Stewards of the Mysteries of God (4:1)
As you reflect on this verse consider “The Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30.
A good “steward” is someone who skillfully manages a commodity according to the owner’s intentions. When you leave your children with a babysitter, that babysitter is a steward of your children. You may have left instructions about completing homework, forbidden foods, or a bedtime. If these instructions were followed, then the babysitter was a good steward and faithfully served you.
In I Corinthians 4:1 Paul says that we are to “serve Christ” by being “steward” of the mysteries of God (the Gospel and revelation of Scripture). God left detailed instructions about how to carry out this stewardship – Matthew 28:18-20 most succinctly. God also left instructions regarding when the job is completed – Revelation 7:9. The only question is whether we will be found as faithful servants and good stewards.
Reflection: Do you feel free to disregard this assignment? If we are honest, we all would have to say that we answered yes. The question is, “What do we use to deceive ourselves into believing our ‘yes’ answer?” Fear of rejection. Pride and autonomy. A plea of ignorance. Spiritual ADD and forgetfulness. Believing it is less important than God says. A lack of concern for those around us. As you evaluate your answer, imagine it was given to you by the babysitter of your children after the babysitter’s neglect could have been the peril of your children. How would you respond (both emotionally and in content)? How do you imagine God responds when we treat the children/people He longs to adopt in that same neglectful manner?
Our Hearts Revealed (4:5)
Have you ever had the fear that other people would be able to hear your thoughts or watch your dreams? This is the kind of thing that Paul says Christ will do when He returns. Yet Paul does not say this as a threat to intimidate us away from cognitive sin. Rather Paul uses this truth to promote patience, grace, and humility in relationships.
Paul says we do not have to guess at the motives of others, because God will make those motives clear. Often many of our conflicts are like two school children arguing over who has performed better on a test before the teacher has graded the exam. They each get worked up over what is said, thinking that if they convince the other, then they will have won the argument. All the time the teacher is grading and their argument is useless (but passionate!).
Reflection: In what circumstances are you most prone to assign motive to the actions or words of another person? Business, ministry, family, school, peers, authority figures, politics. When you do this what are you protecting yourself from or what advantage are you trying to gain? If your objective is good/necessary, is the discussion of motive necessary to accomplish your objective? Most often when we focus on what are not called to do, we create an unnecessary distraction from the work we are called to do.
Relating as God’s Family
(BCH_1Cor_4_handout for Printable PDF Handout)
In I Corinthians 4:14-21 Paul uses many family roles and images to discuss the church and instruct the Corinthians. This is a passage that should be put along side Ephesians 6:1-4. In Ephesians Paul is trying to talk about family and realized he’s talking about Christ and the church. Here Paul is trying to talk about church life under Christ and winds up talking about the family.
What are some of the lessons we should glean from this passage?
- We must not confuse shaming with correcting our children (v. 14). Statements made to belittle a child are an abuse of parental authority. Venting our hostility at the expense of our children’s dignity is wrong.
- The role of instructing our children is uniquely, although not exclusively, given to parents, particularly father (v. 15). It is not the church’s job to disciple our children. Parents come to church to be equipped to disciple their children (Eph 4:11-16).
- Our primary tool of instruction is our example (v. 16). Patience is only seen in the presence of an irritant. Courage is only seen in the presence of a threat. In the same way, faith is truly seen in the response we give to the daily challenges of life. That is when we “incarnate” what we have been instructing.
- Our children should teach their younger siblings (v. 17). We should put our children in a position to teach what they have learned. We should look for opportunities to point to their example and use it as a point of instruction, thereby, affirming their growth.
- We must be consistent (v. 18-20). If our children do not believe we will follow through on our instruction we will embolden their resistance. Words alone do not soften the hard hearts we all have, even our sweet little children.
- Our instruction should accentuate the choices our children make (v. 21). A big theme of parental instruction is simply “choices matter.” If we do not highlight this in our interaction with our children, we merely teach them to obey (good but temporary) to not think.