The "Gift-Reward" Tension in 1 Corinthians

In 1 Corinthians St Paul not only confirms that the believers have already received God’s gifts, but also criticizes the Corinthians for their false dealing with these gifts. This paper tries to prove that for Paul God’s gifts can reveal their true meaning only in their link (tension) with the final reward. For Paul, God’s gifts are not self-sufficient, nor are they the final point of God-human relations. The Corinthians should not neglect them nor consider them as the token of their already realized salvation. The gifts are an indispensable foundation for the striving for the reward. Through this striving, the believers give a response to God’s gifts, and receiving the final reward crowns this God-human intercommunion. In other words, God’s gifts and God’s reward cannot exist without each other, and the responsible reciprocity of the believers provides a cohesive link between the two. In this paper some conclusions from the modern discussion on the nature of ‘gift’ and ‘reciprocity’ are used. Though some thinkers (like, for instance, J. Derrida, J.-L. Marion and K. Tanner) doubt the possibility of making a response to (the divine) gifts, others (like, for instance, J. Milbank, D. Albertson) insist on the essential necessity for a gift to co-exist with the reciprocal reaction. According to this latter view, any gift loses its meaning if it does not find a response. On the contrary, all relations (and primarily God-human relations) achieve their fullness if they exist in reciprocal exchange. These ideas from the modern discussion help to understand Paul’s call to the Corinthians not to leave God’s gifts without response. Only the reciprocal participation of the believers can bring them to the ultimate eschatological relation with God, which is actually the reward.