Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church … So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. (1 Cor. 14:1-2, 12)
We’ve been reading for just over three weeks now from the book of Ecclesiasticus, or “The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach.”
As he finishes his writing, he says “While I was young, before I went on my travels I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. Before the temple I asked for her, and I will search for her until the end” (Sirach 51:13).
Sirach and Paul emphasize two paired attitudes — striving and sharing — in their teaching about spiritual gifts, and they both stress that prophecy and wisdom are not to be kept to oneself but to be used for the building up of the faithful.
“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts,” says Paul. “My heart was stirred to seek her; therefore I have gained a prize possession,” says Sirach.
Sirach didn’t keep his learning to himself; he invited fellow seekers to “lodge in the house of instruction” (51:23) and learn from him about wisdom. Paul directed the Corinthians not just to speak in tongues but to prophesy with interpretation, so that the whole church would profit from each person’s gift.
What wisdom have you found in your seeking after God? What has your practice of prayer taught you? How might you share what you have learned with others in order to build them up, encourage them, or console them?