1 Corinthians 13:11


Monday, 12 January 2015

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

In this verse, Paul is making an analogy between spiritual immaturity and spiritual adulthood through the use of the natural growth of an individual. He has been discussing spiritual gifts and the need to use them in connection with love for them to have any true value. In the previous two verses, he showed that eventually those gifts will be done away with altogether.

In his analogy then, he says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child.” Babies have their own sounds which develop into short sentences and then into the talk of teens. Each is discernable and shows a lack of development. Eventually though, most people learn to speak as adults. Sentences are more complex and they convey the higher thoughts necessary to accomplish the challenges of adulthood.

In a similar fashion, Paul says that, “I understood as a child.” Children look at the world in a completely different way than adults. Adults have had experiences which allow them to hopefully make wise decisions. Children don’t have such experiences. They may touch hot surfaces, they may get swindled out of their school lunch, or they may step on sandspurs because they didn’t know that sandspurs existed. Their understanding of the world around them has limited their ability to think in more developed ways.

And this leads to the next thought of Paul which says, “I thought as a child.” Without experience, thoughts will be naive about the world around us. Without a developed language, our tongues will only speak either unintelligible or rather simple sentences. And without experience, we cannot make rational choices about our future, how to care for our present needs, or how to empathize with others when they suffer.

In contrast to this, Paul tells us that “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This state is analogous to what he said in verses 8-10. The connection is obvious when one looks at how Paul has cited his examples. “I spoke” relates to the gift of tongues, “I understood” relates to the gift of prophecy, and “I thought” relates to the gift of knowledge. Paul showed us in those previous verses that each of these gifts were temporary and would be done away with. Thus he has equated that time of spiritual maturity to being a man. In adulthood, we have put away the ways of childhood; and in our glorification, we will have put away these lesser gifts.

Isaac Newton, one of the greatest intellectual minds in all of human history, understood this to be true when he wrote these words –

“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself by now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Life application: Those gifts which we cherish now, and which we too often use to the harm of others rather than to their edification, will someday be done away with. Keeping this in mind, let us use our gifts for building others up, not attempting to tear them down.

Lord, I know that all the knowledge I possess, all the supposedly great things that I have done, and the wealth that I have obtained in this life are like grains of sand on an infinite shore in comparison to the true wealth of heaven. What I seek after in this life has no comparison to what You offer to those whom You have redeemed. Because this is true, help me not to focus on these temporary things, but to think on and strive for that which is true wealth. Help me to use my time wisely in the pursuit of You. I know You will be pleased with the life I live in this way. Amen.


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