If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
–1 Corinthians 13:3
In this familiar chapter on love, we observe to what lengths God has gone to emphasize the absolute necessity of love motivating all we do. The first three verses list spiritual gifts and actions raised to their maximum level, attainable only by the Lord Jesus. It is tempting to think these are possible to accomplish apart from love. From Balaam to the Pharisees to 20th Century monks, however, we are reminded that appearing spiritual or self-sacrificing is not proof of loving the Lord above all else and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We see only outward appearance, but God sees the heart. Love must motivate and support all of our worship, our service, and our giving.
Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrated His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us. True love always leads to sacrificial giving of oneself for others. To truly love is to give ourselves away for Christ’s sake.
When God looks at us, does He see a “noisy nothing”? Do we have little love for Him and our neighbor, therefore, giving little? Have we given to Him and our neighbor without love, therefore gaining nothing? Or, does our love for Him overflow out of us, propelling us toward every gift from Him for the love of the Lord Jesus and our neighbor?
Used with permission from Sunshine Community Church, Grand Rapids, MI and The Barnabas Foundation.