Summary: The choice is not, either nothing is changed, or everything is changed. There is a third choice he spells out, and it is the choice of balance, where you change some things and leave others unchanged for the sake of stability.
Hubert Humphry's father was a druggist in a small town in South Dakota. He had to come up
with a way to increase profits at his soda fountain. He began to push the idea of putting an egg in his
malts to enrich them. Nobody was ordering the new malt, so told his clerks to ask people if they
wanted an egg in their malt, but nothing happened. Then he got the idea to have the clerk face the
customer with an egg in each hand, and they would ask, "Would you like one or two eggs in your
malt?" Profits began to rise at last, for this clever approach caused people to forget they had a third
choice, which was, no egg at all.
Life is constantly playing this trick on all of us. We are always being forced into either-or choices,
when in fact, the best may be neither-nor, but a third choice. Edward Whymper
was the first man to conquer the Matterhorn in 1865. Every climber before him tried the two
approaches on the Southwest side. He tried those two approaches 7 times himself, because all the
experts said these were the only two ways to make it. He decided to defy the wisdom of all the
guides, and make a third choice. He went up the Eastern side, and he made it to the top. Everyone
thought there were only two choices, but Whymper showed them there was a third and better choice.
The Pharisees were forever trying to get Jesus trapped by their either-or questions.
They asked, "Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They were saying, take your stand Jesus,
either you stand with those who give their loyalty to the state, or you stand with those who give their
loyalty to God. Which of the two is your choice? Jesus is too clever for their trap, and He says, you
are forgetting the third choice, where you can be loyal to Caesar with what is his, and loyal to God
with what is His. It is not a matter of either-or at all. It is a matter of both-and.
Of course, this is often true, and it is definitely true in life's most crucial choices. Either you
receive Christ as your Savior, or you reject Him. Either you are saved, or lost. There is not third
choice here. But this is not the issue that is confusing the Corinthians, and has confused Christians
through the centuries. The Corinthians had made the right choice for Christ, but now as Christians
they thought there were only two choices open to them. Either remain just as they were and change
nothing, or reject all of their past and change everything. The first would indicate nothing had
happened, and would make conversion meaningless, so they decided choice two was their only
alternative, and so everything must change and be different.
This radical commitment sounds very noble and highly spiritual, but in real life it proves,
all to often, to be unwise, for it produces enormous instability and insecurity. Paul sees this in the
Corinthians, and he is concerned about them. Therefore, he writes this paragraph to somewhat
dampen their spirits, by showing them there is a third choice. If you have ever cooked on a grill, you
have had the experience where the fat drippings begin to burn out of control, and you have to sprinkle
water over the coals to bring the flames under control. It is not Holy Spirit fire that is burning when
people are getting hurt and becoming unstable by their enthusiasm. Not everything Christians do is
wise, just because it is done with such burning enthusiasm.
The Corinthians were caught up in the-change is everything syndrome. If its new its better, and so
change to what is new. Gentiles who became Christians heard of the Jewish covenant in
circumcision, and they were enthused about that, and wanted to be circumcised. Jewish Christians
were enthused about the freedom of the Gentiles to be God's children without circumcision, and they
sought, by means of surgery, to remove the effects of circumcision, in order to be like the Gentiles.
Of course, this was a ridiculous idolizing of change for change sake, and not only added nothing to
the church, but detracted from it by implying that Christianity promoted the uprooting of everyone's
heritage. Christians were changing all kinds of things that did not need changing, but needed
preserving. They got carried away with change to the point that they became unstable. When
Christians become unstable, they do not appeal to the world, and they stir up division among
Paul, therefore, was writing to these Corinthians Christians, and making stability one of his main
themes. It is the motive behind all that he says in this chapter. He is telling these fanatics for change