Are we willing to be ‘FOOLS’ for the SAKE of CHRIST? “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” (1 Cor. 4:9-13)
We live in a day and age when blessings from God are being equated with material prosperity and riches. This ‘prosperity gospel’ and ‘seeker-friendly feel-good preaching’ is attracting a lot of followers, and many of the mega churches worldwide are advocating such a kind of gospel. Christian leaders have also advocated the ‘name-and-claim’ doctrine by twisting the words of Jesus found in John 14:13-14. There are big-time television preachers who are also propagating the ‘sow-the-seed-and-reap-the-harvest’ theology, which expounds that God will multiply our monetary ‘seed-of-faith’ when we donate money into their ministry and will reap a multiplied harvest of riches. Sadly, a majority of Christian believers are supporting these kinds of ministries without having any knowledge of the true biblical discipleship and ministry.
Keeping this in context, the above powerful passage from Apostle Paul makes use of biting irony to show the Corinthian believers how shallow was their understanding of the ‘true’ gospel and the ‘real’ apostolic ministry. The apostle points out the arrogance of the Corinthians, and describes that the apostles are like exhibits in a sideshow. In fact, their sufferings are comparable to the pain and public humiliation of captives condemned to die. The apostles are like gladiators fighting to the death in the Roman arena, or like criminals thrown to the lions being made a spectacle as the grand finale to a day’s sport in a coliseum. The whole world and the heavenly angels are witnesses to the humiliation of God’s servants and apostles.
In contrast, some of the Corinthians think of themselves as notably successful, but only because they do not understand what it means to be “fools for Christ’s sake” (v. 10). While the apostles were treated as fools for Christ’s sake, the Corinthians enjoyed prestige in the community as wise Christians. The apostles were weak, but the Corinthians suffered no infirmity. In contrast to the dishonor of the apostles was the eminence of the Corinthians. As Godet has stated: “It was not time for the Corinthians to be self-complacent and boasting, while the church was on the throne and the apostles were under the sword.”
Here are some of the words with which Apostle Paul describes himself and the other apostles: "men condemned to death"; "been made a spectacle"; were "fools for Christ's sake"; were "weak" and "dishonored"; suffered "hunger" and "thirst"; were "poorly clothed", "beaten"; "homeless"; "working with our own hands"; "reviled"; "persecuted"; "defamed"; "filth of the world"; and "the offscouring of all things”. These apostles were suffering from hunger, thirst, nakedness and persecution as they were being hunted, pursued, and did not have a place to stay, just like Jesus (Luke 9:58). They supported themselves by working with their own hands, including Paul who was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). Their labor involved hard, manual work, which was despised and looked down by their society.
Thus, the apostles suffered ill-treatment for the sake of Christ as their world considered them as outcasts. Apostle Paul lists the hardships he personally had suffered, both physical and verbal abuse in 2 Cor. 11:22–30. However, for reviling, they returned blessing. When they were persecuted, they did not fight back, but patiently endured. When defamed, they entreated people to accept the Lord Jesus. In short, they were made as the filth and the scum of the earth for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ! The apostles are considered fools because they knew and preached nothing but Christ. The question to ask ourselves today is this: are we willing to be fools for the sake of Christ?