures around the world. If something is free it is usually synonymous with cheap. So when smooth talkers, selling spiritual insight, roll into town with their fancy clothes, they look like they might carry a more valuable message. That is, until you understand what Christ-likeness resembles.
Paul could easily say, per my last mail: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
This letter is all about making the connection between a Christian’s life and generosity. Who around you today can be the lucky recipient of your generous love?