Daily Office Readings – NT ( 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 )
Growing up, one of the phrases I heard quite a few times from either youth pastors, or pastors who wanted to relate to the youth was the phrase in the title of this post. Of course, the phrase could just as easily reference “boys who do…” and it was changed to that when the girls got together in youth group. And, when needed, the list of prohibited actions was changed to make the point of remaining pious and pure.
The primary focus of this phrase was, of course, dependent upon the idea that “your body is a temple” and that “God’s Spirit dwells in you.” No small amount of shame was spread around when people were found to be engaging in those sins that were deemed prohibited.
The curious aspect of these lists, unfortunately, was an inferred hierarchy of sins. Often, the person who was chastising someone for drinking, smoking, dancing, or whatever the sin du jour was at that time, would themselves be engaged in another sin. For instance, often the pastor of a parish would chastise and shame those found to be drinking or smoking, when they themselves were clearly suffering from the sin of gluttony. But a pastor who weighed 400 lbs was not considered to be sinful, while an athletic man who drank occasionally would be considered truly despicable. Is one “temple” better than the other? Of course not.
This passage about our bodies being a temple has been used to push agendas of behavioral purity even though Paul is not really talking about the body here. Sure, he mentions the body as the temple in this passage, but the first few chapters of Corinthians deal with those who think themselves wise, and about how the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s eyes; or how the wisdom of God is considered foolishness to those who cannot understand God. In verse 20, Paul gets back to the main idea, which is that God knows the thoughts of the wise.
It is not our physical bodies, or our behaviors that are the temple of God, but our minds and our thoughts. We have the mind of Christ, Paul writes (cf 1 Cor. 2:16), and everything that Paul writes focuses on the idea that our minds are transformed into understanding the will of God (cf Romans 12:2). While our behaviors might be a symptom of our lack of understanding of God’s will in our lives, focusing on behavior just drives us into the realm of exactly what Paul is attempting to get the Corinthians to avoid, namely dividing themselves into groups based on their leadership – and on their teachings. Or, put more bluntly, into groups that thought they were more right (or righteous) than the others.