1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – "Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast." Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let's live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread - simple, genuine, unpretentious." (MSG)
When I read this passage in The Message translation, I thought of the London Olympics. After winning a gold medal, the victor addressed the camera directly, "Who's number one?" he said. "Who's the best? I am. All day. Every day." Bob Costas responded from the studio, "As great as he is, it is hard to have a higher opinion of [him] than he has of himself." It seems Mr. Costas isn't fond of this kind of arrogance. Neither was Paul. Such was the arrogance of Goliath when he faced David and of the proverbial Hare when he raced the Tortoise. But Paul wasn't talking about athletic prowess or victory on the battlefield. He was referring to the pride and arrogance of Christians who may have taken inappropriate pride in their works or in their status as "believers."
We are blessed by God and His blessings flow to others through the mission work we do and support. But we Christians are not immune to boasting, to comparing ourselves to others, to taking pride in gifts given to us by God's grace. Of course this is often done in jest, or with the sarcasm I use when I lord my (imaginary) basketball prowess over my 16 year old nephew. I think this is the way "Trash Talk" and "Celebration Dances" may have started in sports... "innocent" fun between friends. But it has become all too common to take this boasting away from the private realm of friends and into the public arena and to one's opponents. It seems that we aren't satisfied with the win. Our opponents must be humiliated.
This is the nature of such things. Sin is sneaky and insidious. The playful jest subtly becomes the insult. A celebration transforms into the humiliation of another. The bad apple spoils the barrel and a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. What I hear in this passage from Corinthians is that St. Paul would have us remember our humble place and avoid this slide into sin.
Questions for Reflection:
- When have you been the yeast, puffed up and arrogant?
- What small change can you make today to become more simple, genuine, and unpretentious?
God, help us to see our actions and hear our words through your eyes and ears so that we may speak to others and serve them as Jesus taught us, with humble, giving hearts.