By Lynn Jones
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture. The church in Corinth was having disagreements when they got together to worship. Paul wrote to them, “That is not the way to do things. I want to show you the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). Then he described this “excellent way”.
Paul said that without love, everything that you do for the Lord and for others is meaningless. He wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and have no love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have no love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-4).
Love is the supreme motive. Its presence can make small gifts meaningful, and its absence can make big gifts meaningless–even giving everything you have to feed the poor or giving your body to be burned at the stake as a martyr.
A young woman wrote a love letter to her former fiancée. The letter said, “Dear Tommy, can you ever forgive me? No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you. Yours forever, Mary.
P. S. And congratulations on striking oil on your property.”
Now, right off, we get a little suspicious about that letter. The reason that we do is because we question its motive. If it were a genuine expression of love, then it would undoubtedly have a very touching effect on the young man. But if the letter were written out of greed instead of love, then it comes across as cheap and shoddy. The motive behind the letter is as important as the letter itself. It is the same with gifts. Great gifts can be negated if they are not given in love.
On the other hand, small gifts can become large if given as an expression of genuine love. Some of the most beautiful bouquets consist of a few bedraggled flowers plucked from a field and presented to a mother in the hand of her small child. I have seen tears come to the eyes of a mother who has received such a bouquet. Why is that such a moving gift? Because it is given out of love.
And that is what makes our gifts to the Heavenly Father meaningful. It’s not the size of the gift we give Him, but what motivates us to give it to Him that makes it meaningful. Love is the only acceptable motive!
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.