1 Corinth. 4: “Australia on My Head”

If you were around Trinity at the time, the following story will serve as a laughable reminder.

I have short hair, like really short hair. It’s mainly out of necessity since my hair has been thinning since youth ministry. Sorry, I should explain: I compare my body changes not to my physical age, but rather to the age I am in ministry. I blame my thinning hair on eight years of youth ministry. You have to count youth ministry like dog years, take each year and multiply by seven. I now blame the grey in my beard and hair on Trinity, since is started when I became a Senior Pastor…LOL! Back to the story:

One Sunday I woke up early to buzz my hair before church. Pretty standard, but at this point I typically had Caley spot check for any misses or patches. This morning I decided not to wake her and instead buzzed my hair on my own.

All was okay until the service started. When it was time for handshakes a person I was shaking hands with couldn’t stop laughing. I asked what was so funny, to which she replied, “what did you do to your head?” I said, “Oh no, did I miss a spot?”  “A spot?” she said laughing harder. I reached up and felt a yamaka sized “spot” of hair in the back of my head! It was huge!

I took it as an opportunity to share with the congregation that just that week I could feel the door of pride starting to open in my heart. I literally just prayed that week, “God, please help me to stay humble.” Boy if there was ever a time I saw answered prayer, it was that day! Because of my pride, God made me humble. 

Many people had ideas of what they thought the shape was, but my daughters question was the best. “Daddy, why do you have Australia carved in the back of your head?”

1 Corinthians 4:6-13 is all about two major themes, pride and humility. Paul began to recognize quickly that the church in Corinth struggled with pride. Well, for Paul, in order to combat pride he knew he needed to set up an example of humility for them to follow. Hence the example of Paul, Apollos, and the Apostles.

Corinthians = Prideful

Simply put, the Corinthian christians were a proud group. If you remember their first point of pride showed up in the love for human wisdom. We also see the effects of pride in the church’s division over philosophy, church leadership, and even their teachers. Remember the conversation from 1 Corinthians 1:12 (NLT) 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” This squabbling over teachers can be traced back to the sin of pride.

Apostles = Humility

Paul helps the Corinthians to understand their pride by comparing them to something humble, the apostles. Paul used a common analogy in verse 9 to help the prideful Corinthians understand the plight of the humble apostles.

A parade of Triumph always concluded a Roman General’s victory in battle. They would parade through the city with the victorious army and spoils of war. Way at the end of the procession would be the Prisoners of War, typically the best of the captives. They would be chained all together and would be sentenced immediately to death in the arena.

If you were ever wondering if Paul understood sarcasm, just read verse 10 (NLT) 10 Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed.

Basically Paul is saying, you believe you’re wise, powerful, and honored, while the apostles (those chosen by God) are considered: fools, week, and ridiculed. In Pauls mind this doesn’t make sense. The intention of Paul’s writing is to wake up his readers; remember what he says in verse 14 (NLT) 14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.

Conclusion

As a father would warn his children, Paul ultimately is writing out of love for the Corinthian Christians. What could be seen as prideful, Paul concludes his words with, 16 So I urge you to imitate me. This doesn’t sound like humility until you realize what he’s calling not just them, but you and I, to imitate.

Today is an opportunity to imitate Paul:

  • (v. 12) work wearily with your hands to earn a living
  • (v. 12) bless those who curse you
  • (v. 12) be patient with those who abuse you
  • (v. 13) appeal gently when evil things are said about you
  • (v. 13) be ready to be treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash