“the Day will declare it”
1 Corinthians 3:13
So I cut myself last Saturday ~ twice ~ while preparing sweet potatoes for our first Thanksgiving. We’re lucky enough to have two every year ~ one with extended family and one with close friends and more immediate family. My favorite dish to prepare is my apple and sweet potato gratin, mostly because it’s the only way I enjoy eating sweet potatoes. Also, my hubby and kids love it, and that makes it rewarding to make.
So I accidentally cut myself twice, while slicing the apples, and I was very aware of it both times. I was also very aware of it when I squeezed lemon on the apples to keep them from browning…
Then Sunday morning when I woke up, I was aware of those cuts again. Mostly that was because one of them was still quite sore. And I thought to myself, I guess that one was worse than I thought. And then I thought about the other cut, and I realized it was nowhere to be found. It was slight enough that a good night’s sleep was all that was needed to heal it (or at least heal it to the point that I couldn’t quite remember where it was). Neither one had bled, so I hadn’t really had a good idea of how bad they were.
And I found myself thinking about this curious verse in 1 Corinthians. Curious, in that people seem to have trouble understanding it. Here’s the larger passage:
“For no one can lay any foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear, for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
That’s verses 11-15. And then here it is in the Message translation, which is, generally speaking, a looser translation, but can help with the overall gist of it…
“Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive, but just barely.”
I think the things that throw people is the word “work” in “the fire will test each one’s work” and the word “Day” in “the Day will declare it”. The Day refers to Christ’s return, when everything that has been accomplished on earth will be recognized and evaluated. And the work, well that is just what we’re doing for God. Things done in His name. Because it is possible to be accomplishing things in His name, but with wrong motives. He’s gonna know the difference, and those things will not stand the “test of fire”. Our salvation does not depend on any of this, of course; that’s important, but some of those things we thought were proof of our faith ~ are going to be revealed as proof of our pride, or our selflessness.
Here’s how one commentator put it: “Once one realizes that Jesus is the Christ, everything he does from that point on builds upon that foundation.” What am I doing? What are you doing? And are we fooling ourselves, thinking we’re doing admirable things, when really He’s not impressed at all?
I didn’t know until the morning came, how bad (or good) those cuts on my fingers were. They both felt the same to me at the time, but clearly I was wrong in what I thought. And I’m reminded that ultimately, it’s not what I think that matters. “Not my will, but His,” must be our refrain.