Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:18-40
Here is a true story of a new missionary who went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. One day he visited a church that was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.
So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread. During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.
Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the he clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.
After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.” The missionary recruit replied: “No I don’t. It’s that obvious?” “Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”
Language is useless unless it means something. I am able to make sounds and noises, but they will mean nothing to you unless you can attach thoughts and ideas to them. They are ineffective and pointless. Paul uses an analogy of musical instruments to demonstrate this point. I can play notes all over the place, but unless there is something for you to recognize or appreciate, it will not mean anything to you. if the trumpeter does not utter clear notes in battle, the soldiers will not know what to do. If the gift of tongues is exercised during worship, and no one understands it, it will not benefit. If you’re only interested in impressing, not communicating there is no point, but when language is understood, it benefits the church. Therefore in a corporate setting, we must seek an interpretation to benefit the whole body.