Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my good to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)
Today’s big question: how important is it for us to love?
Much of 1 Corinthians was written to correct the abuses that had been taking place in the church at Corinth. Among other problems, they were divided, abused spiritual gifts, tolerated sexual promiscuity, sued fellow believers, and were caught up in worldly wisdom. They were a carnal church.
In the midst of his rebuke and instruction, Paul designated an entire section to the importance of love. Using a literary device known as hyperbole, he told the Corinthians that it didn’t matter how many incredible things he could possibly do, it would all be worthless if he didn’t love. Without love, the incredible feats were meaningless and likened to a clanging cymbal.
The reason for the emphasis on love is clear. If we feed the poor, visit the elderly, mow someone’s yard, or do any other sort of good deed, but do not love, then we are seeking our own glory and self-righteousness. We will be like the Pharisees about whom Jesus said, “But all their works they do to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:5). However, if the love of God is what motivates us to do good deeds, we will do these things for the glory of God rather than ourselves.
Consider the church of Ephesus as it was described by the Lord in Revelation 2. These believers were doing some good works. They labored hard to defend the faith against false teachings, and they demonstrated patience and persevered through persecution. But Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). This church did some great things, but apparently they had forgotten the true reason for their actions.
We have people in our world today who think they are faithfully doing the Lord’s work, but they are like the Pharisees in that they show little or no love in the process. They are quick to point out errors and condemn others for sin, but how often do they examine their own lives? Do they even care about correcting someone in a spirit of gentleness and love (Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:14–15)?
Reflect on your own life. Are your actions motivated by the love of Christ or love of self?
Today’s big idea: without love, we are nothing.
What to pray: thank God for loving you, and ask Him to help you love others.