“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)
“…sounding brass… tinkling cymbal…” Another translation uses the words “…noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…” You quickly get the idea of being out of tune, out of step, or out of touch. The inventor Nikola Tesla is attributed as saying in his own way what we all can so easily feel socially, politically, and in the practice of our faith. “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” (Nikola Tesla) We want to be in step, in sync, and at the same wavelength as our neighbors.
What happens when there is a gap between how society is and how your faith convicts you? It is similar to gaps between goodness and legality, or the gap between immediate solutions and a lasting reality. Paul really hits on something here. To have extremely useful and powerful talents like speaking many languages, having prophetic foreknowledge, faith that really gets things done, resources so plentiful that the poor can actually be feed, and dedication to a cause so great that you would be willing to endure torture. And to have the whole lot of it be found right in the middle of vanity!
What makes it so vain? The real evidence of the presence of God is the presence of Love. Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that is humble. Love that is willing to be second place, third place, or even at the end of the line. Love that has ownership of genuine peace. Love as taught by the transforming and remaking hand of God. A transformation that goes way beyond the really good use of really good talents. A transformation that puts you in sync with a wholly different frequency that fills with energy rather than depletes. To think that the best of the greatest talents could ever straighten a bent world is the most tragic of vanities. To confess that bentness and to allow the creator to remake is the only lasting solution.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV)