1 Corinthians 13:3

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

This is a hard verse for me.

So many times, my mind has skated by it like a speed skater, breezing by this verse. Over top the ice of a cold heart, I’ve thought mindless thoughts like, Ah yes, love; the love chapter; isn’t love nice? . . never really looking at what God’s Word is saying.

If I had skidded to a stop, ice flecks bursting from my skates, and taken a look at the rose of 1 Corinthians 13:3, I would have realized an immediate,




This verse dismantles nearly every trophy I hold on the shelf of Christian living.

Giving to the poor?  Giving my body to hardship??  NOTHING?!?


I’m actually a bit outraged.

Do You mean, God, that I can give my paycheck to poor children around the world . . eat pork and beans the rest of my life . . witness with a megaphone outside sports stadiums and have hamburgers and hot dogs thrown at me . . stand outside abortion clinics to pray and get screamed at . . drive a rickety old car for 20 years . . fund the education of a hundred children . . give my retirement savings to missionaries . . adopt an orphan . . go to a village without plumbing or electricity and spend the rest of my years there . . skip desserts to feed the homeless . . raise money for a new hospital in a developing country . . be on call 24/7 for girls in crisis pregnancies . . AND build a well with my own sweat and tears for a village BUT not get ANY credit for it because I didn’t do it out of love???

Something in me wants to become VERY indignant.  Something in me wants to protest, “That’s not fair!”  And something in me wants to fold my arms and glare up at God.

Do you know why?

Because it’s second-nature for me not to do things out of love.  Really, it’s first-nature.

I don’t have to try not to love someone.  It’s no work at all.  That doesn’t mean I naturally treat everyone like scum and abuse them.  It just means I can very easily (with or without thought) place my needs above theirs.

I can be discreet about my selfishness but still act selfishly.

I can pretend I care but really be faux listening in faux sympathy so that someone will say of me, Oh, that saint, she is so saintly.

I can carry on as though I’m encouraging someone for their own sake, when I’m really complimenting them so they’ll compliment me.

I can plan a generous act that looks like I’m trying to hide my benevolence just so someone will catch me at doing it.

I can gossip while looking as though I’m really actually concerned about someone (who isn’t, of course, present to the conversation).

I can even pretend to be very sweet while throwing out daggers.

I may not usually identify myself in the moment as acting without love, but when I look back, oh, I can see it.

How often do I really love somebody?

It’s a question that I feel God’s brought to my heart lately.  It’s something I guess I’ve often assumed I had a lot of.  After all, people usually say I’m sweet and kind and loving.  I guess that translated to me as really being those things.  But when I stop and assess my motives,

How often do I really love somebody, defining love as 1 Corinthians 13 does?

Not. Very. Often.

Diligent?  I can be diligent.  You want a bit of self-sacrifice?  I can muster it.  You demand loyalty?  I can sometimes come through for you.  Need zealousness?  You got it.  But ask me for love?

Why is it so hard to love?

I mean, it’s easy to love in the way Jesus talks about even unscrupulous people loving: loving friends and family who are nice to you (see Matthew 5:43-48).  Hey, we can all love like that.  But that’s not really love.  That’s more like what a dog feels for the owner who is secretly dubbed Mr. or Mrs. Treatsie.

Do you think that if you didn’t have treats to offer, and your next door neighbor did, your dog wouldn’t bury his collar in the backyard and jump the fence faster than you can say Lassie?  Why do we have fences and leashes, anyway?  Isn’t it because dogs aren’t really loyal?

You can train a dog to be loyal, in response to treats and conditioning, but that doesn’t mean your dog really wants to be loyal.  Here’s a simple test.  Sit in the living room on one end of the couch with no food, and have a random stranger off the street sit at the other end with a piece of steak.

Does Fido remember who gave him the bubbly bath last night, bought Greenies every week for him, paid the $800 for surgery on his broken leg instead of putting him to sleep, bought a trunk load of squeaky toys, and filled his bowl every morning and night faithfully for the last 5 years?

Test Fido with the steak, and you will see.

. . But we can’t really be hard on Fido.  After all, don’t we do the same?  I mean, does it matter how many times your husband changed the oil in your car, or your wife cooked you dinner, at the moment you’re having an argument?  Do you think back on those happy first dates during a conflict?  Do you say, Dear, you forgot to put your dirty socks in the laundry basket for the 9,000th time today, but I was just thinking about that time you bought me that beautiful bouquet of roses as a surprise.  Do you remember that?  Wasn’t that wonderful?

Our hearts are set on self-fulfillment, not on love.

To love with the hearts we have as sinners is like asking a snail to get his doctorate in biochemistry online in two semesters.

It’s not happening.  But if we know we believe in Christ, He can do what no amount of effort on our part can: He can take our old hearts away and give us new ones.

That doesn’t mean we immediately love perfectly when we become believers.  We have to learn how to use our new hearts.  But how do we learn?  Not from instinct.  Instinct will cause us to try to use our new hearts like we used our old ones.

The only way we can ever love is for Christ to teach us how to love with our new hearts.  We learn by listening to, obeying, and closely following Him.  He is the only one who can teach our new hearts to beat, and He is the only one who can inspire us to do anything out of a motive that is not gain nothing selfish.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)


The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://gracestories.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/1-corinthians-133/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: