Give the Word Time to Work

While reading my Bible recently, these words stepped up and stared me in the face:

Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:24)

I wanted to move on, but I couldn’t. I thought I already had the point, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw personal implications that I hadn’t seen before. For me, these moments are often the beginning of life transformation.

Let No One Seek His Own Good?

Being a Christian Hedonist, I first had to make sure I was clear on what Paul meant by “let no one seek his own good.” Because, of course we’re supposed to seek our own good! That’s the only reason anyone who finds a treasure in a field sells all he has to buy that field (Matthew 13:44).

But that’s not what Paul was talking about. What he was addressing in chapters 8–10 was Christian liberty. He wanted to make sure his readers understood that they should never exercise their freedoms in Christ if those freedoms gave offense to others. It may be true that in Christ “all things are lawful,” but Paul reminds his readers that “not all things are helpful” or “build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23). If our freedoms give offense to other Christians or non-Christians, love demands that we forego our freedoms so that we don’t destroy or inhibit someone else’s faith (1 Corinthians 8:11–13; 9:22; 10:28–29).

“Let no one seek his own good” means our priority should not be pursuing our freedoms, but others’ faith. In this sense, a true Christian Hedonist would never pursue his own good over another’s faith because, as John Piper says,

By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy, you cannot love man or please God.

But the part of this text that hit me hardest was the “neighbor” part. As the text stared at me, it seemed to be asking, How much is your neighbor’s faith your priority? How much are you thinking of your neighbor’s faith when it comes to the way you live?

Piper: “If you abandon the pursuit of your own joy, you cannot love man or please God.”

I’m not eating in any “idol’s temple” (1 Corinthians 8:10) that I’m aware of, though I am not finished with the investigation. But when I reflect on Paul’s approach to life, how he sought to “become all things to all people, that by all means [he] might win some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), I’m once again confronted with the layers of my selfishness.

Meditation Leads to Transformation

All the implications of 1 Corinthians 10:24 are not yet clear in my mind and heart. This text is not done with me. I need to give it more time. And that is my reason for writing.

When a text grabs our attention, we must allow it time to do its work. The Spirit’s use of the sword of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12) to pierce into our deep places and bring about sanctification and transformation doesn’t always fit neatly into a daily devotional time or a Bible reading plan. Sometimes we need to clear our devotional schedule and linger over a text and wrestle with it, and probe into it, and let it probe into us.

Unhurried meditation is what leads to the mind’s transformation (Romans 12:2), which leads to behavioral application, which leads to lifestyle transformation. Such meditation may only require ten minutes, or it may take ten months. However the Spirit leads, linger.

Give the Word time to do its work.