It was several years ago that the BBC ran a piece about a bumper spaghetti crop in Switzerland. There had been a confluence of ideal conditions for the Swiss farmers: a mild winter, the nefarious spaghetti weevil was practically non-existent that particular year, and the Swiss, long known for their precision, had developed a strain of spaghetti that was just the right length so it didn’t have to be trimmed after it was harvested from the trees.
Despite the fact that this story aired on the first of April, not everyone saw through the ruse. (In fairness, pasta was nowhere near as popular as it is today). One man argued that the report was in error—spaghetti grew horizontally rather than vertically. Others called or wrote wanting to know if they could grow spaghetti in their garden. The BBC dutifully suggested that they put a few strings of spaghetti in a can of tomato sauce and hope for the best. The disciples at Corinth had their own spaghetti tree they believed in. They were under the false impression that possessing knowledge alone made them spiritual. They had been blessed with a rich array of spiritual gifts, especially in regard to those dealing with speech and knowledge (1:5-7). However, rather than use these gifts for the benefit of others (12:7; 14:26), they were using them to exalt themselves. Rather than building others up, they were puffed up about themselves (8:1ff).
The results were predictable—the church at Corinth was severely fragmented (1:10ff). How bad was it? When they came together as a church it resulted in more harm than good (11:17)! Their selfishness was making a mockery of their observance of the Lord’s Supper (11:20ff). They were engaged in lawsuits against each other (6:1ff). Despite all of this, they thought of themselves as spiritual.
Paul shatters the illusions of the knowledgeable with, of all things, a truth they were ignorant of! The truth was the meaninglessness of their intellectual gifts when devoid of love (13:1ff). They would find no profit without love (v. 3). If it was absent from their lives they were spiritual zeroes, no matter what other gifts they possessed or what else they did (v. 2).
Without love, everything is a spaghetti tree!