In the last year, Disney stock has doubled. If I had $10,000 and a time machine where I could go back and invest in Disney stock, I’d be stupid not to, right? It seems obvious – who doesn’t want to double their money in a year? But now let’s say that when I go back, I also have the option to invest in GameStop stock which has gone from $4 a share to $200 a share. In isolation, going back and investing in Disney seems like an obvious, good decision, but when compared with other investment opportunities, it’s proven to be a bad option. This is the concept of opportunity cost, and Paul understood this when writing to the Church in Corinth.
The Church in Corinth was interested in spiritual gifts and was comparing different spiritual gifts and coveting those who had “better” gifts. Paul responds to this in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14. Listen to his words in the middle of these chapters:
“But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:3
Do you see the opportunity cost? For the church in Corinth, desiring spiritual gifts only became a bad thing when it came at the expense of loving one another. We can take this principle and apply it to the modern Church where we face issues the early Church never faced.
For example, the New Testament writers would not recognize our world today where Christianity has a significant influence within the culture and government. For this reason, the Bible is mute on this subject, and as the Church has started losing influence, we find that the Bible is also mute on how to handle this.
What would Paul say to the modern church? We can speculate based on his words to the early Church. What follows is my hypothesis of what Paul might write to the American Church. (Please know that I understand that this is simply speculation and that I by no means am claiming this to be inspired by God and equal with Paul’s words.)
If we set up a government that provides perfect religious freedom to the church, but we do not love, our labor is useless. If within the government, we correctly define gender choices, but we do not love, we gain nothing. If we write all the laws and ensure they align with the morality of God, but we do not love, it’s all for naught. If we articulately dispute the flaws of our culture’s values and godlessness, but we do not love, our words are in vain.
Am I concerned about the culture in America? Absolutely. Do I feel that our departure from Biblical truth and values will be destructive? Absolutely. But just as Paul affirmed to the Church in Corinth that spiritual gifts are good, but inferior to love, I say that focusing on shaping culture and its beliefs is inferior to loving those within the culture.
When our primary focus becomes attempting to make the culture look like God’s Kingdom, we fail to focus on what is most important, which is radically loving all, and that is a poor investment decision I pray we don’t make.