A Thanksgiving that Falls Short

This is a scripture reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:4-10. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth which is experiencing division over its leadership and Paul’s concern shows even in the thanksgiving of his letter.

With the exception of Galatians, Paul includes a thanksgiving to God at the beginning of all his epistles. In these thanksgivings, Paul commonly cites being thankful for how they live out faith, love, and do good works. The thanksgiving that Paul writes to the Corinthians is a little different from these thanksgivings, though. Paul’s thanksgiving to the Corinthians falls short of a full thanksgiving like the other churches receive.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,  5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind–  6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you–  7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 1:4-6, NRSV

In this thanksgiving to the Corinthians, Paul is thankful that God has given them grace in Jesus Christ and has enriched them with speech (the Gospel message) and the gifts they need to be a fruitful church. Paul stops there. He doesn’t mention being thankful for anything the church is doing, only what God has done to prepare the church. He does not mention how thankful he is for they way the church is using their gifts to bear fruit. He does not cite being thankful for their faith, love, or good works.

He doesn’t mention these things because they are not true for the church in Corinth. God had blessed the church in Corinth with all that they needed to bear fruit, but they allowed petty bickering and division of leadership to get in the way of using the gifts that God had given them.

I know of churches like the church in Corinth. God has blessed these churches with many spiritual gifts and resources for ministry, yet they are too trapped within their own arguments and divisions to bear fruit. For churches in this situation, I lift up Paul’s advice to the Corinthians:

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

1 Cor. 1:10, NRSV

Let us put aside our disagreements. Let us, instead, focus on Christ and unite so that we may be a fruitful church. Let us live into a thanksgiving that does not fall short.

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