Suffering fools easily? – Saturday, 22nd week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 4:6b-15

Suffering fools easily? – Saturday, 22nd week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 4:6b-15

Paul did not suffer fools easily and while he could be a gentle giant, he knew also slay a dragon. Some apparently ‘wise’ members of the Corinthian community seemed to have daggers drawn at Paul. From 4:3 we know that they questioned his authority as leader or as an apostle. Some had clearly rallied around Apollos who was a more erudite preacher and were routing for Apollo’s leadership in the Church of Corinth.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that both he and Apollos were servants and stewards (4:1). Interestingly when Paul speaks of a servant, he usually uses the Greek word doulos, which translates as slave. Here he uses the Greek word hyperetas which translates as an ‘under rower’. Paul is making a point. They are not slaves but and workers; workers who one would find in the galley of a ship. Being workers, they were clearly not leaders, just ordinary chaps doing their job assigned to them.

But doing their job was exactly what the Corinthians were not doing. They, it seemed were bent on division and disunity and had quite forgotten who had done the planting and who was assigned with the watering of this community’s faith.

Paul uses sarcasm to make a point and boy is he sarcastic in this text. It is true that Corinth was a wealthy city and that wealth had trickled down to its citizen. Now that they were professionally landed their money spoke and not their faith. Paul says it as it is, “you have become rich and quite apart from us (the apostles) you have become kings.

The true gladiators for Christ were not the Corinthians who had begun to live a fanciful life; fancy enough to now begin to disturb the unity of the community. It is not their wealth per se that Paul is attacking but their lifestyles that have led them believe they are ‘kingmakers’ in the community. The apostles and those faithful to Christ are the true gladiators who are condemned to death in the arena of faith and they are the ones who have sacrificed rather than glorify themselves.

Paul uses the image of victors who marched triumphantly back into their city carrying the booty of war and the captives behind them; captives ‘exhibited’ as a ‘spectacle to the world’ that would be killed in the arena. Paul in 4:9 describes himself and the apostles as these exhibits. The irony was that while the apostles had chosen to die for the faith the Corinthians chose to live for themselves; live like kings.

In a series of sarcastic comparisons Paul tells the Corinthians that while they should have been seen as ‘foolish, weak and lacking honour’ for Christ, they have sought to be ‘wise, strong and held in honour’ (4:10). Paul lists the sufferings of the apostles and in particular his life. He has gone hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed and beaten. He has been homeless and gone weary from the work of his hands. He has responded to hate by blessing his persecutors, endured humiliation and spoken kindly even when slandered and has become ‘the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things’. These were Paul’s credentials and he made no bones about it. This is what the faith is all about and not backstreet Corinthian Church politics or arm chair theologizing.

Yet all this is said by Paul not as a boast but to correct and warn the Corinthians as one would correct their own children; for Paul saw them as his children, errant as they were. They may have found a thousand guides but he and he alone was their spiritual father and being their father, he took his responsibility seriously. If then they should imitate any one it is not the Corinthians or any other Christian leader but Paul himself who has carried in his own flesh the sufferings of Christ.


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One thought on “Suffering fools easily? – Saturday, 22nd week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 4:6b-15”

  • Right from the time of Paul and Apollos, humans as frail as they are in matters of FAITH, continue to be the same till date. Are the PAULS of today fighting a loosing battle?? Is the feeling I get sometimes…

    The last three lines of the 2nd last para of today’s insight conveys the crux as a never ending challenge to carry on CHRIST’s Mission by not just the CLERGY but EACH of us even from the LAITY..



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