Summary: It's not our wisdom, power, or riches that we should boast about, but the fact that God has given us faith in Jesus.
I want to begin by testing your celebrity savvy this morning. Who said the following?
“Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy.”
“I’m also honored to have the greatest temperament that anybody has.”
“I think I am, actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.”
“I’ve had a beautiful, I’ve had a flawless campaign. You’ll be writing books about this campaign.”
Yes, Donald Trump, now the 45th president of the United States, made those statements. I’m not drawing your attention to these quotes so that we can laugh at President Trump. He is after all an elected official, and even though he’s not our leader we would do well to pray for him and his presidency because what happens in the U.S. affects us here in Canada. And anyway, it is God’s will that we pray for those in authority, as well as honor and respect them.
But it is hard to respect someone who is so blatantly boastful. The thing is, Trump has only verbalized thoughts we all entertain. When you answer correctly a tough question in class or propose a solution your coworkers really like, you may not say it but you do think it: “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy.” And because you don’t say that out loud you also think to yourself: “And I’m really humble, more humble than you may realize.” Such boasting is of course not God-pleasing. But the Apostle Paul teaches us today that God isn’t against all boasting. In fact Paul wanted the Christians in Corinth and we Christians here to know that we are a church fully equipped to boast…in Christ. Let’s find out how to become better boasters.
Our text once again comes from Paul’s letter to the Christian church in the Greek city of Corinth. Corinth itself had a reputation for brashness. People who lived there felt sorry for those who didn’t—the way people on Vancouver Island feel sorry for central Albertans. Unfortunately this arrogance had also spilled into the church. Some in the Corinthian congregation were well to do. They were proud of this fact and made a show of their wealth even at church. Other members liked to brag about how much of the Bible they knew and understood while looking down on others who were just learning the basics. To put matters into perspective for these braggarts, however, the Apostle Paul said: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
The fact was not many of the members in Corinth had much to boast about. Most were not rich. Most were not the movers and shakers in society or the trendsetters. Instead they were slaves or blue collar workers. Doesn’t that sound a bit like our congregation? I haven’t seen any of you interviewed in the newspaper because some journalist thought that our city would be interested in your views. Sure, you live in decent homes, but nothing a magazine would want a picture of. And although our new church building is a big upgrade from what we had, it’s not a cathedral. If this congregation was really influential and rich, wouldn’t we have been able to afford to build an even nicer and bigger sanctuary?
Perhaps this has actually always bothered you about Christianity. Why aren’t more famous and powerful people Christians? Why don’t we have any PhDs as members of St. Peter’s? The capital region must be crawling with them considering the number of universities there are. Instead most academics, politicians, and entertainers love to make fun of Christians. “You believe God created the world in six days? You really think Jesus was born of a virgin? You say he rose from the dead and is coming again? Go ahead and hold on to those superstitions if you have to. Smart and self-made people like us don’t need such a crutch.”
What can Christians offer as a response? Only the truth that Paul shared with us today. God intentionally chose “lowly” people to be members of his family. He did this lest we be tempted to boast that the reason God chose us is because he needed our smarts or our money and influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at the men Jesus chose to be his twelve disciples. Out of the twelve, Matthew was probably the only CEO type. But as a tax collector he would have been reviled by the people as a cheat and a traitor for working for the Romans. No, Jesus didn’t choose the disciples because he needed them, they needed Jesus! And so do you and I. Paul makes that point when he said: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31).