If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 1 Corinthians 15:19

It has taken me a long time to understand this verse. When I became a Christian, my life improved so much that it was hard to understand why Paul would say, “if it is only for this life…we are to be pitied…” whereas I was thinking if it is only for this life, I’m still better off. The Christian life yields many benefits – forgiveness, peace, comfort, community, purpose, significance, etc.

When you look at the life of Paul you can understand why he would say, “we are to be pitied”. Since he writes elsewhere, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, …in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles…”(2 Corinthians 11:24-25). His life was one where he was constantly in danger because of the cause of Christ. He lived a sacrificial life in order to spread the gospel. We see many missionaries doing likewise. Less obviously we see Christians in all walks of life making huge sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

Yet Paul doesn’t say, if it is only for this life…I am to be pitied. Or if you are a missionary, you are to be pitied. He applies the verse to all of us. We should all be making sacrifices for the cause of Christ that would not be worth it if this life is all there is. We should all be living in such a way that makes no sense if there is nothing beyond the grave.