People’s ability to pull the wool over their own eyes is quite remarkable. When faced with the truth, people would rather close their eyes, cover their ears, and repeat their lies over and over rather than admit they were wrong and accept the truth.
Enter the gift of tongues.
A few years ago, a church friend said to me, “Before I leave your apartment today you will be able to speak in tongues.” Before she left I did not speak in tongues. Later on I met with another friend, from the same church, who said something similar. Days after the meeting I still had not received the gift and expressed my frustration with the experience. She promptly sent me a bible verse telling me there must be some sin in my life keeping me from walking in the gift.
Every time there was an alter call and the pastor welcomed people to be baptized in the holy spirit and leave speaking in tongues, I went. The church leaders made it sound like my Christianity was not complete unless I could, and since I could not do it, it made me feel like I was on a lower level of glory than those who could.
Before we go any further, let me make it clear that this was wrong. Interestingly enough, I think I knew it was wrong all along. Whenever the topic of tongues would come up, the same verse would pop into my mind: “and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:11. Nowhere does the bible say that every believer will have the capacity to speak in tongues, nor does it say you are any less if you don’t.
You know what? To this day I do not speak in tongues, and I am at peace. The Lord has blessed me with other gifts.
Paul wrote letters admonishing the church for their misuse of this very gift. I believe the church today has fallen into the same pit as the church in Corinth. We often read the bible and think God is speaking to someone else when really he is speaking directly to us. Tongues is a personal thing, and it is to be done in your quiet time. As Paul said in his letters, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 If we know that, “anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he speaks mysteries with his spirit,” 1 Corinthians 14:2 and we also know, “he who speaks in tongues edifies himself,” 1 Corinthians 14:4 then why do we find people speaking in tongues so frequently in public? To take it a step further, why do we find people speaking in tongues so frequently in public without interpretation? Ah, now there is a question. Where are the interpreters? “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 I once attended a thirty minute prayer call where the first twenty minutes was spent speaking in tongues and the last ten minutes we prayed in English. I pointed this verse out to the pastor who led the prayer meeting, and he said that some believe the last ten minutes of prayer is the interpretation of the first twenty minutes of tongues. Nice try. There is no speculation about interpretation, either it is, or it isn’t. God doesn’t deal in maybe’s or might’s, he is always crystal clear with what is and what isn’t.
Another problem with the “everyone will speak in tongues before they leave here” approach is it leaves people discouraged. I have found many Christians who feel left out. They get frustrated when they do not experience this gift when their mentors or pastors say that they will. And who is holding these church leaders responsible for their words? Regrettably, many who feel this way say nothing. I didn’t say anything, and when I finally did, I was told I was the issue. One day, I pointed out 1 Corinthians 12:11 to the friend who told me that my sin was keeping me from walking in the gift. She said “Oh, I had no idea you were feeling frustrated.” Note she did not mention the verse.
The problem here is not the people who do not have the gift of tongues, but the leaders who believe their words supersede the Lord's. There are many other gifts as outlined in the passage below. While tongues is great, I often wonder, what is the church's fixation with the gift of tongues? Why do we find church leaders teaching what is contrary to the scriptures and people accepting it as truth? Could it be misdirection?
How are we so easily deceived? And once deceived we fight harder to preserve the lie than we ever did for the truth. It is so sad the truths we shut out of our lives. If I would have accepted the truth of that verse, then I would not have spent so much time chasing a gift that was not mine.
What truth(s) are you shutting out?
I Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same spirit, to another faith by the same spirit, to another gift of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.