Hold the World Lightly
The city of Corinth was obsessed with its own importance through successful business, new ideologies, morally corrupt religion and sport (Corinth was host to the Isthmian Games, held the year before and after the Olympic games). The massive population of slaves (some of whom hauled ships overland between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth – saving 185 sea miles of potentially dangerous navigation) ensured a cheap source of labour. It was hardly surprising that they were proud to be Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:2).
But Paul said that none of that should control the believers. Eternal matters are not settled in the market or money systems of Corinth, but by the Lord. The happiness of the social life of the city was an illusion: the Lord was coming back, and time was short to win their generation through proclaiming the gospel. The consumer mentality of the rich, and the family centred security of ordinary people, were transient. Money cannot last, entertainment soon evaporates, even relationships will disappoint; and the toys and tools of the world have no lasting value.
It was a wake up call for the church. The believers had come to Christ but still clung onto the flimsy structures of their little worlds. But worse, they thought that their happiness and security would come from their culture. So part of their worship was to release their grip on money, possessions, power, pride and even family – so that they could devote themselves to what would please Jesus and advance the interests of God's kingdom (Matthew 16:26).
Much of the world we live in has been taken over by those old Corinthian values; and much of the church has surrendered gospel priorities to the cultural demands of power, pride and possessions. The leisure-based, pleasure seeking, money-making society of the 21stC has 'Corinth' stamped all over it, along with exploitation of innumerable poor and weak slaves of various types, while the church is largely indifferent. But the problem is not primarily the lack of social conscience. The real problem is that we like what we can get out of our culture, which will fade away, and are reluctant to invest in God’s kingdom, which will last forever. So, hold the world lightly and hold the Saviour firmly because He holds you preciously and will bring the world to nothing.
© Dr Paul Adams