1 Corinthians 12:31b–13:3 (NASB95)
31b And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
During this Christmas week, I am thinking about the many times that I have received gifts over the years. Being 40, I have to have received 100’s of gifts in my lifetime from many, many different individuals. Yet, as wonderful as receiving gifts is, the way in which a gift is given is as important as or even more important than the gift itself. When a kid is forced to give a small present to every kid in his class, including the ones he dislikes, it doesn’t mean as much as when that same kid excitedly gives his dad the glue-saturated Christmas craft that he has been working on all week at school to perfect. As a dad who has received many of these, I can tell you that the thought really does count.
In the same way, the way we give away our spiritual gifts matters. Paul spends chapter 12 explaining to the Corinthians the importance of each spiritual gift within the body of Christ and how we are to value our own gifts and the gifts of others. He further expounds on the use of gifts by explaining “a still more excellent way.”
You see it is not having a spiritual gift to share that is the important thing. It is why and how we share them that really matters. The most gifted teacher who uses their gift to share their own thoughts on life to entertain rather than God’s thoughts on life to edify makes his gift of little value. Those who have spent their life studying the depths of biblical wisdom yet are too comfortable or preoccupied to spend time sharing it with others is wasting their life. The one who has persevered through a life of trial and learned to trust God without hesitation but is not willing in love to reach out to one who struggles daily with doubt has missed God’s plan for their hardship. If I am the most philanthropic or heroic person I know, but I am doing it because of the feeling I get or the recognition I receive from those I’ve helped, my sacrifice is worth very little.
On the other hand, true love is the one who speaks the hard truths of scripture for the good of others even when they know they will take some flak. Love is the one who spends years pouring over the line by line of scripture to build into one searching divorcee whose questions never seem to end. Love is the one who has to relive the terror of their childhood trauma in order to assure a questioning college student that God is still faithful even when their parent was not. Love is the one who goes without, day after day, so that someone they have never met can thrive. Love is the One who saw His enemies (Rom. 5:10) on a path to destruction and ruin yet chose to humiliate Himself by becoming a weak and vulnerable baby who grew to become a willingly weak and vulnerable sacrifice for sin.
May we choose to do whatever it takes to love through our spiritual gifts and in doing so honor the One who did whatever it took to love us!