If I were to ask you what you think is the finest and most admirable character trait for a person to have, what would your answer be? Perhaps you would think of faithfulness, humility or holiness. However, in our reading today in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul spells out very clearly what is the highest level of Christian character that should permeate all areas of our lives. That trait is charity.
In today’s day and age, about the only time we use the word “charity” is in reference to donations we may give to the Salvation Army or a similar establishment. Perhaps you were asked by an accountant recently when you did your taxes what your “charitable donations” were. That usage of the word does a good job carrying with it the idea of charity in the Bible. I have read that the KJV translators translated the Greek word “agape” love (a selfless love committed to the well-being of others) when it was used in a vertical reference, i.e God to man and vice versa, but translated it charity when used in a horizontal sense, i.e man to man.
Paul reminds us in chapter 13 that this kind of love is the highest order of Christian living and needs to permeate everything we do. No matter what spiritual gift we may have, if we do not use it in love it is essentially worthless. Verse 2 stands out particularly to me as Paul says that even if he has enough faith that he “could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Really Paul? Nothing? And even if he were to “bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
These verses cause us to reflect on why we do what we do. Is even the good things that we do for others truly out of a heart of selfless love, totally committed to the well-being of others? Or is our motive perhaps partially out of a heart of selfishness that seeks the acknowledgement and recognition of others. May we view this chapter as more than just a nice passage to read at a wedding but instead something that causes us to make sure our motives and hearts are truly in tune with the God who “is love” (1 John 4:8).
I weigh 75 pounds…
Doesn’t that count? Sadly the doctor does not care about my weight on Mars because my force (a.k.a. weight) on Earth is all that matters. Next time you stand on the scale, don’t get mad at it. It’s not the scales fault. You see this thing called gravity intensifies the force upon the surface of the Earth based on your mass. It’s really gravity’s fault!
We live and function under this invisible force called gravity and we really don’t give it much thought. As long as you comply with gravity, life is fairly predictable. Look down from the edge of a cliff and you suddenly recognize the immense power gravity has on your life. If you try to defy gravity, it may not end well.
Job 28 is one of those passages you need to reference often in your Bible because it talks about a different but more powerful and influential force in your life. This force appears in numerous passages throughout Scripture, but in the family of books from Job through Proverbs, this governing law is the crown jewel. Job speaks of man’s resourcefulness as he mines metals from the earth. He descends a shaft into the earth and overturns the “mountains by the roots” (Job 28:9), yet he cannot discover the vault which contains wisdom. Even if you were to interview the deep channels of the ocean, they would admit, “It is not in me” (Job 28:14). With the vantage point of a bird or the prowling of a lion, none can uncover the source of this commodity called wisdom.
Wisdom is this governing law which rules all of God’s creation because God applied divine wisdom when he wove together the components of life together. Man cannot discover the vault nor can he ever esteem wisdom’s value. “The price of wisdom is above rubies” (Job 28:18). It is so elusive even “death and destruction say, ‘We have heard the fame thereof with our ears'” (Job 28:22). How can you ever claim wisdom for yourself? It’s not about where, when, or how much. In order to acquire wisdom, it is about Who. “God understandeth the way thereof, And he knoweth the place thereof” (Job 28:23). When you are in a situation where you lack wisdom, “Ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given” (James 1:5).
It’s interesting after Job speaks poetically about wisdom he talks about weight—the weight of winds and water. When people try to defy gravity it can end badly. Similarly, when people choose to defy wisdom, they too will experience destruction. They may get away with their defiance for a while, but eventually, the bands will snap and their life ends in destruction. You must learn to navigate your life with wisdom.
What is wisdom? I’m glad you asked. Job tells us, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
God has created our world with a need for water and He has made sure we have an ample supply. Our country not only has water, but we have the means to get it. Some countries are not that fortunate. There are those who live atop a water table and still thirst for the lack of ability to tap into it. All of us have experienced thirst. I remember a song from years ago titled “Cool Water”. Just listening to it made me thirsty. Thirst is designed to cause us to drink to avoid dehydration (another of the God-given intricacies of our bodies). Dehydration at all stages is discomforting.
