“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
The Basket Case Chronicles #38
“Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (1 Cor. 4:11-14).
This passage connects tightly to the verses that follow, and so we have to remember the context. Paul goes on to urge the Corinthians to imitate him as a father (vv. 15-16). But the context of that following exhortation is set here. This is not a bourgeois father exhorting a ne’er-do-well son. This is a father who is under various forms of unjustified disgrace, who is warning his sons against the dangers of respectability.
An apostle, and by extension visionary leaders and founders, are the kind of people who have a thick layer of respectability imputed to them, such that the actual sacrifices they are making, and the stands they are taking, are invisible to those who are building up their own reputations on the foundation of these apostles and prophets. Paul here cites contempt, physical challenges, financial challenges, persecution, and the fact that they are the “offscouring” of all things, right up to the present. The apostolic glory is that of being grease in the dumpster out back of the restaurant.
Note and mark the danger well. The danger is creeping respectability. It is the way of all flesh. This temptation always arises. The third generation builds a grand brick library on the campus of a college founded by a man who spent a great deal of his ministry making fun of books, and the pointy-headed scholars who shuffled around carrying them, in order to cite them to one another.
Paul is not feeling sorry for himself here. He is pointing out something that should have been glaringly obvious to people who had a moral obligation to have seen it already, and whose inability to see it was a great spiritual danger to them. The apostolic band that Paul was the center of labored under unbelievable opprobrium. Moreover, they were able to do this without their “beloved sons” even noticing it. Paul therefore warns them. Take heed. If you must have great learning, as Paul most certainly did, make sure to carry it in such a way as to make people think you are crazy (Acts 26:24). It is the only safe way.