1 Corinthians 7:21 -- Your social standing doesn't matter!

Have you ever thought about how much energy we expend jockeying for position in social spheres? We want the next job, income level, house, or car. We think a different appearance will cause people to think more of us. Often jockeying for social position is more subtle, like wanting the right kind of attention from the right people, or protecting how we might look to others, or modifying our circle of friends in order to advance some personal interest. We are prone to swim in a constant swirl of concern about what other people think of us.

We receive an unending stream of messages from our culture -- and even within the church -- that our standing in relation to everyone else is to be fought for and protected. We also battle our expectations of ourselves, pushing ourselves to achieve social honor and avoid disrespect or shame.

If you, like me, sometimes struggle to forget about yourself… now hear this. Your social standing doesn’t matter. That is what Paul teaches. Who you are in comparison to the rest of this world – or even in comparison to your own expectations of yourself – is of no concern. That’s right, no concern.

The church in Corinth had a serious status problem. The well-to-do Christians were exploiting the more lowly ones. The church was mirroring the very status-conscious Corinthian society.

BTW, the South Bay isn't status conscious, is it? No, of course not! :-)

In 1 Corinthians, Paul does a lot of talking to the "haves," trying to bring them to a greater level of humility. He also instructs the "have nots." Here is what Paul says to them about slavery: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don't be concerned about it” (1 Cor 7:21). That's right, don't worry about it. Slaves had no social status to speak of, but that was not anything to lose sleep over. Social status doesn't matter a bit! In 1 Corinthians, Paul is saying something like, "Whether you are the lowest slave or the greatest slave owner, what matters is not how you compare to others in society. All that matters is who you are in God’s eyes, and he cares a lot more about how you treat others than how you compare to them."

In the end, forgetting about our social standing is a matter of receiving God’s love. Whether we are the "haves" or the "have nots", when we focus on social standing, we close ourselves off from God. When we let all that go, we can receive his acceptance and approval for who we are not how we compare. By the same token, when we receive God’s acceptance and approval, we discover the triviality of what others think of us, or even what we think of ourselves. Forgetting about social standing and receiving God’s love is a self-reinforcing cycle that leads to freedom and peace.


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