Should I speak in tongues? If I can’t is there something wrong with me?

Personally, I believe there is much I could learn about speaking in tongues. I’m not part of a tradition nor am I from a part of the world that embraces it as much as others. That said, I think I can still understand some of what Paul wants us to learn in 1 Corinthians 14 in regards to the practice.

I think it’s clear from Paul’s writing in this chapter and in the ones preceding that speaking in tongues does has a place and a function in the body of Christ. But that place is not primarily in public worship and its function isn’t for boasting and it’s not to be a litmus test as to whether or not you have the Spirit. After all, it is just one of many gifts of the Spirit, and each is gifted according to God’s will.

Unfortunately this is how tongues is presented in some churches. To those churches whether or not your speak in tongues is the sign of if you have the Spirit of God. It is treated as the sign and the gift above others. That is not building up the body and instead it’s dividing it between the haves and have-nots. That is not the reason we’ve been given these gifts by God.

That reason, the building up, is so important and it is why Paul placed prophecy above speaking in tongues in this section. Speaking in tongues is a more personal, private gift, but prophecy is one that builds up the body, believer and even unbeliever. He doesn’t want to demean speaking in tongues, and he mentions that he does it himself. But he does want to focus more on the goal behind these gifts, that is, of building up the body.

Strive to Build Up the Church

1 Corinthians 14:12

In thinking of how to illustrate this week’s memory verse, I must surely have been influenced by my three year old son. He loves legos and building all sorts of things with them. So when it came to this passage about building up the church what better than legos?

Paul’s instruction to strive after building up fits well with these chapters, as his concern is not for pointless manifestations of the Spirit. Instead the Spirit gifts us for a reason. We ought to desire the gifts not to boast and brag. These gifts aren’t about drawing attention to ourselves. We strive after them so that the church may be built up.

The Unity of the Body and Diversity of Gifts

This chapter is on the diversity of the gifts the church is given by the Spirit, but while it highlights diversity, it does so in the context of the oneness of the body of Christ. Whatever differences there are, we aren’t to esteem some higher than others. We are brought together into one body that is to work together, weep together, and mourn together. These varied gifted all share the same source, the Holy Spirit, and are all to work for the common good. The one Spirit unites us, and this is a gracious work that only God can do.

Memory Verse for 1 Cor 12.12-13

Our memory verse for this week seeks to lift up and remind us of this unity that we have as a people all baptized into the same Spirit and who daily must drink of the one Spirit.

Memory Verse for 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 for iPhone

Jacques Cousteau and Spiritual Gifts

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

-Jacques Cousteau

Or tweaked for our purposes, in light of a passage like 1 Corinthians 12:

When the members of the body of Christ, because they are dearly loved by God, are given gifts of the Spirit, they have no right to keep those gifts to themselves.

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Even though we’re reminded in Scripture not to hold some spiritual gifts and ministries in higher esteem than others, since we are all part of the same body in need of the unique callings and work of all its parts, we can at times fall into that trap. One area that can be tempting is in regards to the gift of teaching. You may find yourself thinking that the higher up the educational ladder you are, the more spiritually accomplished you are. If I can teach wise, elder members of a congregation that is more impressive than “just” teaching some little kids. You’ve really got to be real spiritual to do the former, and the latter is just glorified child care, right?

But listen to these words of Jesus from Mark 9:33-37:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

The disciples are wrapped up in who is the greatest. Maybe it is a discussion about who is the most spiritually mature. Jesus’ response is to take a child into his arms, and challenge these bickering disciples to do a great work–to receive a child in his name.

That’s not a work that is leftover for those who can’t do something else. He says this to his twelve disciples, future leaders of the early church. Working with and for children is a great, high calling. It is a wonderful witness that within the church children are valued so much. They are not a nuisance nor are they a distraction of the real work of the church. Receiving a child in the name of Jesus is part of what we are called to do.

We have been gifted by God in different ways, so don’t let the differences lead you into ranking these works or associating some with differing levels of spiritual maturity. All of God’s gifts are needed and valuable to him.

So today I give a special thanks to all who work with children. Know you do a special work of Christ in sharing his love with those little ones.