THE GIFTS USED AS TOYS
In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul said that the Corinthians came behind in no gifts. However, in 3:1 he said, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ." Paul told the Corinthians that they were not only childish, but even babyish. Babies always have more toys. Who do you think has the most toys—a little baby, a middle-aged person, or an elderly person? Obviously, the babies have the most toys, for toys are made for babies and children. If you read 1 Corinthians carefully, you will see that Paul’s concept was that playing with the gifts is like playing with toys. You may ask, "Where is the verse saying that the Corinthians were like children playing with toys?" Of course, no verse says this explicitly. But if you consider the whole book, you will realize that this is exactly Paul’s meaning.
In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul told them that they did not lack any of the gifts; in 3:1 he said that they were babyish; and in 13:11 he said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." What did Paul mean by "childish things"? If you read chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, you will have to admit that the childish things are the gifts. Some who oppose speaking in tongues claim that it is childish. However, the childish things in 13:11 refer not only to speaking in tongues, but also to prophecy, teaching, and even to the three leading gifts of apostles, prophets, and teachers. If you play with these things, to you they become childish things. Paul seemed to be saying, "You Corinthians are playing with the gifts just as children play with toys. To you, prophecy, teaching, speaking in tongues, healing, and miracles are all toys. To you these have become childish things." Where can you find a group of Christians in which no one plays with toys? Such a group does not exist because Christians everywhere play with toys. If we are honest and fair, we shall admit that this is also true with us.
Whether or not we play with toys depends upon the growth of life. No matter how much the young ones say that they do not play with toys, the fact is that they do play with them. When I checked with my eight-year-old grandson, he said that he was a good boy, that he behaved himself, and that he did his homework. He also told me he enjoys reading the Bible, and he then proceeded to read me the first eighteen verses of John chapter one. I was happy that he could read all the words so well. But immediately after talking with me, he began to show off by walking on the sofa and the coffee table. The more I asked him to stop, the more he went on. To him, everything is a toy. When he helps me water the planters in the yard, he plays with the water pot and the planter. Nevertheless, I am not angry with him, because I realize that he is a child who likes to play and to make a toy out of everything. If he did not play with things, it would indicate that he was ill, for the only time little boys do not feel like playing is when they are sick.
The young people in the church need to realize that they are still playing with toys. When they hear this, they may be disappointed and say, "Brother Lee has said that we are children playing with toys. Let us forget about the meetings and stay home." If you do this, it is an indication that you are ill. Instead of staying home you should come to the meetings and play with your toys. Do not be disappointed to learn that you are still a child. I am happy to see the young ones playing with toys. When I see my grandchildren at play, I am happy to know that they are strong, active, and normal. Likewise, I am happy to see you play with toys in the meetings. However, I would not be pleased if the elders were to play with toys, because they are past the age of playing with toys. It is healthy for children to play. If you forbid them to play, you will kill them. It is the same in the church life today. We need to encourage the young ones to go ahead and play with their toys in the meetings. We realize that when they function in the meeting it is like playing with a toy. However, for the older ones to play in such a way would be wrong.
We in the church are not an army or a school, but a large family including those of every age. Therefore, in the meetings there must be activities for all ages. Those who play with toys should not be unhappy with the older ones. The playing ones are the young ones, the fresh ones, the young people who have been saved a very short time. They need to be able to play in the meeting. In order to give them the opportunity to do so, we need to conduct the meetings in a family way.
(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)