1 Corinthians 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love, it profits me nothing.”
It’s that time of year again. Yellow buses slowed my progress as I drove to the office this morning. Drivers are out practicing their routes before precious cargoes appear at the curb.
Education has played such an important role in my life. I wandered through my elementary years not knowing much direction as to my future after graduation. When high school graduation came around, I remained in the dark.
My beginning major as a college freshman was not to be my final choice. As in my elementary years, I did some wandering from discipline to discipline.
It was in a 101 Speech class that seemed to turn things around for me. Dr. Chastain made it clear in his early lectures that human speech plays a major role in shaping relationships, institutions and even governments. I have lived to see that the professor was right. I began to see in my own speeches that my audience reacted in various ways. I recall being given an assignment for a persuasive speech. Persuasive speeches are an attempt to bring an audience around to your way of thinking. I gave my persuasive speech on a subject that I didn’t even agree with. I wanted to test my ability to bring an audience around to my side. What I accomplished was that some agreed, others were outraged that I could embrace such a liberal topic. The power of that experience drew me to a decision to major in speech.
Perhaps there is no place in the world where human speech is more prominent than in the church. I have seen people destroyed by words that have been spoken to them. I have seen others excel as a result of powerful words of affirmation. Jesus makes it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that “Words kill.” Marriages are sometimes destroyed by words. Children plummet into poor self-esteem as a result of being called “fat” or “stupid.”
Paul is teaching us in our text that eloquence alone does not result in noble outcomes. Without love, the best intelligence, the best content, the smoothest delivery must always be trumped by love.
Of all of the churches in the New Testament, the Corinthians were known for their words. The Greeks in general prided themselves in producing some of the greatest orators in history.
A cursory scan of I Corinthians 6 pictures a church where there was a lot of in-fighting. Christians were suing Christians. Paul argues, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If you are going to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?”
I often re-visit the matter of the importance of speech in the church. Each time I do, a desire in my own heart is elicited that makes me want to be a better person. One of the most important ways that I can accomplish this is to guard my tongue. The Bible is true, “Life and death are in the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21