Part 3: Speaking God’s Language of Love
1 Corinthians 13:3 “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Of all the three verses of “love comparisons”, this one to me is the most shocking and the Scariest. In the other two we could grasp people competing with their words or with their gifting—but could we actually “sacrifice” and yet it mean NOTHING because of not being done from LOVE?? Does not sacrifice only come from a heart of love?? Is not sacrifice the proof of love?? How could giving it all up still count for NOTHING?! Could I be so spiritually blind that I would do such altruistic things like giving all to the poor and even sacrificing myself on the altar of martyrdom and YET it has just turned into another parade of my Ego?! Do the coins clink as I drop them in like the Pharisees? Could the platform I mount where I am to be totally sacrificed to Jesus only become another platform where I publicly declare my worthiness because of such great sacrifice??
The most dangerous form of blindness is spiritual blindness. A person who is physically blind realizes it and uses all their other senses and resources to compensate. The person who is spiritually blind DOES NOT realize it; there is no compensation. In fact there is only continual self-justification and resentment for anyone who offers help because they CAN SEE that the person is blind. How sad that I could spend all those years “Building the Kingdom” to see it go up in the smoke of realization that I was really “building my own kingdom.”
The Bible in some passages sets forth giving to the poor (James) and dying a death of martyrdom (Hebrews) as demonstrations of true religion. What could be more loving then giving my own stuff away? What could be more loving than giving my life for the Lord? YET this verses warns that even the most Self-less acts can become Selfish if they are done for a motive other than LOVE.
You can sometimes see hints of this in Ministry today. Someone makes a suggestion to us about an activity or ministry. We kindly (or not) inform them that we have been doing this “before you were even born”! We may not say this, but we are thinking it behind that nicely constructed smile/snarl.
Someone offers to help us but we wish they could see that God has done such a wonderful job of gifting us that their contribution would be quite irrelevant and annoyingly redundant: “I think God needs you somewhere else.”
“Of course I love the Lord, why else would I have given myself so sacrificially to such ungrateful people for so many longggg years??”
All these kind of reactions can reveal a heart that is not loving. Service and sacrifice have been substituted where there may have originally been a heart of Love--- but no more. What used to be the fruit of Love: sacrifice; has now been substituted for the Love itself. Where love puts the emphasis on how much I love sacrificing for Others; it has now become how much others owe Me for all I have sacrificed. Jesus warned the Church of Ephesus that service and sacrifice can never be a substitute for Love. The sad part is that the substitution can fill the spot where love should be and so I don’t even miss it!
GOD SAVE ME FROM MYSELF!!
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.