1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Paul taught the church exactly how important charity is. I honestly can’t read his words without being moved, nor without pondering on the absolute magnitude of what he says. Certainly as Christians, we desire to have faith, understanding, knowledge, and prophecy. What follower of Christ wouldn’t like to have the faith necessary to do all things for Him, even moving mountains if needed? And yet we could perhaps have all of those things, and if we didn’t have love, we would be nothing.
And what true follower of Christ doesn’t strive to help the poor, and give up their time and energy and resources to do what Christ asks of them? And yet if we do all of this without love, we are nothing.
For those who read here but are not of our faith, I invite you to read the words of Mormon on charity. The words were recorded about 400 A.D. by Mormon’s son Moroni, and they were among the last words recorded by this man before he died. Mormon addresses his words thusly in verse 3:
Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
That is to say, these words are for all who believe in Christ and his grace. To me, that means that these words are for all of Christianity. The chapter is one of the best in the Book of Mormon, and it truly speaks to those who have faith in Christ. As the chapter closes, Mormon has this to say concerning charity (emphasis added):
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail-
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
Charity is the Greatest Gift
Mormon taught that charity is the greatest gift of all. When we’re looking at spiritual gifts, we must not overlook charity. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we see a list of spiritual gifts that Paul taught the church about, but too frequently we forget that chapter 12 was followed by chapter 13, in which Paul taught about the greatest gift, or what he called “a more excellent way”! It is no mistake that Paul’s teachings on Charity follow his teachings on spiritual gifts; charity is the greatest spiritual gift we can seek.
With that in mind, I feel it is important to apply the teachings in chapter 12 to the teachings that follow in chapter 13. Specifically, Paul taught that:
- Spiritual gifts are given to one that all may benefit, and not just for the benefit of the one with the gift.
- Spiritual gifts are “given” and not earned. They are literally gifts from God. We can strive to develop them, and we can ask for them in prayer, but they are gifts given according to God’s will.
- Spiritual gifts are given, received, and used through the Spirit.
- Spiritual gifts are given to the Church of Christ.
- We are not to boast or feel more important because of our gifts.
So as we seek the “more excellent way” of charity, we should remember that charity is a gift, give and exercised through the Spirit, for the benefit of others, and is always coupled with humility.
Pray for Charity
Mormon taught that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” that we might receive the gift of charity. Though our “works” can certainly help change our hearts, true charity is a gift. When we strive to do all the will of the Father, by following His Son, we will develop a heart that is ready to receive that gift. We will also be eligible for the companionship of the Holy Spirit, which is the only way we can receive the gift and use it.
We must pray for the gift of charity, with all the energy we have.
Act with Love
As we go about our days, interacting with our fellowman, we need to make sure that we’re acting with love. Our actions may be bold or mild, immediate or longsuffering, reproving or commending; but no matter what we’re doing, we need to do it with love. Our Savior gave us the ultimate example throughout His life here on earth. He was bold, strong, and deliberate. He worked hard, taught forcefully, and withstood evil. Yet everything he did, and every interaction he had, was filled with love for all men.
It is my prayer that I can remember His example, and that I can pray for that spiritual gift that can lift others more than anything else. It is my testimony that we can all do this.