The Problem with Tongues

Do you know what I think was happening in Corinth when Paul had to write to the church there?

A lot of selfishness.

A lot of puffery and pride, and maybe even some fakery.

Don’t go quoting this as scripture, because I’m reading between the lines here. But everything Paul addresses that needed remedying there boils down to selfishness and arrogance: from choosing up sides and smelling armpits to incestual adultery to lawsuits among them to refusing commitment to their betrothed ones to hogging the fellowship meal to – dare I say it? – faking gifts of the Spirit.

Yeah. That’s what I think was going on there, back then. Some folks who wanted to be important, more important than Paul, felt compelled to display the same spiritual gifts he had displayed – or better. They couldn’t fake miraculous healing; they couldn’t fake casting out demons, but they could babble incomprehensibly and claim to be speaking in tongues – in different human languages – just the way Paul had and the apostles in Jerusalem had at Pentecost. He wasn’t in Corinth anymore. He couldn’t confirm or deny it.

So Paul’s inspired remedy was to limit the sharing of those gifts to the benefit of all. Don’t speak in tongues unless someone interprets; otherwise you’re talking to yourself and God and wasting everybody else’s time.

And if fakery was involved, getting it back into their worship times would require collusion. Conspiracy, with someone else who would “interpret.” And in century one, that could be a deadly thing. Stories like what happened to Ananias and Sapphira would make the rounds.

The best part is that out of the Corinthian fakery (which I’m weaving from whole cloth and holes in logic), one of the most genuine chapters of Christian instruction is written: good ol’ number 13.

If we’re not here for each other, then we’re not here for God, either.

Of course, we never fake it in church nowadays … do we?

There have been a few times when that chapter has kept me from faking it in church; a few times when I didn’t feel like being there but I had some duty to do or responsibility to perform. And, unfortunately, a couple of times when I didn’t think of it and didn’t want to and went right ahead with being as disingenuous as any babbling would-be spirit-speaker.

And I probably didn’t make any more sense than one.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with Tongues

  1. Brother Keith,Thank you for those thoughts. I believe we’re all guilty of faking it at some point or another. In fact, although I grew up in the church, I’m not sure I knew what it meant to be 100% genuine with brothers and sisters in the Lord until I went to college. At that point in our lives, being away from our physical families, we truly became the family that God intended for us to be. Not that we were perfect, but we experienced being genuine, as we were with each other almost every day. It is not so ironic that the love chapter, good ol’ number 13, came out of Paul’s writing to them regarding their “faking”, because it is only when we are genuine that we can, through our love, become the family of God that we are supposed to be.

  2. Pingback: The Holy Spirit and the Church, Part 2 « Blog In My Own Eye

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