Once I was at a large conference in the United States when a renowned leader and church planter made his way to the stage while thousands of people stood to their feet and applauded. As a typical Australian, I stayed in my seat thinking, ‘who is this tall poppy?’ or something to that effect. Behind me a young man stood applauding and commented “If I could be half the leader this guy was that would be enough”. Not long after, I caught myself in a similar thought as I listened to the teaching of another leader and God reminded me of that moment at the conference. Today, the internet has allowed for a culture of ‘celebrity pastors’ and while we don’t hold the same overrealised eschatology the Corinthian church held, the risks are the same for us; we risk ending up following a particular leader, or seeking others to follow us, rather than serving Christ.
In todays reading, Paul moves from talking about human leaders who are seen to be wise by the world’s standards, to talking about what it means to be a faithful servant under Christ. It’s not about glory and honour; its about leaders as servants, entrusted with the mysteries of God and who are called to be faithful rather than being wise and popular. These leaders, void of any hidden motives or desire for self glory, simply strive to be faithful servants who are entrusted with the gospel of Christ and who will be judged by the only voice that matters; the Lord’s. There is no reason to boast about their service and there is no competition amongst them (v6). The measure of a true apostle is to faithfully serve Christ.
Verses 8-9 are dripping with sarcasm. There are clearly a group of leaders who think they already reign, that they are to be honoured in complete contrast to the faithful servants of Christ that Paul describes in verses 1-5. These servants are not honoured, they are often mistreated, they work hard, but they are faithful to Christ. Faithful servants of Christ will often not look wise in the eyes of the world, they are not people who serve a human leader and they are not people of glory who are honoured by the world. How might you seek to live as a faithful servant of Christ today?