“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4 NKJV)
When he finished with the reminder to show godly love (previous chapter) Paul taught them one way to put that love into action. Rather than benefiting themselves, they were to seek ways to make the church stronger and make a greater impact on the lives of non-believers. He did that by comparing two spiritual gifts: teaching, or prophesying, and tongues. Tongues, whether they be a private prayer language or an ecstatic utterance in the worship service benefited only the person who used them as their spirit communed with God and the utterance built up their spirit. It might make an impact on non-believers, but it could even be a negative impact. On the other hand, prophesying, or proclaiming God’s word – teaching, would build up the person who taught as well as the whole church. Godly teaching would also convict non-believers of their need to repent and accept the grace of God.
The priority of building up the church, instead of the individual, is a difficult one for a “me first” society to understand. It’s an important ideal to put into practice. We need our time alone with God. We need to read His word and speak with Him in prayer. We need to grow spiritually. The purpose of all that, though, isn’t so that people can look at us and marvel at our spiritual wisdom; the purpose is to build the church. We aren’t called to draw people to ourselves, we’re called to invite people to join in fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. May you use the gifts God has given you to build up the church.
Lord, build Your kingdom on this earth. Build Your church as we use the gifts You’ve given us to show people the amazing joy of living in a relationship with You.