1 Corinthians 14:6-8
Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?
When reading these verses I couldn’t help but think of the correlation between what Paul has written and music.
In verse 6 Paul is telling the followers of Christ that he will not and should not speak words to simply hear himself speak. For what use are words if they do not communicate? What use are they if they have no meaning or knowledge to share? They’re just noise.
Paul likens this to music. He uses the sounds of instruments to demonstrate his point.
French composer Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.” Mozart is quoted as saying, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” And more contemporary, Miles Davis’s quote about this subject is, “Don’t play what is there, play what is not there.”
In these verses Paul, over 1000 years before these guys, is saying that same thing in verses 7 and 8.
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played?
How are notes made distinct? By leaving a hole or a space between them. The larger the hole the more distinct the note.
And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?
How are notes made indistinct? Just run them all together, never leaving a hole for them to breathe. They become mush, an uninspiring mash up of unemotional sounds.
And so it is with words and speech.
The best writers us the fewest words and yet clearly convey their ideas.
One of William Shakespeare’s most remembered lines is only six words; “to be or not to be”. Just six words, five or which are only two letters and the other only three. Yet you can read paragraph after paragraph about the meaning of what he wrote with just six distinct words.
One of the greatest speeches of all times was only 275 words and three minutes long, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This speech was given at a time when the longer the speech the greater it was considered to be. Speeches would last for hours not minutes. How distinct could all the words be in a three hour speech?
How many three hour speeches are remembered today?
Edward Everett was one of the most popular speakers during the time of Abraham Lincoln. He spoke in Gettysburg that same day. Everett’s speech lasted two hours. Who remembers what Everett said, or that he even spoke?
Paul is telling the members of the new church to choose their words wisely and convey the teachings of Christ as succinctly as possible. Do not ramble on for your own glorification and to feed your vanity. If you do, your teachings will become nothing but noise and tuned out. They will be of no value to the listener.
Remember to leave those holes and spaces in all that you do.
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