Favorite Bible Verse? Not Likely

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Saturday in the week of Proper 19, Year 1 (Pentecost 16, 2015)

1 Corinthians 4:7 ~ What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

“I built this.”
“I earned this.”
“I am a self-made man/woman.”

These are the self-affirmations of the American dream. Paul challenges them, and that mythology, with this simple question: “What do you have that you did not receive?” I can claim to have built or earned something but, in the final analysis, whatever I have built or earned came as a result of the skills, talents, and resources that I received somewhere along the line in my life, and (more importantly) with the investment of the skills, talents, and resources of many others.

Paul’s point (I think) is the same one he makes privately to the young bishop Timothy: “We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Tim 6:7) Coming into this world naked and unprepared, suckling infants unable to build, earn, or self-construct, we start only with that which we a given by others: parents, family, community, and God. At core, everything we end up with, even that which we claim to have built or earned (including ourselves), comes from those gifts. Why, then, do we boast as if anything were not a gift?

Political candidates are being asked to quote their favorite bible verses. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear one mention this question? Not very likely, though.