1 Corinthians 13: 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.
It must be a great thing to have the gift of tongues, or the gift of prophesy, or the faith to move mountains – but we are told here that it is a greater thing to be filled with love.
Orson Scott Card put this into modern terms for us: “And though I attend all my meetings faithfully, and fulfil all my callings, and make a home teaching visit during the first week of the month; and though in all ways I am an active Church member, yet if I do not spend time in love and service for others, then I am not yet a Saint, for I do not yet love the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength; and I do not love my neighbor as myself.”
But wait a minute – let’s go back to what Paul says in verse 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.
Isn’t bestowing one’s goods to the poor charity? Can we bestow our goods to the poor without having charity?
Dallin H. Oaks said
“We know from these inspired words that even the most extreme acts of service fall short of the ultimate ‘profit’ unless they are motivated by the pure love of Christ. If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be unconcerned with self and heedless of personal advantage. It must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children.” (Pure in Heart [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 47.)
On the other hand – we can talk about love and charity but without corresponding actions it is meaningless. Dieter F Uchtdorf said: ‘True love requires action. We can speak of love all day long—we can write notes or poems that proclaim it, sing songs that praise it, and preach sermons that encourage it—but until we manifest that love in action, our words are nothing but “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”.’
Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34;).He also wrote: ‘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.’ (Moroni 7:47)
The converse would seem to be true – if we are not found possessed of it at the last day it will not be well with us.
H Burke Petersen said: ‘Charity is measured in several ways. Perhaps a supreme form of charity may be exhibited by one who withholds judgment of another’s acts or conduct, remembering that there is only one who can look into the heart and know the intent—and know the honest desires found therein. There is only one whose right it is to judge the success of another’s journey through life. Uncalled-for judgments or prejudiced feelings keep many from displaying a truly charitable attitude or a willingness to help those in need, even those in our own family circle.’
A story is told about Alexander the Great. When he had his portrait painted, the selected artist was greatly perplexed about how to do it. Alexander had an ugly scar from battle on the side of his forehead. The artist did not want to paint that scar in the portrait, because it would be offensive. But leaving the scar out of the painting would not be honest either, and the likeness of his king would be false. The artist finally arrived at a decision what to do. He asked Alexander to lean his head forward and rest it on the fingers of his hand in a way that covered the scar. The finished portrait of the great conqueror was valued as a success.
Do you and I find ways to portray other people in the best light possible, or do we instead focus on their scars?