Continuing the conversation on tongues, I find it a little frustrating that it has such a focus among some Christians. Paul clearly puts the gift of tongues in it proper place in 1 Corinthians 14. I believe it is a blessed gift, one that solidifies faith, one that would be good to use by all who have it for however long they have it.
But there are other gifts. Paul says that if he wishes we had any one gift, it would be prophesy. Why didn’t the churches who emphasize gifts get this particular message? Paul is incontrovertibly straightforward about a couple of things.
One, if you speak in tongues in public, you better have a translator. If not, be quiet. No real way to misunderstand that. I believe it also implies what we see demonstrated in the Word time and again about the personhood of the Holy Spirit; He is a gentleman. He doesn’t overtake us. We are still in control; we have the ability to receive a word in a tongue we have not learned and NOT speak it. In fact, we are commanded to not speak it until we have confirmed there will be a translation. If that doesn’t indicate we have time and control, I don’t know what does.
The other point on which Paul does not equivocate is that tongues does not edify the church. Our church meetings are all about building up the members of the church. So, without translation, there is no place for tongues.
But there is a place for the other gifts that are included in the list that seems too often forgotten when some Christians discuss gifts of the Holy Spirit. Helps, Words of Wisdom, Teaching and Prophesy are a few. These actually work in building the body of Christ. We know that not everyone will have each gift. In fact, it is by design that we do not. We must come together, lean on one another, depend, trust, relent, submit and cooperate in order to function. We are parts of a whole. When one is missing, we are not whole.
This focus, obsession, with a single gift leads to a blindness, I believe. And really, it is putting God in a box. It commands that all those who are TRULY baptized will speak in tongues—it allows us to dictate to whom, what and how the Holy Spirit gives gifts. A no-no in the Bible. It also allows us to judge one another as worthy or not! Ah ha! There’s the rub, isn’t it? It is an easy, check-the-box means by which we can judge who is ‘in’ and who is not.
But God will not be put in a box. We cannot judge the heart. And the Holy Spirit will give gifts as He sees fit, in the timing of His own perfection, to fit His will for His creations.
One of the scary things about the fervor regarding the gift of tongues that I have seen is—I am sure—an inadvertent temptation to those young in the faith to sin. It is upon those young in the faith that the zealous Christians must persuade. Those who have some maturity and knowledge of the Word can resist lovingly. But those who do not are met with an overwhelming choice: speak in tongues to prove your salvation or be treated as one encumbered by fear, faithlessness and disobedience.
This is most distressing when I see churches pressure children. “By the end of camp, you will receive your prayer language!” Failure is not an option. How many of these earnest babes will knowingly or unknowingly lie in order to please and submit to the pressure of their elders? It is unconscionable to me, in my opinion, to even risk such a thing.
We must have faith in the Holy Spirit! That means allowing Him to work in His timing. It means allowing Him to say no and not blaming anyone for it. It means letting Him be God.