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! — 1 Corinthians 4:8a NLT
Spiritual pride can develop in a congregation as members begin to understand spiritual things.
People are by nature self centered. They see the world around them from their own perspective, rather than in the light of God’s truth and values. People may begin to understand spiritual matters but not yet understand enough to realize they need to transcend their self-centered point of view. They lose the sense of their own unworthiness that humbled them before Christ in the first place. They look down on others in the Body — perhaps even their own, more spiritually mature leaders.
We need to continually remind ourselves that we understand practically nothing of God’s rich wisdom. We are like miners who have only scratched the surface of a deep vein of gold that will require a lifetime to dig out. Rather than seeing myself as someone who already has everything he needs, as someone who is already rich in Christ, I need to continually admit my lack of understanding about the mystery of Christ. I need to continually pursue spiritual knowledge and wisdom from my leaders and church family — even the ones I think don’t understand as much as I do. Rather than seeing myself as someone who has arrived spiritually, I need to see myself, like Paul, as a “mere servant of Christ.” (v.1).
The church members at Corinth thought they were wise and powerful (v.10), when in fact they understood practically nothing of Christ’s mysteries. Rather than resting content with what they had learned, they needed to acknowledge their need and look to others for examples of what it means to be rich in Christ. They needed to realize how worldly their own values still were and benefit from the model of the apostles, who were ridiculed as weak fools, who went hungry and thirsty even as they worked their fingers to the bone. Those apostles were poorly clothed and homeless. They patiently blessed those who cursed and abused them, yet were treated like trash, even by their own spiritual children. (vv.10-13)
It’s a rich paradox that Paul — who had far more reason than the Corinthians to be proud of his spiritual depth and service — still saw himself as a mere servant of Christ. He could, in a spirit of humility, urge the Corinthians to imitate his example! (v.16)
May we never lose sight of either our own spiritual poverty compared to Christ — or of the riches we have inherited as his joint-heirs to God’s wisdom.