“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7
Paul could have easily been talking to the Hebrews standing at the base of Mount Sinai rather than the Corinthian believers to whom these words were addressed. The Hebrew nation walked out of Egypt with the wealth of kings after 400 years of oppression and slavery. How did this real life “rags to riches” story happen? It wasn’t because the Hebrews were excellent savers. It wasn’t because slave labor in the brick-making industry was a lucrative career. They left Egypt with untold riches because God put it on the hearts of the Egyptians to give them all that they asked.
“The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” – Exodus 12:35-36
Okay. Let’s review. God had sovereignly and graciously given the Israelites freedom from slavery in Egypt, abundant provisions and resources, and the promise of a great inheritance at the end of their journey. Sounds like a wonderful story of redemption to me…except for one small problem. The Israelites began to think that the freedom and the gifts and the promises were theirs by right. Somehow they came to believe that God’s goodness could be enjoyed anyway they chose. They plundered Egypt in order to live like the Egyptians!
We see this played out as Moses takes “too long” up on the mountain talking with God. The people grow weary of waiting and watching. So, instead of persevering as they eagerly await the instructions of their God, they take all the riches which He had given them and worship in a manner of their own choosing. They use gold and silver plundered from the Egyptians to make a golden calf. Then they arrogantly “sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:6).
Is this not what the Corinthian church was doing as well? Were they not made rich in redeeming grace, rich in spiritual gifts, rich in resources and knowledge, rich in future hope? And yet they had begun to think that all of these things could be used at their good pleasure. They ate and drank and played as if they had earned the right to do so. They were living more like Corinthians than Christians.
Here is why God made the Israelites extravagantly rich. Here is why God plundered the Egyptians of both their glory and their gold. “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze…And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.’” – Exodus 25:1-9
God richly blessed them that they may enjoy the greatest of all blessings- God was going to dwell in their midst! The gold and silver, the tabernacle and the law, were all means to this one great end. God redeemed them from under Pharoah’s rod that they might worship Him. God gave them riches that they might build a tabernacle and worship Him. God was bringing them to the Promised Land that they might dwell in the land and worship Him not build a bigger, better Egypt. Paul drives this home to the Corinthians throughout his letter.
Every good gift comes from above. Good health, functioning brain cells, a day off, a paid bill, a special gift or talent, 10 children, no children, friends, faith, hope, love…all these things and more are given by God for two non-negotiable purposes. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." – Mark 12:30-31
Let us love God and others today with the good gifts He has given us for the kingdom and the promise are already ours in Christ.