The Biggest Lesson 1 Corinthians 13:2

If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but have not love, I am nothing.—1Co_13:2.

If I were to ask each of you this morning, “Why do you go to school?” I wonder what answers I should receive. I expect most of you would at once reply, “To learn lessons.” Some of you might answer, “To learn as little as I possibly can!” and a few might say, “To play.”

But now shall I tell you the real reason why you go to school? It is that you may be made into useful and helpful men and women. If you have not learned that, your knowledge will just be a sort of empty ornament. And what is the key to being the best and most useful men and women? It is one small word of four letters—Love.

St. Paul once wrote a letter to the Christians in Corinth about this very subject. They had been quarrelling among themselves as to who had the greatest gift and who should have the place of honor. Those who prophesied said they were the cleverest; those who did miracles thought they were of more importance; those who were eloquent, or educated, or knew many languages, claimed to be the wisest;

and so on. Their quarrels had led to a great deal of ill-feeling and envy and boasting and pride. And while they were squabbling they forgot that the greatest gift the Christian can have is love. That was the biggest lesson the Corinthians had to learn and they hardly knew the A B C of it. And Paul told them that although the other gifts were all good, if they had them all and lacked love they were nothing.

So though you are top of your class in history and geography and math and science, though you know all the languages, dead or alive, and have not love, you are nothing. If you carry off the first prize in everything and are unkind or unjust towards your companions, you count for nothing and less than nothing.

1. Knowledge is no good unless you can learn to love the boy or girl who won the prize you worked for and missed. To walk up to that boy or girl and shake hands and congratulate them and to do it with a smile, while you choke back the feelings of envy that hurt, that is true pluck and true Christianity. And that is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn, not only at school, but all through life. If your years at school have taught you that, they have not been spent in vain.

2. Knowledge is not much good unless you can learn to love the person who has done you harm. There is a story told of a great American, General Grant, who commanded the Northern army in the American Civil War and afterwards became President of the United States. One day someone asked him his opinion of a certain officer in his army. General Grant spoke of this man in the warmest terms, and the questioner exclaimed, “But do you know that he said this and that of you?” “Sir,” was the reply, “you asked me my opinion of him, not his of me.”

To have a heart that cherishes no malice, a mind that is above resenting slights—that is better than all knowledge. It is the most difficult lesson of all. Some of us who are grown-up have not learned it yet, and we have been trying to learn it all our lives.

3. Knowledge is of little use unless you can love the person who is disagreeable or unattractive. It is easy enough to love some people—those who are pleasant, or beautiful, or kind. But there are others who have come into the world with a twist in their faces or their characters. They are plain, or stupid, or shy, or awkward in their manner; perhaps they are even disagreeable and unkind. Possibly you know a few at your own school—boys or girls whom nobody wants to love and nobody seems to want to make friends with.

Now, there is an Eastern proverb which says, “Through love, bits of copper are made gold.” And there is no saying what we may do to these unattractive people just by loving them. Perhaps it is because they have never been loved enough that they are unattractive; and by loving them we may turn copper into gold.

Do you want to make the world better and happier? Then love. We can never love too much, we may often love too little. Love people who are unattractive. That is what Jesus does. He loves you and me. Jesus loves and He is going to love the world good.

We can’t all be rich, we can’t all be clever, we can’t all be beautiful, but we can all love. Don’t you think that is a grand lesson? Don’t you think it is a lesson worth learning?

James Hastings' Children's Great Texts Of The Bible - This material seems appropriate for children ages 8-12.  Like the Great Texts Of The Bible (For Adults), this series examines the Great Texts of the Bible, but from a child's perspective. Each section begins with a scripture, and Hastings uses illustrations to relate the meaning of the passage for a child's life.  Hastings focuses on practical lessons and the moral of the story that children might apply to their lives. Because Hastings studied the classics as an undergraduate, many sections include classic poems and classic literature quotes.