1 Corinthians 3
1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord. 4When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? 5Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. 7The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 9We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours. (1 Corinthians 3:1-9, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
According to Wikipedia, between 65 and 75 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Does that sound right?
Regardless of whether you consider wikipedia to be a reliable source of information on this subject, there is no disputing that a high percentage of Americans identify as Christians over other religious ideologies and non-religious philosophies.
However, the evidence of daily life, whether in the physical or online world, doesn’t seem to support the notion that so many people identify themselves as Christians. The majority of people simply don’t seem to act like Christians.
What is the problem?
Paul gives some insight in this passage. A major issue that the Corinthian church was dealing with was the problem of name-dropping and identifying and aligning themselves with certain religious leaders. It was the source of much disunity and division within this church. I wrote about this issue in a previous blog post here.
In this passage Paul plainly states that many within this Corinthian church are not mature. In verse 2, he states that he had to feed them milk and not solid food because they weren’t ready for solid food.
Now there’s nothing wrong if you are not able to eat solid food depending on the circumstances.
Think about a baby. A baby doesn’t have teeth and their digestive system is not ready for solid foods. As a result, they drink milk, either from their mother’s breasts or from some pre-made formula. As they grow and mature, however, the parents typically will begin to introduce various forms of solid food into their baby’s diet. At first, they might feed their child mashed or pureed vegetables or protein, gradually moving up to soft, chewable foods like Cheerios or small, soft vegetables or fruit pieces.
But imagine a toddler who hasn’t graduated to any form of solid food. Does that seem normal? If you saw what looked like a normal, active 5 year old crawl into his mother’s lap in order to take nourishment from his mother’s breasts as if he were a 5 month old, you would probably suspect something wasn’t normal.
This is the problem in the Corinthian church. There’s no problem with needing milk, spiritually speaking, if you are a baby Christian. But when Paul says, “And you still aren’t ready” [for solid food], the implication is that they SHOULD be ready for it.
Why weren’t they ready for it? Paul says that the reason they had not developed to a more mature point is because “you are still controlled by your own sinful desires.”
Hence, a primary marker of maturity among Christians is they are no longer controlled by their own selfish desires. Another way of putting it is immature Christians are still controlled by selfish desires.
This could be one explanation for how so many people in our country could claim to be Christian and yet their lives don’t reflect it.
Of course there are many indicators of selfishness, but one that Paul highlights here is a person’s penchant for aligning themselves with another leader or personality. Paul says that this is wrong and selfish because it robs God of his rightful worship as the ultimate person responsible for the spiritual growth and development that we may experience and attaches it to someone who is merely God’s servant doing God’s work.
If we want to move past the baby Christian phase, it will become necessary for us to learn to put aside our self-centeredness, including our tendency to elevate and idolize leadership personalities and begin to make God Himself the central focus of our lives and our spiritual development.
What do you think Paul means when he talks about feeding them with milk? Additionally, what is meant by solid food?
As you evaluate your own spiritual development, would you consider yourself a Christian who feeds on milk or solid food? What reasons would you give to support your conclusion?
What are some practical ways a young Christian can move from milk to solid food?
Who are some Christian leadership personalities that you think some Christians may be prone to align themselves with?
What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t improperly idolize those who may be significantly influential in your life?