I have never been afraid of connecting things in our culture to spiritual lessons. When the Talking Heads did “Burning Down the House” back in the 80s it was a fun beat but the song writer himself said the song for most part was nonsense with some nod to the idea that the constant touring and other things being a band on the road would do to the normal family. There are also many other interpretations of this song. I however did not reference the song yesterday during my sermon at all because the main issue for me of First Corinthians is much more concrete than the Talking Heads put into their song.
That said I think Paul makes his point clear to them. The Corinthian church in Paul’s mind was carnal mostly because they were divided arguing over ‘The best way to eat Oreo Cookies’ type issues. The took pride in who led them to Christ and who baptized them. Paul ends this by pointing out that all of these men were nothing more than servants of God. One planted, the other watered but in the end it was God who made it happen.
Paul then uses the analogy of a building. Paul is the master builder along with all the other ministers. The foundation of the building is not them but Christ and each person needs to take great care in how they build upon it. Each person is building on the foundation but not all use the same care or use the same materials and Paul points out that the truth of how one builds their life on the foundation of Christ will one day be revealed by fire. The analogy points to the importance of building on Christ with both care and with the right materials. The Corinthian church would have had a greater understanding of this as their city had been struck by fire some years before. Paul would have been reminding them of something they saw in real life and connecting it to their spiritual relationship with Christ. In our relationship with God, there are two factors that Paul brings out in building a strong fire resistant building. 1) Such a building requires costly materials that require a great deal of effort to get and 2) That to build such a building requires time and wisdom.
If I have any complaint about modern Christian attitudes about building one’s relationship with God it is our lack of patience and willingness to sacrifice genuinely to get it. We want out relationship with Christ to be like instant gratification in our world. We want McChurch for worship with McPrayer for prayer time and McBible for our Bible study. We have a drive through mentality about our walk with God that we neither feel we have to give it real genuine time, nor do we have to sacrifice much to get it. The warning is that such a mentality builds ones walk with God quickly with poor materials that will be swept away at the time of judgment as by fire on a building made of wood, hay and stubble.
The crossroads decision of chapter three is simple. 1) we can continue to build quickly, cheaply and easily then watch it all burn or 2) we can recognize our own impatience and lack of willingness to pay a price for a closer walk with God. You can continue down the cheap and easy path or take the fork in the road that leads to a better walk with God realizing that you are going to have to sacrifice and patiently spend your time building the house according to God’s direction and using the best not the most convenient building materials. If the foundation is Christ, then we should build a building on that foundation that is worthy of Christ.