1Co 13:1-3 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, 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 charity, 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 charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
There are many charitable organizations in the world. Many people set aside a certain amount of their income to give to charitable works. Others give in their neighborhoods as they see needs around them. Some do it with fanfare and others do it quietly; some to gain God’s approval and others to have accolades of men.
If we read the scriptures closely, we are going to realize that charity has nothing to do with giving. It is possible to give away all we have for the benefit of the poor and still not have an ounce of charity. We can even give up our life and still not have charity. To do anything without godly charity is an empty gesture.
In the closing of chapter twelve, Paul speaks of the gifts that God set in the church. He speaks of apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, of healings, helps, governments, and speaking different languages (1Co 12:28). He tells us to treasure these wonderful gifts of God, and then says there is an abundant path (more excellent way – 1Co 12:31) by which we should do so.
As an apostle, Paul declares that should he speak with great oratory (the tongues of men) the wondrous message of God’s grace and love (the tongues of angels) and yet fail to do it with the love of Christ (Joh 13:34-35) , then it is an empty effort. Instead of sounding out as the message of God and touching the heart, it is just so much empty noise. It might grab the attention for a moment, but it would leave no lasting impression of the glory of God.
Even when blessed to declare promise or give warning from God’s word, the love of Christ must be manifest in it for it to be effective. We may be able to amaze others with our understanding of scripture or our ability to quote the Bible. Still, if we don’t have the love of Christ in our hearts for the hearer, then we are fruitless in our efforts. Even having faith to overcome great obstacles, if the love of Christ is lacking from our effort then we are nothing.
We can spend great effort in going among God’s people to preach and teach. If we do so in order that men might speak of our great effort, then it is vain. We can wear ourselves out doing for others, but if it is only to make a name for ourselves, we will find no profit in it. Only in going as we are led by the mind of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit will we find any benefit in our efforts.
It is important to note that Paul did not say that God could not or would not use our efforts to bless His people, even when we do so without charity. Paul said that to do so would leave us empty. We would not see God glorified in our efforts, nor would we long enjoy the praise of men. Sooner or later our lack of charity will expose us as selfish and seeking vainglory (Php 2:3).
May all our efforts be prompted by charity (love of Christ) toward God’s people, that His joy would remain in us and our joy be full (Joh 15:11)!