The Bible maintains a consistently high regard for those human qualities and actions that are noble, elevated, and good. Indeed, it encourages one to view such things in proximity to that dignity or glory which belongs in its purest form only to God.
Yet the biblical witness remains unimpressed by the tawdry or ungenuine proxies for those qualities represented by—for example—class or economic potency or impressive speech or educational credentials. It is not that any of these things is necessarily bad, just that they are awful measures of what is truly good. Too often, such things elevate what deserves to remain low and blind our eyes from recognizing what is best esteemed.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27–29 NRSV)
The news of a crucified messiah—that the Lord of history achieves his highest aims by that reconciliation which depends upon deep paradox—drives home the point. Hearts enlivened and eyes made sharp by this message remain ever attentive to discovering wisdom and strength where a conventional approach—the apostle Paul calls it fleshly—would never think to look.
The world is peppered with such people. Lacking all the accoutrements of achievement, they manifest strength, discernment, and generosity in sufficient measure to remove any glibness from the expression imitatio dei.
Paul is sure that the Lord’s tactic of taking up residence in the humblest of lives once and for all proves other measures of greatness to be the collective fraud that they are. The apostle’s point is hardly that true glory never shows up in the lives of successful and impressive people, only that it so much more frequently shines in and from those who lack those credentials.
Paul shares with his readers in Corinth a demographic insight: their numbers include few of the great and the good, the lettered, the eloquent, and the rich. He hardly gloats upon the scarcity of these, but considers that the demise of the old rules should occasion grateful laughter from those upon whom grace has shone.