tongues, money, martyrdom, and love

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding bronze or a tinkling 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, and have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”  -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

_______________________________________________________________

This passage is the pentecostal’s worst nightmare and the non-pentecostals greatest excuse.  First off, let me say I consider myself to be neither.  After much experience, I prefer not to wear the “pentecostal” label… though I am filled with the Holy Spirit and I do have a prayer language that I use quite often.  I prefer the descriptive term “filled with the Spirit” rather than the inclusive and possibly exclusive group label “pentecostal”.  “I am filled with the Spirit” sounds entirely different than “I am a pentecostal”. 

The oft-used phrase “filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues” boldly, and rightly, proclaims that a prayer language is one proof of the indwelling Holy Spirit in a believer.  But moving on in Christian living after the initial “second experience” as some have called it, requires caution.  The experience of speaking in tongues is without a doubt thrilling and entirely supernatural; and overuse is an impossibility.  However, the Holy Spirit Himself clearly tells us through the pen of Paul that neglecting to allow His influence on our inner man to be seen in both word and deed will cause us to become spiritual noisemakers at best.  We are in serious and dangerous error when speaking in tongues becomes a spiritual status symbol by which we judge the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of fellow church members.  Spirit filled prayer is not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity.  It is the method of prayer through which Gods Spirit “makes up the difference” when we fall short in our understanding in knowing how to pray in any given situation.  When we don’t know how to pray, we can pray God’s perfect will by using our prayer language.  1 Corinthians 14:14 says “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.”  We can easily forget that this blessing we call our prayer language is not given to supplement our wisdom-filled prayers, rather it is given as the remedy to our failure in knowing how to pray.

Make good use of your prayer language, and enjoy the experience of “speaking with the tongues of angels”, but don’t become too impressed with yourself if you could say with Paul “I pray in tongues more than you all”.  It is shocking but true that even praying in the tongues of angels is a useless racket unless we choose to live out love.

This passage is also a challenge to those who would consider themselves to be in the “word of faith camp”.  Prophetic insight into the Word of God which reveals mysteries and provides supernatural knowledge produces within us the ability to operate in supernatural kingdom principles.   One of those principles being faith-filled confessional prayer, speaking to situations in our lives which are out of line with God’s will for us and commanding them to change accordingly.  However, answered prayer is also not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity.  Many times, God answering our prayer is part of the process that we go through on our journey toward spiritual maturity.  His answer does not necessarily come because of our “ability through faith”, but because it is part of His grand plan for the shaping of our lives.  Pride in what we might consider “accomplishments” in prayer can blind us to the truth that such “accomplishments” are wholly achieved by the God who “works in us both to will and to do His good purpose.”  This is why we are told that only a tiny, “mustard seed” amount of faith is required to simply agree with, and invite an All Powerful God to move miraculously in our lives.  Overestimating our part in mountain moving faith can deceive us and hinder us from having a “sober estimation of ourselves”.

Having faith filled words in our mouth is important, but not as important as having love on our lips.  We are not warned in scripture of the possibility of loving too much and having too little faith.  Rather, we are clearly warned that we can have all faith, and yet be nothing if we have not love.

There is yet one more group on the rise in modern evangelicalism who must watch their lives closely lest they be deceived, and that is those involved in the “social justice movement” in the church.  We learn from this incredible passage of scripture that it is possible to be generous enough to give all of our money to feed the poor, but do so with the wrong motive and have it profit us nothing.  I’ve written what I consider an important post on the topic of alms giving here, in which I suggest that in a large degree the church has neglected true alms giving… At times we meet the material needs of those in need around us or abroad, but we neglect paying the higher price of pouring our lives out in relationship to truly meet the deep spiritual need of those same people… that is, to know they are loved unconditionally.  Many Christian families will send out a $30 check once a month to sponsor a child overseas but are much less willing to welcome into their home the troubled teen from down the street.

We can meet the material needs of a person without making them feel loved… and we can give away all our money without ever truly loving a person.  Giving money is most definitely not equivalent to giving love.

The final portion of the passage I’ve quoted above is perhaps the most surprising… and as Christians in America, we give it very little consideration.  While Christians around the world are dying for their faith, (at times gruesome, horrible deaths), we have yet to experience such persecution in our great nation.

This truth from scripture seems impossible… that a person could die a martyr’s death and profit nothing from it.  “Though I give my body to be burned and have not love it profiteth me nothing”.  Wow.  It’s not as difficult as one would imagine… to explain how such a great sacrifice could be fruitless and without profit.  The death of a deceived “christian”, though it be in the name of Christ, is no more profitable for the martyr than the award awaiting the Islamic suicide bomber.

This passage reveals to us that those things which love drives us to do can also be performed without love, and we should never judge our life or the lives of others based solely on what sacrifices we might make, but rather by the sacrifice of Christ alone.  This thought is the basis of a principle found throughout scripture which is this: “obedience is better than sacrifice.”  The honest believer, after a time of self-examination, will humbly admit that he has offered many sacrifices that were performed more as recompense for his disobedience than out of love for his brother, but a man’s greatest sacrifice carries no merit toward the payment required for the very least of his sins.

______________________________________________________________

Prior to the beautiful exposition on love found in verses 4 through 13, these first three verses of 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen challenge us to consider that the daily fruit of our lives is much more telling than any of the significant acts that we may find the strength to perform.  Love is more a daily behavior than an occasional accomplishment.  To think of it as such is not only unprofitable, but potentially  perilous to the soul as our hearts can so easily deceive us.

