“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
When most people think of 1 Corinthians 13, they associate this chapter with Valentine’s Day, weddings, and greeting cards. Although there is a beautiful and poetic quality in the language and writing, these verses also offer a direct and important challenge if we are open to receiving.
In the Bible, the Corinthians were enamored with people that used fancy and eloquent speech. Paul knew this and issued a direct reminder to the readers of the letter. “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) He’s lightly using hyperbole here to cover any means of communication while directly addressing the specific areas that he’s talked about throughout the book. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it sounds or how compelling the delivery. Without love, the fancy communication means nothing. Immediately, it brings to mind how often we communicate in various ways in our culture. I don’t want to be a noisy gong.
A noisy gong or a clanging cymbal creates a sound that can startle and cause you to pause. But, just making a loud noise usually isn’t very purposeful, in and of itself. Without love as the driving force, our communication can create the same effect. It may cause people to pause for a second and garner people’s attention, but without love there is nothing of substance attached. This fact led me to consider my motivations when I talk about Jesus, as well.
In Matthew 6:1, Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” If we aren’t careful, it can be more important to us that people think that we are good, rather than He is good. There is an important question that I ask myself to help to determine my motives from time to time. Am I doing this SO God loves me or am I doing this BECAUSE God loves me? I must evaluate if my actions are based on an effort to earn God’s favor or come as the result of my connection with Him.
It’s scary how easily we can slip into “noisy gong” mode. For example: We can do nice things for others and find passive ways to let people know, but make it seem like we are unwillingly acknowledged for doing it. We can say things on social media that are directed toward one person, but we really want everyone to see what we said and how we said it to that one person. We can share a hope-filled message about Jesus, but have a secret desire to be celebrated for the delivery and not care if it leads the listener to heart-change. I say “we” to all those things, but I certainly know that I’ve been guilty of all of them at times. In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” I don’t want to be a noisy gong. If I am, I’m only left to be assessed by my abilities, rather than pointing to Christ and resting in him.
As you look inward, are there areas of your service to Him that have been tainted by selfish motivation?