1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.…
The Revised Version renders "charity" as "love." Explain "charity;" distinguish from "almsgiving," and from the love that is connected with human relationships. If we could intelligently use the word "charity" to express God's love for us, we should be able to use it intelligently of the love which we have, as Christians, for each other, and of the love that must tone and temper the use of all Christian gifts. Charity is the considerateness and care for others which finds expression in self denial for their welfare. Charity is the spirit in a man which leads him to put others before self. Our Lord's life on the earth was a life of charity; love for men, longing for their highest good, and readiness to suffer, if by suffering he could do them good, are its characteristic features. His charity is commended to us. It has been said that the "English word 'charity' has never risen to the height of the apostle's argument." At best it does but signify a kindly interest in, and forbearance toward, others. It is far from suggesting the ardent, active, energetic principle which the apostle had in view. And though the English word "love" includes the affection which springs up between persons of different sexes, it is generally understood to denote only the higher and nobler forms of that affection, the lower being stigmatized under the name of "passion." Charity, then, is to be regarded as the tone and motive to which God looks; things, actions, are accepted by him, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the spirit and character for which they find expression. The one acceptable feature to God, in all human action and relationship, is charity, and this the apostle illustrates by his panegyric on love.
I. MAN'S ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS AND WORKS ACCORDING TO THEIR APPEARANCE. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Only in a very imperfect way can we estimate the motives of others. Our attention is occupied by incidents, and we form our impressions from the things actually done. Consequently our estimates are always incomplete and often unworthy; we misconceive what is really great and what is really little, and give our acceptance and our praise to things which will not endure the Divine searching. Of men who stand high in the esteem of their fellow men for their excellent talents and their good looking works, it must in truth be said, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting." "Thy heart is not right in the sight of God."
II. GOD'S ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS AND WORKS ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT AND THE MOTIVE WHICH UNDERLIE THE APPEARANCE. That motive God knows and judges perfectly. To him it is the real man. The appearance, the action, never deceives him. Man's show of virtue is fitly estimated. Upon God's estimate there are "many first who shall be last, and many last who shall be first." To true hearts it should come as an abounding satisfaction that while our fellow men may misconceive us, God never does. He "knoweth us altogether." And we can confidently appeal from the judgment of men to the judgment of God.
III. THE CHRISTIAN DUTY OF GAINING FULL DELIVERANCE FROM THE MAN STANDARD OF LIFE, AND UPLIFTING TO THE DIVINE STANDARD. Growing likeness to God - which is the Christian sanctifying - should involve our seeing things as God sees them, and judging and appraising them on God's principles and in God's ways. Illustrate this subject by the apostolic references to the gift of tongues; from the gift of prophecy; from the apparent fervour often seen on religious lives that are not deeply toned; from cases of mere generosity of natural disposition; and even from cases of martyr endurance which may be mere bravado, and not, to the heart-searching One, humble, fervent loyalty and love. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.