11When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12For now we see dimly in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know partially, but then I will know in the same way that God knows me. — 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
Though Jesus says we must approach the kingdom as children, there is a childishness that we must avoid. Paul is warning us about that in this passage. The childlike attitudes that Jesus commends include simplicity, teachability, and a willingness to seek God’s love and approval.
Paul, on the other hand, is talking about childishness. Throughout his first epistle to the Corinthians he has been addressing various types of childish behavior, the need to be right, the need to be better and more important than other people, quarrels, and lack of discipline.
What the Corinthians were focusing on in their spiritual life was the things that made them look important, or made them seem better than other people. Now Paul is telling them that truly spiritual people are characterized by love. Love doesn’t need to have it’s own way. It looks out for others. It doesn’t keep accounts of the wrong things that are done.
Another characteristic of childishness is a focus on the moment, on things that are temporary and will fade away. But looking for people who had the gift of prophecy, for example, and regarding them as more important than others, the Corinthians were demonstrating spiritual childishness. By making an issue of the special knowledge of mysteries that they had, they were again demonstrating spiritual childishness.
But God was calling them to grow up. They needed to understand that all of that was temporary, that the real thing was God, his love, and maturing into that love. When Jesus returns in power, all of the special knowledge, all of the special gifts and talents, all of our prophecies will be as nothing. We will all be in God’s presence, what need will we have of knowledge?
In his own way, Paul is calling us to take an eternal view. What is most important in your life? Are you spending your time on things that are of eternal value? Those looks of wonder that people give you because of your skill are things of the moment. The acclaim you receive as a leader in your church or workplace is temporary.
The relationships you develop with them and the love you show them is what will last. When you see God face to face, nothing else will matter.