Incest, Greed, and Idolatry

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 5.9-10
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

Reflection: Incest, Greed, and Idolatry
By John Tillman

Pause for a moment and summon up your feelings about the sexual sin of incest. 

Think about how destructive it is, about how often it is rooted in or leads to abuse, and about how, even in our sexually freewheeling culture, it is considered repulsive….

In this letter to Corinth, sexual sins take the forefront because Paul is addressing a case of incest, a specific kind of sexual sin. But Paul hardly ever mentions sexual sins without also mentioning sins involving power, idolatry, and wealth. The most skipped-over words in the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians may be “or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.” This shows that Paul, in comparison to incest, considers greed and idolatry to be equally repulsive, equally abusive, equally destructive, equally sinful, and therefore an equal reason to be subject to church discipline.

It’s uncomfortable to think about sins that we are prone to being the spiritual equivalent of incest. Although most Christians understand the belief that “sin is sin” and all sins are the same before God, in reality we all see the sins of others as having great and terrible import, while we minimize, excuse, and normalize our own sins. 

Paul would have us as uncomfortable with greed and idolatry as we are with incest and other sexual sins. But are we? When was the last time someone was disfellowshipped from a church for greed? When was the last time Christians boycotted something due to greed? Are you greedy and a Christian? Paul advises other Christians not to eat with you.

Paul does not encourage boycotts or avoiding non-Christians who are active in sin. It is only believers who are continuing, unrepentantly in sin who are subject to this kind of treatment. Christians with a subculture mentality, who isolate themselves from interactions with non-believing “sinners,” are doing exactly what Paul says not to do.

We should also remember that Paul’s instructions about removing fellowship are intended to be an effort to warn and correct others so that they may be won back through repentance. 

May we never expect non-Christians to live differently before we show them love.
May we be gracious to one another as we face the conviction of the Holy Spirit in areas of serious sins, such as sexual sin, greed, and idolatry.
May we stand for the Christian sexual ethic without abandoning other ethical stances that scripture holds as equally important. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I hate those who have a divided heart, but your law do I love. — Psalm 119.113

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 18 (Listen -1:54)
1 Corinthians 5 (Listen -1:58)

Read more about In Denial about Greed and Power
If there is anything that can still be shocking in today’s world, it is that we still don’t fully admit or understand the destructive nature of the sins of greed and power.

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The sins that brought God’s judgment and caused the exile of Israel were multi-faceted. But there is a common thread—injustice.

Contributors’ Choice :: Jon Polk

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 6.14
By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

1 Corinthians 15.56-57
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

From John Tillman: This season of Readers’ Choice has been a joy. I’m pleased to wind it down with three selections from contributing writer, Jon Polk. We will be hearing from Jon in devotions this September as well. Thanks to all for sharing a few steps of your faith journeys with us.

Reflection: Contributors’ Choice :: Jon Polk
Selected by contributing writer, Jon Polk, from Hong Kong

Theology is Like a Watch
Originally posted, January 30th, 2019

Jon: It is easy for us to forget that Jesus likely would not have been considered a “good church member” because he was always ruffling the feathers of the church leadership of his day! When he broke or bent Jewish laws, he did so both to demonstrate that he had come to fulfill the law and that he was Lord above the law. Baxter’s analogy of theology as a watch with intricate pieces reminds us that we should read all of scripture through the “Jesus lens.” 

“‘Theology is a curious, well-composed frame. Just as it is not enough that you have all the parts of your watch or clock, but you must see that every part is in its proper place, or else it will not go, or answer its end; so it is not enough that you know the various parts of theology or law, unless you know them in their true order and priority.’

When Jesus is asked what the two greatest commandments are, his answer tells us how to set our watch by the two guideposts on which hang the entire law—Love God and love others.”

Our Opportunistic Opponent
Originally posted, February 18th, 2019

Jon: This post is an excellent reminder that Satan is neither as powerful as we often like to make him out to be, nor is he uninvolved in the world. Wouldn’t it be much easier to resist temptation if the devil always showed up in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork? 

“Temptations are a time for us to come to terms with our limitations and recognize our sinfulness. In times of tempting, when we feel our limitations, there is comfort knowing that our tempter is also limited. His opportunity to torment us will come to an end. By Christ’s mercy we can resist Satan and he will flee. But just as when Satan left Jesus in the wilderness, he is only waiting for an opportune time to return.”

He Stoops to Raise
Originally posted, June 18th, 2019

Jon: While I acknowledge that the Resurrection is the miracle which provides our hope for salvation, I’ve always felt that the deep miracle of the Incarnation is more profound. God himself, acquiesces to human limitations, being born as a helpless human baby, totally dependent on human parents. God willingly sets aside his divine nature in order to walk among us so that we might know him. What a sacrifice! May it inspire us to do the same, not looking to our own interests but to the interests of others.

“He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

He lowers himself
Steps down, descends
He stoops
He kneels
Head bowed
He bends”

Divine Hours Prayer:  A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Disciple is not superior to teacher, nor slave to master. It is enough for the disciple to grow to be like his teacher, and slave like master…” — Matthew 10.24-25

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 23 (Listen – 4:18) 
1 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:15)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 24 (Listen – 3:36), 1 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 1:58)
1 Samuel 25 (Listen – 7:12), 1 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 3:03)
1 Samuel 26 (Listen – 4:30), 1 Corinthians 7 (Listen – 6:09)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Too Much to Hold
Jesus is more than death can hold. It tried. Death can hold worlds, countries, massive unnumbered masses. But Christ could not be contained or held back.

Read more about Supporting our Work
We are in the process of switching over to Tithe.ly to serve as our donation management system. If you would like to join our donors, simply follow the link. If you are a current, recurring donor, we have already contacted you about discontinuing your “subscription” through Stripe and switching over to Tithe.ly. As always, feel free to email us directly with any questions!

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.