We strive, we seek, we pursue and desire any number of things on any given day. What have you been seeking and desiring? There is probably a variety of things – most of which are probably also good. But, are you striving for the best thing?
A Question to Ask
The Christians in Corinth were asking the wrong question when they came together as a church. They were asking, “How can I benefit myself?” and in this passage, Paul is trying to convince them that they really should be asking, “How can I benefit my brothers and sisters in Christ?”
Now brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? (v. 6)
While we may not be tempted to use the spiritual gift of tongues in an unruly way, we are tempted to approach church life selfishly. We’re tempted to approach church like clients, thinking we’ve signed some contract and are due certain benefits. When we don’t receive any, we get upset. In reality, though, we are all like employees of the church – when we go to church, we go to work.
Now, is it wrong to be benefited from the church? No! You should receive some benefits. But, it’s everybody else’s job to give that to you. Your job is to benefit them. You don’t need to hoard blessings for yourself because God has already lavished so many on you through Christ, freeing you to then do the same for others.
The tendency is to think that when we become Christians and join a church, we are handed a membership card that entitles us to certain benefits. But what God hands us is really a stocked toolbox to use on His construction project. It’s not “welcome to the club” it’s “welcome to the construction site.” So when we get together as the church, we shouldn’t be thinking “What will benefit me?” but “What will benefit others?”
A Design to Fulfill
There is a design for us to fulfill in our place in the church. Just like instruments are designed to make music, bugles are designed to call an army to battle, and language is designed to have meaning, Christians are designed to use language to benefit the church. So Paul says that there are “many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me” (vv. 10-11).
If the question to ask is “How will I benefit the church?” the first answer given here is “With words.” That makes sense because God created everything with His words, Israel was created with His words, the church was created with the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ – words are extremely important.
This is easily applicable to pastors, teachers, and leaders, but it is also applicable to everyone. It applies to how we use our words with each other in ways like conversation. It may seem like such a small thing, but intentional words empowered by the Holy Spirit, can be life-changing.
A Command to Obey
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
The Corinthians were striving, they were eager, they were zealous for spiritual gifts, but they weren’t striving for the best thing: to excel in building up the church. They were like workers on a construction site playing with their tools rather than using them to build. We may not be tempted to do this, but we are tempted to strive for good things that fall short of the best things.
So what are you seeking, desiring, pursuing? What are you teaching your children to desire and pursue? Are you so focused on good things that you miss the best things? Are you so focused on work, family, health, finances, home, hobbies that you miss the highest calling you’ve been given?
God didn’t just forgive us and save us from our sins, He brought us into a relationship with Him and gave us a job to do. There is no fulfillment greater than finding what God has equipped you to do. So may we seek, desire, and pursue excellence in building up the church.
Discussion Starters (based on 1 Corinthians 14:6-12)
- What are some of your goals in life?
- Where are you putting most of your energy?
- How do we act like we are clients of the church?
- What question should we ask ourselves when we gather as a church?
- What would be different if we always did this?
- Do your words benefit others?
- What is the best thing to be striving for?
- How can we excel in this?