* Note: There are a few doctrines that, once learned, has become turning point in my life. This is one of them. And this is the chapter I discovered it.
Excerpts from my scripture journal:
1 Corinthians 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” First – though I could speak the language of man, or even multiple languages, that would be very desirable. Or what if I could speak every language – imagine that. What if no matter where I went, I could speak the native tongue! Who wouldn’t want that ability? Paul knows that this is desirable – and that is why he is identifying it – this is something we want and we work for. This is an ability the world would give great rewards.
And then he throws in another one which raises the ante – what if you could speak the language of angels? This is a spiritual ability and one that would bring great knowledge and blessings. Imagine this – what if you could speak to all men on both sides of the veil? How would this impact your life? He will tell you: “…and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” This is a real reality check. If the motivation isn’t pure, if it isn’t to help and to lift and to love, and to ultimately help others receive Eternal Life – then what am I doing? I can talk to them, I can talk to all of them… but I am just making noise. My words are meaningless, and my gift is worthless to them.
Then Paul raises the ante even more:
1 Corinthians 13:2 “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…” Imagine sitting in sunday school class, as a new teacher comes in – and they say, “I am your new teacher, and I want you to know that I have a knowledge of all the mysteries of the gospel, I know all of the scriptures, and I have so much faith that I can move that mountain – see?” – and as you look out the window you see the mountain moving, so it is evident that this person is what they say they are. But then, they add, “and because of what I know, I am really busy, so please don’t talk to me before or after class, I have no interest or time to get to know you.” Now, this is hard to imagine, and you could argue that such an attitude could never achieve the kind of growth in this verse – but this is kind of what Paul is doing – he wants us to think about how this all ties together and how vital charity is. It isn’t just something for us to put on our list as something we should work on someday.
“… and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” It would be hard to argue that someone who has the resume as listed in this verse as qualifying to be “nothing”, but this is the point. Those are not worth anything unless they are used in pure love. If I gain all knowledge so that I can be the smartest person in Gospel Doctrine, then that is a pretty shallow goal. If I gain all knowledge, so I can teach my children, my family, and my ward with power so that their lives are impacted – then that is different. Desiring to save others is at the very essence of being like Christ. And the more capable we are, the more knowledge we have – then we can give more to those that we really want to save. And all those gifts can be put into the storehouse until the Lord calls upon us to use them, and we will accept because we have charity.
Then Paul tries it one more time, and he raises the bar as high as it will go:
1 Corinthians 13:3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” There is nothing more we can give than this list of things. Paul is brilliant here as he helps us understand how absolutely vital charity is and how central it is.
No matter what I do, if it isn’t done with charity as my motivation, pure Christlike love, then it is of no true worth, it is not eternally profiting me, and it isn’t truly profiting you.