Allow love to move you to good works toward your fellow man, and make a pattern of it.  There is no witness as powerful to the unbeliever as when you make a sacrifice on his behalf for the sake of the salvation of his soul.  But watch closely your daily behavior with everyone around you, especially those closest to you, and examine the measure with which you show patience, kindness, humility, purity, and selflessness.  For in these is love proven one situation at a time, day by day, over a lifetime.

.

.

.

5 Comments

  1. the way every thing to do with god always comes back to love always astonishes me. For something so simple to be so important is so awesome. I will be waiting for your next great post they are so awesome.

    • It astonishes me too JG… thanks for reading… definitely looking forward to chatting and hearing what God is saying to you about the topic.

  2. Thank you for writing – and emboldening – the statement about those who claim to follow Christ proudly parting with thirty of their dollars a month for a child in Africa, Asia or South America but not giving a thing to a person in need down the street from their home. (I have restated this in my own colours).

    Having been a single mom of three for twenty years, I have, with dismay and great sadness and pain, come to the conclusion that there is next to nil love in the church.

    Maybe I’m in the wrong part of the country … or the wrong country altogether … but my kids and I would have been dead a long time ago except for the kindness of strangers.

    It wasn’t my family or my ex-husbands family (devout Christians all, and all of substance) who sustained us.

    It wasn’t friends (though three provided one-time donations of food or clothing).

    It wasn’t body-of-Christ believers (though the three friends were – since distanced from me for some reason – perhaps because, once you fall into the pit of poverty, it’s impossible to get out of).

    It was my employers, the bank, the government department of social services on three brief occasions and two (2) strangers: one delivered a car load of groceries after dropping me off after school … and one delivered, every week for two years, even in -30 centigrade temperatures, one or two boxes of half rotten onions, apples and tomatoes and some several days old loaves of bread and/or donuts that he had picked out of the garbage bins behind a major grocery chain (for me and a few other single moms he knew in the neighborhood).

    Yes, I have been praying – (and yes, I have been working).

    One day I realized, though, as my parents were driving away after a visit, waving good-bye as they smiled happily as they left their daughter and grandchildren waving from the front door of their delapidated project home, with drug and gang leaders for neighbors with “clients” coming and going all night long and aggression a staple in the air, that they were at peace about their daughter and grandchildren; it was OK with them that they were suffering, living like that. And it’s probably OK with all the nice people who think they follow Christ, too.

    So it suddenly struck me (thank you, Holy Spirit) that our situation wasn’t about us: it was for everyone else. I had done nothing wrong but love and trust the people who I was told and believed were trustworthy and who loved me; dedicate myself wholeheartedly to love, provide for and protect my children with whatever I could muster and find; worked hard every day for their benefit and future. None of this was to teach me a lesson, the natural and logical consequence (i.e. punishement) for choices that had turned out to be for my/our destruction that, had I known before giving my vows, would have steered myself far away from.

    I don’t want anyone’s charity.I am loathe to receive anyone’s pity. I pray for those who think it godly to judge me. What I want is to matter to someone: to be loved. And it’s more than need: it’s evidence that God’s spirit (and God is love) is flowing in His people – that there ARE God’s people living here – that I’m not alone.

    That is all that matters.

    I don’t know about the masses of good people who attend churches everywhere – particularly in the wealthy ones – though I’m sure they tithe faithfully and probably heartily support overseas missions. I’ve not found one church yet that has a “mission” for widows and orphans in their own congregations.

    I do know about the two strangers, though. I am sure their names are written – probably boldly – in the Book of Life (and if they aren’t, I would like to petition that they be). They singlehandedly restored my faith.

  3. Deeae, this brief look into a season of the struggles you’ve faced has plainly revealed that God is with you in a great way. His presence and wisdom are manifest in your words, and though you’ve faced some difficulties, you’re faithfulness to God through it all has produced incredible strength. And thank you for sharing so transparently, because your story perfectly illustrates the truths I tried to convey in the post… knowing that the two strangers were the ones who “singlehandedly restored your faith” only further confirms that, generally speaking, the church is missing it’s mission, yet their is a remnant of people who are making an effort to express the self-sacrificing love that scripture calls us to. God Bless You.

    • You are blessed!

      Our power (desire, will and ability to act/express), when in relaxed submission to the rich love we have been given, creates supernatural, heavenly bonds that are eternal and cannot be broken. Such is the quality that God brings into our lives via Jesus the Christ. This is why faith needs action to be a complete intention, the fruition of desire. What an honour and priviledge to be called His own, instruments of His grace, blessed to be a blessing, all for His glory!

      Thank you, Brandon, for writing so boldly yet with gentle care on this topic and thank you for publishing it for others to read.

      Tiny Footnote: Submission is the supernaturally natural posture that closely follows openness and gratitude, choices from the heart that predicate receiving. We are literally submersed into the heart of the giver: embraced!

      Such a willing nature demonstrates enormous trust in what we have yet to see (what faith!). That it is all made possible through the Holy Spirit for our healing is blessing upon blessing. All honour the gift, thus the gift-giver: our Father God. So beautiful! Christ – the living water – never ends, being grace upon grace upon grace upon grace, in eternal flow.

      As we stand under the waterfall (as I have heard it so exhilaratingly stated), His peace and joy changes our charge from negative to positive, transforming our flesh to His spirit, manifesting His beauty through us. He is simply irresistable!

      PS: I re-read my first comment to your post and realized my hopelessness always ends up turning into hope somehow. All is not lost; there is no need for despondency or despair: the Church is, after all, the body of Christ – and not a single thing is impossible for Him! He knows the power of love on people. And others are noticing, too, talking about it and wandering closer to the sweet water. (It’s encouraging to remember that His own know His voice; it was the very voice that sparked them into being at their beginning!)


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.