Gleanings – Gifts that Divide?

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

“And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

Gifts are usually pleasant. Often they are coveted. As much as I say I don’t want one or need another, I never turn a gift down.

Gifts, however, among Corinthian Christians were a problem. In particular, speaking in tongues was pitting one believer against another. People with that gift thought of themselves more highly than they ought. All others were flying coach while they enjoyed first class.

Paul has to remind the church that gifts come from God and at His discretion. They cannot be possessed or manipulated. He also reminds the people of Corinth that gifts are given for the common good. If they do not build up everyone then they benefit no one.

Then Paul’s argument reaches a new height with a rhetorical flourish. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I am noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Faith, hope and love comprise the higher way and love towers even over the others. Without love, my gift is at best senseless sound and more likely incredibly annoying, even irritating to the ear.

This afternoon I will conduct a wedding rehearsal. Among the lessons for the service is a standard bearer, 1 Corinthians 13. This is so appropriate because surely we know about marriage what Paul teaches us about relating generally. Apart from love that seeks out and draws out the best in the other, there is 24/7 just a lot of grating noise. And all the gifts in the world, however sweet smelling or sweet tasting or spiritual spectacular, will not change that.

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