In Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, we read a very familiar verse on the topic of love:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)
It’s easy to read verses like this, nod my head in agreement, and move on to the next verse. But if I pause and think on this verse, I find something here that goes deep, brings conviction and can change my life.
Every day I use words to communicate all sorts of things. I use words when I want or need something. Maybe I am trying to share the truth about the Gospel with a co-worker or friend, or even just talking generally about life. At times I get irritated by another’s words or actions and respond negatively with words. I even use words to pray to the Lord. James points out, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10 ESV)
So Paul teaches us something crucial about how we ought to communicate. It does not matter what language I can speak, whether of man or even of angels, but if my speech is not coming from a heart and attitude of genuine love, then what really comes out of my mouth is empty noise, unharmonious and useless sound, which is of no benefit or delight.
Matthew Henry wisely notes,
“It is not talking freely, nor finely, nor learnedly, of the things of God, that will save ourselves, or profit others, if we are destitute of holy love. It is the charitable heart, not the voluble tongue, that is acceptable with God.”
“Let love be genuine.” (Romans 12:9a ESV)
What comes to your mind when you read 1 Corinthians 13:1? How do you find this verse revealing in your own life?