While reading through Scripture of Jesus’ last hours, we see that He thirsted. None of us have ever suffered as much as Jesus. He endured the torture of the Cross for us. Would I give my life for others? Most likely for family and friends, but surely not for all mankind (Jesus says in Jn.15:13-14, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you). Not only was Jesus physically thirsty, but spiritually as well. Jesus was on a mission from the Father and He complained about nothing but thirst. His spiritual thirst was to please the Father. At this point, Jesus was severely dehydrated.
When I think of Jesus’ agonizing thirst, I think of Ps.42:1, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” I envision the many scenes in Africa where all the animals are migrating to a solitary water hole during a drought. During this mass exodus their tongues are hanging out and they are panting due to thirst. Some do not make it, they try but are overcome. It is an example of the spiritual nature of humans. Some make it and some do not; some recognize a need to drink from the Well of living waters; while others, refuse to partake (Jn. 4:14, But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life). God invites us all to drink and He has provided a way to tap this Fountain of salvation.
Our lives should be that as the hart (deer). Our souls should be seeking to serve Him that we literally thirst and pant after Him. Our spirits should remain on the verge of dehydration; always needing satisfaction with a drink from God’s Word! “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3). We can stand at the sink all day, but if we do not turn the spigot on we will not receive water. Likewise, we can sit with the Bible; but unless we open it, we will not receive a drink from the Waters of life. Stay thirsty my friends.
In 2010, a “highly reliable survey” revealed that men drive an additional 276 miles per year by refusing to ask for directions. The aimless meandering costs him an extra $800! Just think how many purses his wife could purchase if he’d only stop and ask for directions!
Typically, men refrain from asking for directions, but Saul was not wired that way. Saul is often portrayed as a bumbling fool. He is always looking for something, yet, while everyone else intuitively knows where it is, Saul never finds it on his own.
Remember how long he was looking for his father’s donkeys? Then he was looking for the seer, Samuel? A maiden, a young girl, gives Saul directions to Samuel (1 Samuel 9:10-12)! Saul is looking for David to kill him. All three groups of messengers Saul sends find David hiding with Samuel, yet when Saul heads out to find David, what do you find him doing? Asking for directions…again (1 Samuel 12:22)! For the remainder of the book, Saul searches for David. He has spies. He has an army, but he can’t nab that “wascally” David. One such instance, Saul searches for David and has spies skulking about. Jonathan goes to the woods and directly finds David and “strengthens his hand” (1 Samuel 23:15). However, Saul, lost in his spiritual fog, never locates David.
In contrast, David’s navigation system seems fixed on his destination. From the moment God had Samuel anoint David, he finds himself in the king’s house, bearing the king’s armor, fighting the king’s battles, and marrying the king’s daughter. Everything falls into place for David. David sees life clearly. Was Saul “behind the eight ball” and David extremely fortunate?
It comes down to dependence. David does not get it right all the time, but when you see David asking for directions, you usually find him talking to God. Prayer is not a discipline; it is an indication of our dependence. Saul only thinks of seeking God as an afterthought. After searching for the donkeys for three days, it was Saul’s servant who suggested asking the man of God for help. Saul is typically practical. You usually read he is numbering the people or positioning himself strategically by a tree, a wall, or behind other people. Saul’s navigational system was conventional wisdom.
Read the book of Proverbs and James, and you will find divine wisdom is the invisible thread God used to knit the components of life and order in all of creation. Conventional wisdom chooses to see things from ground-level, based on our short-sighted perception. Prayer taps into the wisdom which comes from God “liberally” (James 1:5). If your life is not characterized by prayer, then you may have Saul’s navigational system. Just think of all the wasted years aimlessly wandering. No dollar figure can compensate for such a waste.