1 Corinthians 14:12 (NIV)
12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul deals with another issue he notices in his church at Corinth. The church in Corinth was very passionate about pursuing and practicing spiritual gifts. That is a good thing. However, it appears that the church in Corinth emphasized the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues so much that they would let people speak in tongues as a way to publicly address the rest of the congregation. Of course, without anyone to interpret, no one could understand what was being said!
Paul cautioned his church against this. In 1 Corinthians 14, he is basically saying, "If you're going to speak to people in the church, do it in ways that they can understand and appreciate."
To be clear, Paul valued speaking in tongues. He confirms that speaking in tongues is a good way for a Christian to edify himself (build himself or herself up spiritually) (v4). Paul himself spoke in tongues more than any of the Corinthian Christians (v18). Given the benefits of speaking in tongues, he wished that every Christian in Corinth had the gift of speaking in tongues (v5).
Still, Paul recognized that speaking in tongues, while it builds up the person speaking, does little for those who are trying to understand what that person is saying (v6-11). For this reason, Paul writes that when individuals in the church address others in the church publicly, they should not use tongues, but use gifts that build up those who are listening (v12), such as prophecy (vv3-4, v6), preaching and teaching (v6).
What can we learn from all this? It is good to be passionate about pursuing and practicing spiritual gifts. But always do it in a loving way, being sensitive to your other brothers and sisters in Christ. Use your spiritual gifts in ways that serve, edify, strengthen and encourage others, rather than condemn, discourage or confuse them. That's why God gives spiritual gifts in the first place -- to serve and build others up.
Here at THRIVE, we try to keep this in mind as well. That's why while we encourage people to speak in tongues, we don't use tongues to address people publicly. Rather, we'll encourage people to pray in tongues during their own private time with God and in times when we're all praying out loud together (i.e. when we're all talking to God at the same time and when we're not supposed to be listening to what our neighbour is saying). However, when we lead others in prayer, when we preach teach, or otherwise address people publicly, we of course use a language that everyone understands, using gifts that build up the entire church.
Once again, just as we've seen over and over in 1 Corinthians, it's about living in a way that builds up not just yourself, but your brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Whether it's in how we eat, how we conduct church discipline, how we use our bodies, or how we use spiritual gifts, love (i.e. doing what is best not just for yourself but for everyone involved) is always to be our guide.
Lord Jesus, may we be passionate about pursuing and practicing the spiritual gifts that You give us, and may we do so always for the good of the whole body of Christ, not just for ourselves. Thank You God that every situation we face is another opportunity to practice how to love one another better.