What Really Matters Most?
I Corinthians 13
There is a question in life that will be there as long as we live. What is the difference between what matters and what seems to matter and how do we decide? Everyone is faced with it – it is an ongoing question of life. What really matters most?
We All Face That Question:
When You Are Young:
- Who are my friend – does it really make a difference who we hang out with?
- Who I am going to date – does it make a difference?
- We ask questions like does it really make a difference what classes we take
- What kind of job do I want?
Then When We Are Older:
- Should I get married? What difference does it make if I get married?
- If you're married you have a responsibility to your spouse – does that seem to matter or does it really matter? Does it really matter if I stay true to my spouse?
- If you have children does it matter what they are learning from you? Does having a responsibility to them really matter?
- If you have a job you have a responsibility to the persons paying you a salary; does that really matter?
- If you serve at a church you have a responsibility to that body of believers does that really matter? Does your commitment to the church really matter in your time, talents, and your gifts?
- Between what matters and what seems to matter, how do you decide?
As we get older we are dogged by the tyranny of the urgent. So many things to do, so little time to get them done; what really matters?
Being a Christian what matters?
Ever think you are running in place and making no head way. Or does it feel like you are a ladle dipping into a large body of water like the Atlantic Ocean; dipping and dipping and all you have created is a small puddle and at the end of the day?
Have we made any difference? And we ask ourselves is what we are doing and being making a difference. At the end of a week, at the end of a month, at the end of the year which we are at now have we done anything that really matters? Have you, have I decided to do things that really matter? Do we know the difference between what matters and what seems to matter.
How do we decide between what matters and what really matters?
- All kinds of things take place in our lives that we think or feel matter. What matters to you and what matters to me are different because of the preference we have chosen in our lives.
- If I were to ask one of our educators here, "What do you think matters?" they would say something like helping our students to learn and whether they want to admit they have to get their students have good scores on the state tests.
- The folks in UM Conference office would say what matters is that the church has an increase in membership and they pay their apportionments. Each conference is being evaluated by the standard of growing.
- Pastors might say preaching is what matters.
- The Finance Committee would say the budget and the offering matters.
- The Trustees might say the roof - since the steeple is no longer
- You might say that what really matters is money. Ask a person ready to graduate from high school what matters and they will tell you that they want to make money that is what really matters.
- They may say they are in love but really money is what really matters. Don’t be hard on them where do you think they learned that?
- What is that matters to you? What gets you up in the morning? Unless you are retired it is work and if you are married and have a family – you work to provide for them that is what matters. And there is nothing wrong with that.
- And all that does seem to matter. It all matters. So the question isn't: does it matter? The question is: what matters most?
- There's a workable lead to that question in Paul's first letter in his Corinthian correspondence. In chapter 12 he's been talking about spiritual gifts, and Paul was no man to downgrade spiritual abilities. It's the gifts the Spirit gives that enable the church to thrive. But then at the end of chapter 12 he says, “But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31 (NIV)
- “But I will show you a more excellent way." And Paul tells us that what really matters is love. Love is really what matters.
- If we miss it there you can pick it up in the first part of verse 1 of chapter 14 where Paul says, “Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives…(especially the ability to prophesy). (1 Corinthians 14:1 (NLT) Listen to what Paul writes before this:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NLT)
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
The gifts are good, but they are worthless if done without love. So Paul lays that out in the first stanza of this great hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…”
How many languages can you speak – I can speak English sort of. But Paul is talking about someone that can speak all languages including the language of angels.
Paul imagines somebody who is able to speak all the languages of earth. Talk about a gift. Nobody's ever had that gift to that extent.
My 2nd cousin is fluent in Russian and Chinese and has been in England for years as an attorney. So that makes 3 languages.
We had a missionary in my last church that has spent time in China and India as a teacher of English and even has worked on creating a written language for people living in northern India.
The latest count on known languages is over 6900 languages. Imagine how awesome that would be to speak 6900 languages especially speaking to them about Christ. And yet Paul said if you have that gift as no one has ever had it and you don't have love, you're a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal.
- The word for a gong here is the Greek word chalkŏs. It was a huge gong usually put into pagan temples. It would stir the people worshiping it to frenzy. The cymbals, also used in pagan worship, would be like cymbals in a symphony orchestra today.
- And the gong and the cymbals had one thing in common: there was no music in them. All they made was a loud, senseless din. And Paul is saying, without love your gift of languages, your gift of eloquence, is just a loud noise.
- And then Paul continues with the gift of prophecy and was able to know God’s timetable and His secrets or the faith to move mountain – I’ve always thought it would be kind of awesome to move a mountain. He says that without love we are nothing. Even if we could raise millions to help the poor and even sacrifice our bodies and if we are put in the hall of fame for our good works without love we will not gain anything.
- The point is clear. If I give myself in sacrifice, give my money to feed the poor, if I do all that and don't have love, when I stand before God on that day I gain nothing.
Love matters most. The point's clear, isn't it? Among the things that matter, love really matters. In fact, if you don't have love, all of your Christian service comes to nothing. We need to note that in our churches we put a great deal of emphasis on sincerity and sacrifice and service and the use of our gifts, but they can be a kind of service from which all love has been squeeze.
We have a kind of service that is just self- advertising: I'll give to the poor if you name the mission after me. But Paul says that of all the things that matter, love really matters.
If you have a bulletin – I figure we pass them out so you can doodle on them while I am preaching.
I suggest that you take the page and draw a row of zeroes. It adds up to nothing. So do another row and another row and then another row and another row and another row.
It makes no difference how many rows you do the whole thing adds up to nothing. But you take one zero and put a one in front of it, it counts for ten, two is a hundred, three is a thousand, six is a million. And in some way that's true of love.
Minister, go use all your gifts without love and it adds up to nothing. But take the smallest gift and minister it in love and it counts. It counts with people, and it counts with Jesus Christ.
- Of all the things that matter, love matters most. Take joy in that. If you're a Christian you are better at loving than you think you are.
- The same God who has given you gifts is the same God whose love is shed abroad in your heart. It's the work of the Spirit that produces love.
- And you are a gifted bunch. I'm in awe of the gifts you have, and God gave you those gifts. But he has also enabled you to love. Love him and love one another. Of all the things that matter, love matters most.
On Nov. 14, NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo, who was on counterterrorism duty in Times Square, saw an older homeless man without shoes sitting on 42nd Street. DePrimo, 25, left and then returned with a pair of $100 boots he bought at a nearby Skechers store.
"It was freezing out, and you could see the blisters on the man's feet," DePrimo, a three-year veteran of the department who lives with his parents on Long Island, told the New York Times. "I had two pairs of socks, and I was still cold."
The random act of kindness was captured by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Ariz., who was visiting the city. Foster, communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona, emailed the photo to the NYPD with a note commending DePrimo.
"The officer said, 'I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you,'" Foster wrote. "The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man.”I have been in law enforcement for 17 years," she continued. "I was never so impressed in my life. ... It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost.