26Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before Him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NIV)
If you have a book published, your publisher will be most interested in the people you can get to endorse your book. Most publishers are more interested in the quality of your endorsements than their quantity. If you can get some famous people to give your book a big thumbs up then your publisher will be quite pleased. You’ll sell a lot more books that way. I understand the “get the best you possibly can” approach to endorsements; it makes sense to me.
God, however, isn’t too impressed with that approach when it comes to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says, “think of what you were when you were called” (v. 26). The Corinthians, as it turns out, were not in enviable situations when they were called. They weren’t wise, powerful, noble, or strong. Rather, they were thought of as foolish and weak according to the cultural standards of their day. Paul goes so far as to imply that they were “low and despised things in the world” (v. 28). Ouch! It’s hard to be told you’re a relative nobody, even if you know it’s true.
I’m struck by the fact that God did not choose to call the kind of people whom we’d want to endorse books. God’s calling is not dependent on human accomplishment, fame, wealth, or strength. In fact, according to Paul, God prefers to call people whom the world would ignore or even denigrate so as to show the world just how messed up its values are.
This means if you and I are among the called, the last thing we ought to do is get puffed up with pride. If we do that, we misunderstand the truth of God’s calling. God chose “the lowly and despised in the world,” Paul says, “so that no one no one may boast before Him” (vv. 28-29). You and I are Christians not because we are so awesome, but because God is so awesome, so full of grace and mercy, so delighted to choose the lowly in this world as a demonstration of the gospel.
God’s “book endorsers,” if you will, aren’t impressive because of our amazing accomplishments. Rather, we bear witness to the wonder of the gospel precisely because, apart from God’s grace in our lives, we aren’t such a big deal. This gives us the freedom and responsibility to boast to others, not about ourselves and our achievements, but about God and God’s mind-blowing, culture-disrupting achievement of salvation through the humbling death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Gracious God, sometimes I can think more of myself than I ought to, thinking that You called me because of what I have to offer rather than because of Your grace. Help me, Lord, to be humble, not in my words and deeds only, but also in my heart. Amen.