Jealousy Divides Community

First Corinthians chapter three is one of my favorite passages in scripture. It’s one of those passages that is crystal clear — no mystery or wondering about what’s meant. Let’s look at the first five verses.

1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

1 Cor. 3:1-5 NLT (emphasis added)

There’s much to consider in this passage, but only two things I want to point out. The first thing is that immaturity in living the Christian life looks like jealousy of each other and discord. If we succumb to jealousy and discord, then we permit a takeover of our sinful nature. If we are jealous and quarrel, then we live like the world. This is important because there is (or should be) a distinction in living the Christian life. There should be a difference that draws and compels others to this more excellent way of love we accepted through the finished work of Jesus.

The second thing I want to point out is that Paul could not share advanced teaching with immature Christians. He said it. Only milk is acceptable for infants in the faith; they were not ready for stronger meat because they were under the control of their sinful nature. Their jealousy and their quarreling were proof of their immaturity. This is an important note because many preach an “equalized” faith, where we are all on the same level of relationship with God. This just isn’t true. Turning this fact into a system of rank is unbalanced, I’ll admit. But consider the variety of ways the Gospel is available. At each phase of development, there is a way to hear Holy Spirit where we are.

QUESTION: HAVE WE CONSIDERED THAT THE ANSWERS TO SOME OF OUR PRAYERS FOR KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH? Ouch. I know. What kinds of insight have we missed being carnal and jealous of our brothers and sisters in the faith? What answers are we still pining for because we participate in quarrels and discord?

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

This is important because we can become distracted when entangled and snared in the cares of this life. We can, when ensnared, become distracted from the real questions, the real points of the matters that concern us. God is our source. We know this yet, there remains a disconnect at times on the horizontal spectrum. Knowing where we stand is crucial; but are we shouting our stance about the things that matter?

There are some things that we believe politically and morally that absolutely do not agree with God’s Word. There are some views on justice and mercy and the law that divide us in very hurtful ways. I encourage us to peek through the culture and learn the principle. What are the lessons Holy Spirit is trying to get to our hearts? Repentance is necessary… from deep-seated opinions that lock us into Christian immaturity.

This is a good place for homework… or better yet, self-work. What do you think about each of us asking the Father to search our hearts, try our thoughts, and reveal any wickedness? What would happen if we humbly allowed Holy Spirit to shave off the unnecessary, the divisive, and the envious from our hearts?

Who are we without jealousy? Who are we without comparison? Who are we without discord? Who are we without quarrels? I’ll tell you. We are a body growing in grace and in our knowledge of God. We are a people, the sons of God, able to digest the meat of the word. Strong teaching. Strong living. Strong believing. Pray with me.

Kind Father, we want to be your mature sons. We do not want you to withhold answers, insights, and rich nuggets of truth that can enlighten and transform us. When it is time for strong meat, we want to eat well, grow strong, and live changed. Forgive us for lingering too long in discord and jealousy. Make our hearts whole, and help us to loosen our grip on everything that feeds a false identity. We walk in light as you are in the light, and want to be a unified people who give you glory. Thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Dr. Shaunta D. Scroggins is the lead contributor for The Bereans’ Commentary.

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