Treated Like the World’s Garbage
1 Corinthians 4:8-13
America today has become a nation of entitlement. This attitude of entitlement has spread like wildfire across our nation. Young people especially have this attitude that they are the smartest and the brightest and should get what they want and be given respect just for showing up. Now, when it comes to young people, this is nothing new. Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” The problem is that now, our 21-year-old people still think like that 14-year-old. Our colleges are perpetuating this phenomenon by telling them they are more educated and smarter than their elders. What does the Bible have to say about this? Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.” Over and over the Bible tells us that wisdom comes with age. Of course, in 1 Timothy 4:11, Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” But Paul goes on in verse 14 to remind Timothy to remember the prophecies spoken over him by the elders. So, we shouldn’t despise their youth, as long as they are listening to the advice of the elders. Young people have a lot to offer, but they also have a lot to learn.
Paul was dealing with the same problem with the church at Corinth. Not with just the young people, but with the whole church. They thought that, because of their riches, they had arrived. He said in 1 Corinthians 4:8, “You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.” They were so full of themselves that they thought they were already reigning in God’s kingdom. Doesn’t that sound like some of the TV pastors of today? Paul goes on in verse 9 to say that sometimes it feels like God has put the apostles on display and that they have become spectacles. In verse 10, Paul goes on to say, “Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed”. I have had several online discussions with young people lately, and that is the attitude they seem to have. Because I am dedicated to Christ, and not their religious views, I am a fool. They feel that I am weak, and they are powerful; they are honored, and I am ridiculed because I don’t follow the popular narrative.
In verse 11, Paul talks about them thinking themselves better than him because he had gone hungry, thirsty, not having enough clothes to keep him warm, and being beaten. But what did Paul tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12? He said, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Did you catch that? EVERYONE who wants to live a godly life WILL be persecuted! EVERYONE! So, if they weren’t suffering the type of persecution that Paul was, it wasn’t because they were superior to him, it was because they weren’t living godly lives.
In verse 12, Paul says something interesting. In the first part of that verse, he says, “We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living.” We, the apostles, work tirelessly with our hands to earn a living. Okay, it’s time to get controversial again. The command to bring the tithes into the storehouse was to provide for the Levites who weren’t allowed to work outside the church or even own property. There is no command in the New Testament to bring tithes into a storehouse and no mention of a storehouse at all. Instead, the New Testament teaches us to give our tithes and offerings; it actually tells us to give all our increase, to each other. We are to take care of each other. I know of a church that had a benevolence fund of over $200,000, and there were hardworking people in their body who weren’t able to make ends meet, and the church wasn’t helping them. This church has since realized the error in this and has started taking care of each other; in fact, their benevolence fund is very small now.
I realize there are pastors reading this who are gasping right now but study it for yourself and remember I am a pastor too. My church group meets in a park except on those few days it’s too cold to meet outdoors, and then we meet in someone’s home or business. We have found that by meeting in the park, not only do we not spend money on a building, but we can influence a lot more people who would never have darkened the door of a traditional church building. Also, as a pastor, I don’t take a salary from the church. I have my own business that God totally provided for me. I can make my living and at the same time, minister through my business. We don’t take an offering, although we do have a couple of people who God has led to give to our ministry, and that provides for the essentials. I encourage my people to give tithes and offerings, but to each other and those in need in our community.
Paul finishes this passage in the last half of verse 12 through verse 13 by saying that, even though we bless people who curse us, we are patient with people who abuse us, and when evil is spoken against us, we give a gentle answer. Still, they treat us like trash. Remember, Paul is talking about the church. Even though the apostles hold their tongues when the people of the Church are treating them badly, they are still treated like garbage by people who claim the name of Christ.
Each of us has been given spiritual leaders; in fact, Ephesians 4:11 tells us that these men are a gift from God. We need to start treating these leaders who God has put over us as gifts. We need to honor and respect them and learn from them, but at the same time, we are given the charge to test the spirits. If you test what your pastor is saying to scripture and it doesn’t line up, then you need to move on. But if it lines up with the word of God, then stand behind him, honor him and respect him as the spiritual leader God has put over you.