If I give all I possess to the poor . . . but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3
After taking the pieces for my special-order table from the box and laying them out before me, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. The beautiful top for the table and other parts were accounted for, but it was missing one of the legs. Without all of the legs, I couldn’t assemble the table, rendering it useless.
It’s not just tables that are useless when missing one vital piece. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul reminded his readers that they were missing one essential component. The believers possessed many spiritual gifts but lacked love.
Using exaggerated language to emphasize his point, Paul wrote that even if his readers had all knowledge, if they gave away every single thing they owned, and even if they willingly suffered hardship, without the essential foundation of love, their actions would all amount to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). Paul encouraged them to always infuse their actions with love, movingly describing the beauty of a love that always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (vv. 4–7).
As we use our spiritual gifts, perhaps to teach, encourage, or serve in our faith communities, remember that God’s design always calls for love. Otherwise, it’s like a table missing a leg. It can’t achieve the true purpose for which it was designed.
When have you experienced love being a missing ingredient? What is an example where love was integral?
Heavenly Father, it amazes me that You do everything in love. Help me learn to love like You.
While English gives us only one word for love, the Greek language uses several words. Eros expresses romantic or sexual love; storgē speaks of family love, as in the love of a parent for a child; phileō describes brotherly or friendship love; and agapē describes the highest form of love, a love that sacrifices itself for the one loved. This is the word frequently used in the New Testament to describe God’s love, most notably in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” The sacrifice of Christ was the ultimate expression of God’s self-sacrificial love for His lost creation. This is also the type of love on display in 1 Corinthians 13, leading Paul to affirm, “but the greatest of these is love” (v. 13).