If I don’t have love, then I’m no better than a clanging cymbal.
A few weeks ago, I attended a community event. Praying after the event, I asked for God’s favor over some projects in which I am involved so they would be successful. I didn’t have any hesitation asking for this favor. I prayed confidently because I asked on behalf of the people whom these projects would benefit. But then, I heard this:
Do you love them?
Immediately, I knew my true motives were exposed. I wanted the projects to be successful so that I would be successful. Of course, I wanted those people to benefit, but what I really wanted was for this thing I’ve created to be successful in the eyes of the community.
My thoughts went back to 1 Corinthians 13:
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. 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. 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. 1 Cor 13:1-3
The famous chapter on love has always inspired me. This particular evening, the beloved chapter revealed fresh meaning. Here’s my fresh interpretation:
If I have the skills to organize, teach, speak, sing, and lead- to do all the tasks that I have trained for and learned to do…if I do all the things I have been given talent to do…but I don’t love the people I am doing it for….IT IS ALL FOR NOTHING.
I realized my participation in these community projects wasn’t purely out of love. Rather, my contribution was because I like it, I am capable of it, and I have the ability to get it done. Also, I enjoy it. Of course, I want the people to benefit, and I want to make a difference. But, at the heart of my motivation lies the truth- I want to be successful.
Last week, I wrote about ministry not being about me and how I shouldn’t serve simply because I like it or I’m good at it or it makes me feel good. I should do all those things ultimately because I love the people I’m doing it for, not just because I like what I’m doing.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy our ministries. Our motivation, however, shouldn’t be because we like what we’re doing. If we’re not in it for the love of people, it’s just a clanging cymbal.
God’s final measurement of effectiveness is love. God’s definition of success is love.
That’s what the classic love chapter is trying to tell us. If we can accomplish all manner of spiritual feats but don’t have love, it’s just noise. If we give our entire lives to serving and volunteering at church or in the community, and don’t have love, we have gained nothing.
Only Love lasts forever!
What is the motivating force behind your ministry? Are you loving what you do more than loving the people that receive the ministry?
Father, forgive me for loving your gifts and talents and the things I do for You more than the people that benefit. Fill me to overflowing with love for others just as I have experienced Your Love for me! Let my effectiveness and success be measured in love! Amen
If you are interested in exploring your motivations in ministry, here’s a bible study where I ask three questions (I have asked myself these questions) about loving God and loving people more than ministry. I hope it’s helpful to you!