Day 219

Three Bad Attitudes That Cause Division

Wisdom Psalm 92:7–13
New Testament 1 Corinthians 3:1–21a
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 24:3-5a

Introduction

During my time at university, I shared rooms together with my great friend Nicky Lee who became one of the associate vicars of HTB. We did all our own catering; I did the cooking and Nicky Lee did the dividing. He was an expert at dividing whatever was cooked into exactly equal portions! This is but one instance where division is used in a good sense rather than a bad one.

Divisions are a fact of life. They need not necessarily be a bad thing. Indeed, they may even be necessary. For example, placing people in different divisions in an organisation may be helpful and important. We see this kind of division in the Old Testament passage for today.

Then, there is the division that will take place on the day of judgment. This is a necessary division between good and evil. This kind of division can be seen in the psalm for today.

There is also a third kind of division, which is not good, helpful or necessary. Disunity and division in the church is a tragedy. This kind of division is one we must do our very best to avoid. It is this kind of division that the apostle Paul speaks against in the New Testament passage for today.

Wisdom

Psalm 92:7–13

7 ...though the wicked spring up like grass
 and all evildoers flourish,
 they will be destroyed forever.

9 For surely your enemies , Lord,
 surely your enemies will perish;
 all evildoers will be scattered.

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
 they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

Commentary

Division between the righteous and evildoers

The world is divided, according to the psalmist, between ‘evildoers’ (v.7) and the ‘righteous’ (v.12). Evildoers are senseless ‘fools’ who ‘do not understand’ (v.6). They are ‘enemies’ of God (v.9). One day, not only will they be divided from the righteous, but they will also be divided among themselves – they will be ‘scattered’ (v.9), and they will ‘perish’ (v.9). The ‘righteous’, on the other hand, have a secure future (vv.12–15).

Both ‘evildoers’ (v.7) and the ‘righteous… flourish’ (vv.12–13), but in different ways. For the ‘evildoers’ (v.7) it is passing and temporal. They will soon be ‘destroyed’ (v.7). They are like the grass. But for the ‘righteous’ (v.12) it is a lasting and eternal flourishing. It is ‘like a palm tree’ or ‘a cedar of Lebanon’ (v.12). They ‘will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green’ (v.14).

The difference between the success of the world – power, fame, making money and so on – and the success of a true follower of Jesus in living a holy life is like the difference between grass, which only lasts a few days, and a palm tree that stands throughout the ages.

Prayer

Lord, when I see the lasting blessings you give to those who follow you, I want ‘to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night’ (v.2).

New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:1–21a

3Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly —mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you? 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; 20 and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders!

Commentary

Divisions in the church

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a sandwich. He starts with praise and love. He ends with grace and love. In the middle, he raises issues that he wants them to deal with.

This is a good model when confronting issues in an individual or a church. Start and end with a positive and encouraging note; but have the courage to deal with the issues.

One of the issues he raises is division in the church. He says that they are ‘worldly’ (v.1) and ‘unspiritual’ (v.1, MSG). In some ways, they were the most ‘spiritual’ of all the churches that Paul wrote to. They did ‘not lack any spiritual gift’ (1:7). However, they were ‘unspiritual’ because of bad attitudes, which led to division.

He points out three bad attitudes. These are dangers for all Christians, but particularly for Christian leaders.

  1. Jealousy
    He writes, ‘For since there is jealousy... among you, are you not worldly?’ (3:3). It is tempting to compare ourselves with others and, when we hear about some blessing another has received, to start thinking, ‘When is that going to happen to me?’ But, as Joyce Meyer writes, ‘We should bless others and not be afraid they will get ahead of us. We must not envy anyone else’s appearance, possessions, education, social standing, marital status, gifts and talents, job, or anything else because that will only hinder our own blessing.’

  2. Boasting
    Paul writes, ‘So then, no more boasting about human leaders!’ (v.21). Boasting is the temptation to compare ourselves with others, think we are doing rather well and boast about our ‘success’. We need to see our part in God’s economy in its proper perspective. We are first, ‘mere human beings’ (v.4); second, ‘only servants’ (v.5); third, ‘neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything’ (v.7). Therefore, there is no cause for ‘boasting’ (v.21).

  3. Quarrelling
    Paul writes that their ‘quarrelling’ is another reason that he sees them as ‘unspiritual’. We must avoid taking sides, where ‘one says, “I follow Paul” and another “I follow Apollos”’ (v.4).

All of these stem from an inflated view of our own importance. These are ‘unspiritual’ attitudes. These sorts of attitudes are all too common in fallen humanity, infecting the world, and sadly the church too.

We need to understand that all of us are utterly dependent on God. One plants a seed, the other waters it, but God makes it grow (v.6). Planting and watering are important, but they are relatively easy. Only God can do the difficult bit and make plants, people and churches grow.

You do have a role to play. First, God uses you to bring people to faith. Apollos and Paul were those ‘through whom [the Corinthians] came to believe’ (v.5). Second, God will reward you. The person who plants and the person who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to their own labour. Third, you are ‘God’s co-workers’ (v.9). God has chosen not to do it on his own. He chooses to use you.

Being used by God is a huge privilege. Not only are you God’s ‘co- worker’ (v.9) – you are ‘God’s field, God’s building’ (v.9). People try to build their lives on many things – money, education, job titles, possessions, and so on, but Jesus is the only sure foundation (v.11).

Furthermore, Paul goes on to write, ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ (v.16). Therefore, he writes, ‘I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift… and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God’ (vv.21–23, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that we are fellow workers with you and that it is you who makes things grow. Keep us from pride and boasting, jealousy and quarrelling. Help us to guard the unity of the church.

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 24:3-5a

3 … David separated them into divisions for their appointed order of ministering. 5 They divided them impartially by casting lots…

Commentary

Divisions for ministry

Here we see the word ‘divisions’ used in a positive sense. ‘These were the divisions of the descendants of Aaron’ (24:1). ‘David separated them into divisions for their appointed order of ministering’ (v.3). ‘A larger number of leaders were found… they were divided accordingly’ (v.4). ‘They divided them impartially’ (v.5). There were also ‘divisions of the gatekeepers’ (26:1,19). ‘These divisions of the gatekeepers, through their leaders, had duties for ministering in the temple of the Lord’ (v.12).

There are some interesting names in his list. Among the singers are the psalmists ‘Asaph’ (Psalm 50 and Psalms 73–83), ‘Jeduthun’ (Psalm 39; 62; 77) and ‘Heman’ (Psalm 88).

Among the gatekeepers (or as often translated, ‘doorkeepers’) are the Korahites. Psalm 84 is attributed to ‘the Sons of Korah’ – and was therefore presumably written by a doorkeeper. This helps us to understand what he meant when he wrote, ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked’ (v.10).

In the body of Christ, we divide up the roles. Each part of the body has a different function. As St Paul writes, ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body… God has combined the members of the body… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other’ (1 Corinthians 12:12,24–25).

The apostle Paul describes the good sense of division (the different roles of members in the body), while seeking to avoid the bad sense (there should be no division or disunity in the body).

It is a great honour to be involved in any way in serving in ‘God’s house’ – whether we are helping with the car parking or welcoming teams, coffee or prayer ministry. Every person has great significance and honour because we are serving in God’s house.

Prayer

Lord, help us to make wise decisions in the assignment of roles in the body of Christ so that everybody gets involved. Help us, your church, to function as a unit made up of many parts in which each part cooperates with all the others with a unity brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Pippa adds

Psalm 92:14

‘They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green’.

Fresh and green sounds good. As life goes by very quickly and I am heading for old age fast, I’m encouraged by this verse. And there is something very beautiful about godly, older people. You can see it in their faces.I can think of many that I admire hugely – their wisdom and holy life are an inspiration. I want to keep bearing fruit in old age, and looking fresh and green.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 92:14

‘They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…’

Thought for the Day

Jesus is the only sure foundation on which to build your life.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018) p.1849

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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