1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?”

Observation: Paul has just finished saying  in 1 Corinthians 8:13: “Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.” In other words, when the question at hand is morally neutral, then love should govern our behavior. In 9:1, Paul further illustrates his point by asking the obvious: “Are you not my work in the Lord?” Is this a trick question?

Application: If I am Paul’s work in the Lord, if I am his spiritual offspring, grown up in the Lord due to his example, training, and coaching…this is making me nervous, Paul. Where exactly are you going with this question? You seem to be saying you’re willing to be accountable for whom I have become in Christ. Surely you don’t expect me to pass it on, do you?

Deep down, peeking tentatively around the corner of my understanding, a light is coming on. The reality setting in is this: like Paul, I ought to be able to look at those around me, those whom He has given me to protect and train, to shelter and teach. I must be both able and willing to say, “Are you not my work in the Lord?” Ouch. 

I’ve cultivated some lovely flower gardens in my day, but they have never become truly beautiful on their own. If I relent in weeding or fail to properly fertilize and water, things quickly begin to look a bit shabby. So I keep at it because deep down I’m sure there’s an enormous sign somewhere in the sky with a neon arrow, flashing, “Dave’s Garden.  Dave’s Garden.” There are days when I’d like to be able to turn the thing off, to give in to the advancing army of weeds and just wash my hands of the whole mess. But that sign will still be there, won’t it?  “Dave’s Garden.”  For all the world to see. For me to see. For God to see. “Are you not my work in the Lord?”

Your life…my child, my spouse, my friend…testifies of me, of my influence in your life. Hmm, I may want to rededicate myself to this project, to spend a little more time and effort knowing that you, my work in the Lord, speak well of me both to Him and to the watching world.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the people You have put in my life, relationships that bless me and challenge me every day.  Stir me to pour myself out for them even as You poured out Your life for me on the Cross.  Give me Your wisdom in this, Father.  I care passionately that those I’m accountable for reflect very well indeed upon me, and upon You.