What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7)
I owned a set of dishes before I got married. They were very functional and nearly impossible to break. The bowls, the cups, the plates – everything was made of thick hard plastic. And they were blue. The set was accented with a collection of cups from places like the 7-11 store and various sporting events. I liked my dishes just fine.
Marnie managed to dump all of it once the vows were exchanged.
That didn’t bother me. It wasn’t much of a loss compared to the new stuff that filled the cabinets of our Houston apartment. Marriage improved my lot in life in a number of ways, one of which was drinking from clear glass and eating off of matching plates adorned with an artistic pattern – something other than the words “Big Gulp” stamped on the outside of the vessel.
When Marnie and I married we lived in Houston. However, our wedding was here in Atlanta. A week or so after the wedding it was my job to drive back to Texas with a car full of wedding gifts. The word full isn’t quite adequate. There was hardly a square inch of free space in our white ‘94 Honda Accord. Just enough room for the driver and whatever space was required to make breathing possible.
One of the great things about early married life – at least for us – is that for a while immediately following the wedding, everything in your home is from someone else. Marnie and I each brought a few items of furniture into our marriage, but most of what we had in our newlywed apartment was given to us. Everything around us reminded us of someone we knew and loved, and who apparently loved us. A set of knives, a coffee maker, a picture frame, a desk lamp or tool box or anything. Every time I handled the gift I thought of who gave it. We were literally surrounded by grace.
And we still are.
Paul’s distress with the Corinthians and their careless approach to the Lord’s Supper had to do with the given nature of the meal. Paul made it clear: “I passed on to you what I received.” This meal wasn’t an innovation Paul had introduced to Corinth. It wasn’t a work in progress. It was the Lord’s meal: Given by Jesus and handed down to all believers.
The crisis over the Lord’s Supper came about because certain Corinthians were acting as if the meal was theirs: something for their enjoyment, something to satisfy their appetites, something to host for their closest friends.
When grace was taken out of the meal, grace was also taken from the community itself. Once they forgot that the meal had been given, they no longer knew how to share it.
Everything in your life that truly matters is given to you. There’s nothing of true worth and value that you can look at and say “I deserved that” or “I earned that.” Paul confronted the Corinthians with this truth. “What do you have that you didn’t receive?” The answer is simply “nothing.”
Your family, your health, the sunlight or rain, the green light you barely made, the phone call from someone you haven’t talked to in a long time, the words of affirmation that you never expected, the kiss your daughter placed on the back of your hand. Anything that comes to you and makes you say, “I don’t want to ever forget this; I want to stay in this moment for as long as I possibly can.” Whatever that might be is a gift.
Life is received. It comes by grace. When you forget the grace, life is diminished.
What have you received today and how will that grace shape your living?
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of this day and every other gift that will come with it. Whatever the day brings, I will receive it as from you. Help me to live this day thankfully, surrounded and sustained by your grace, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.