I Corinthians 11:17-22 — The divisiveness that comes from pride and selfishness

In this passage, Paul once again addresses divisiveness in the Corinthian church.  We have already seen one example of this from chapter 1 where the Corinthians were arguing about which leader they were following (1:10-15).

But here in chapter 11, we see the divisiveness that springs up from pride and selfishness.  Paul writes,

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.  (11:17-19)

Many Bible teachers seem to take verse 19 as teaching that we need all our disputes over scripture (leading to all the denominations we have) in order to understand the truth as it really is in the Bible.

While there may be some germ of truth to that, I have always tended to think that Paul was being quite sarcastic here.  “Of course you HAVE to have differences among you.  After all, you need to show which of you have God’s approval over all the others.”

In other words, I believe he was scathing them for their divisions because it was springing up from their pride.  In trying to prove their own spiritual superiority, they started looking down on others.

Part of that perhaps went back to the old way of thinking the Jews had which said that riches were a sign of God’s blessing.

And so during the communion feasts they would celebrate as a church, the rich would charge in ahead of the poor and gorge themselves on the food, probably because they were the ones who had bought it in the first place.  Their thinking probably was, “Hey, I bought this food, so I should be able to eat it.  If there are any scraps left after I’m done, then these others can take those, but I’m getting mine first.”

But Paul wrote,

Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!  (22)

Paul was saying, “What are you guys doing?  You are despising the very body of Christ that you’re supposedly celebrating by humiliating those of you who are poor.”

How were they despising Christ’s body?  By their pride and selfishness.

How about you?  Are you by your pride and selfishness causing division in Christ’s body?  Do you look down on others because they have less than you?  Do you despise others because they are less spiritual than you?  Are you always comparing your gifts to the ones others have, and selfishly hold on to “your territory?”

These kinds of attitudes can tear apart a church.

How do you see the people in your church?


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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