1 Corinthians 13:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV: "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

1 Corinthians 13:3, ESV: "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

1 Corinthians 13:3, KJV: "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 13:3, NASB: "And if I give away all my possessions to charity, and if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good."

1 Corinthians 13:3, NLT: "If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing."

1 Corinthians 13:3, CSB: "And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing."

What does 1 Corinthians 13:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The Corinthians, apparently, had decided that some among them were "spiritual" while others were not. Or, that some were less spiritual on the basis of having less-prestigious spiritual gifts. Paul has shown that to exercise even the most powerful and impressive spiritual gifts without love makes those gifts meaningless and the one using them "nothing." Paul uses one of several Greek terms for love here: agape, referring to a godly love that puts others first.

Now Paul moves beyond spiritual gifts to the most profound acts of spiritual self-sacrifice a Christian may make. Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all he had and give the money to the poor (Mark 10:17–22). Surely anyone who would actually do such a thing would have reached the height of Christian spirituality. And yet, Paul insists, to do so without love for others gains the giver nothing at all.

Then he moves to the ultimate sacrifice. What if a person gives his own body to be burned to death for the Lord? Again, Paul describes this sacrifice as meaningless if made without love for others.

Paul is not describing burning oneself to death in a kind of religious suicide to make a point. Instead, he seems to be referring to those who refuse to reject faith in Christ even to avoid the most painful death imaginable. Paul had made—and survived—such choices, as had others in the early days of the church.

Why would someone give away all their money or even their life if not out of love for Christ and others? Perhaps a person might do such a thing for pride or glory or in a foolish attempt to earn God's favor. Love, though, is the only motive that makes such sacrifices worthwhile.