“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
As I studied the first three verses of this passage I felt God impressing upon my heart a picture of what life is like without Him. I am not referring to only those who have not come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but also referring to those of us who bear Christ’s name but live our lives as though He is not a part of it.
I want to do a little exercise with you. I’ve taken the Message version of the first three verses and inserted God where the word love is.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t have God, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t have God, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t have God, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without God.
When I read that I pictured a life that is pretty hollow, grim, and meaningless. No matter how much we have, how talented we are, or smart we are, we truly are nothing and have nothing of true meaning without God.
Do you have God in your life?
There are three lessons God showed me in these verses that I want to share with you.
Our words and our actions carry weight with them.
If we do not have God in our lives, if we do not allow that agape love to flow from us then Scripture says our life is just noise.
The word 'resounding' also used as 'noisy' describes the sound of a roaring sea. A roaring sea is not calm, tranquil, or even inviting. In fact, it can be downright destructive.
The word clanging means to repeat frequently. It was a term used to describe the frequent cry the soldiers made as they entered into battle. It also describes wailing or lamenting.
Interesting, the online dictionary defines the word noise as sound, especially of a loud, harsh, confused kind.
Our lives without God, without that agape love, are just loud, harsh, confusing, repetitive noise.
God created us for so much more than to be a loud noise in this world.
Do your words and actions invite calm and tranquility for others to enter into, or are they harsh, loud, confusing and even at times destructive?
Our second lesson is the how-to of being part of a functioning body.
You see, it will not matter what Spiritual gift you have been given or what talents God has graced you with if they are not used with the love God commands of us.
This word ‘nothing’ in verse 2 and 3 means just that-nothing, but it also carries the meaning of no one.
Sadly, even within our churches, we have become a society of comparison. We either wish we could be like someone else, wanting the gifts or talents God has given them, or think too highly of ourselves and the gifts and talents God has given us. This comparison leads to discord and division within the body of Christ.
Are you grateful for the gifts God has given you or do you compare yourself to others? God designed you exactly the way HE wants you and for the very purpose HE created you for. Use your gifts and talents through the love God calls you to so that you fulfill the purpose He created you for.
Paul is reminding us here about service and sacrifice, two key components to our discipleship. Whether we serve on a ministry team or volunteer in the nursery, service is crucial to our walk with God and our fellowship within the body.
Likewise, sacrifice is part of our discipleship. Christ tells us if we are to follow Him we must take up our cross.
No matter our act of service or sacrifice, if done void of God and His love they produce nothing of lasting significance. Love is what makes our actions beneficial to the receiver and a blessing to us. Anything done out of our own strength produces nothing.
You created me on purpose and for a purpose. Without You I can accomplish nothing of real significance. With You I am a tool to be Your light to this world. Lord, help me to serve out of the overflow of my filling up from You.