The 5 Love Languages | Part 3
BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how Gary Chapman’s concept of The 5 Love Languages could be used to strengthen our romantic relationships, but near the end of that post we suggested an alternative way to use the concept of love languages – to strengthen our love for God during those times we start to feel distant from Him.
Last time, we looked at ways we could use two of the love languages to express our love to God: Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. Now, let’s consider how we can use the other three love languages, as well: Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
- Receiving Gifts. We can offer gifts to God in multiple ways, including Tithes, Offerings, and Fasting.
Tithes. The book of Leviticus says, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (27:30). A tithe is defined as a tenth.
We might think that because we are told to tithe, it shouldn’t count as a “gift” to God; it’s fulfilling an obligation. But remember, obedience is God’s primary love language. When we tithe, we please God.
Offerings. If the tithe is owed to the Lord, an offering is something given over and above that requirement. Although God smiles upon our obedience in tithing, He loves it even more when we imitate Him through generosity.
We are told, “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely” (Psalm 112:5), and “A generous man will himself be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9). Why will the generous be blessed? Because they have pleased God. Paul thanks the Philippians for the gifts they sent to support him while he was imprisoned, saying, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (4:18).
One reason God is generous with us is so that we will have the resources to help others in need. Indeed, when writing about the needs of the Macedonian church, Paul tells the Corinthians, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need” (2 Corinthians 8:14). Mutual generosity can ensure that everyone’s needs are taken care of in times of trouble.
Fasting. Although fasting is typically to abstain from eating for a set period of time, we can choose to “fast” from other things as well. For example, you can fast from social media for a set period of time, or from sugar.
By sacrificing something for a time, we are, in a sense, giving it to God; we’re saying our relationship with Him is more important than the thing we are giving up. If there is something you don’t feel you could give up, even temporarily, it’s worth considering if that thing has become an idol for you.
In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney makes two key points about fasting: it is for a spiritual purpose, and it is expected. When we fast from something, it focuses us on God and on our spiritual purpose for fasting. Whitney discusses multiple reasons we might fast, such as to strengthen our prayers, to seek God’s guidance, to express repentance, or to worship God (pages 200-217).
Whitney also notes that Jesus says, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16; emphasis added), not “If you fast…” In this sense, Jesus puts fasting on the same level as praying and giving (page 196). Of course, Jesus began his earthly ministry with a 40-day fast (Matthew 4:2), so he models this behavior for us.
Acts of Service. Chapman defines Acts of Service as “doing things you know your spouse would like you to do” (page 91). I’m reminded of the young Jesus’s words when Joseph and Mary found him in the temple: “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, NKJV). We should be about our Father’s business, too.
But how? We can Evangelize, Teach, Volunteer, and Work.
Evangelize. Perhaps the most important thing God wants us to do is spread the Gospel to others. The last words of Jesus recorded by Matthew include, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:19-20). This message brings salvation; it’s the message Jesus died to have told. Surely, it’s worth spreading.
Teach. Teaching is one of the spiritual gifts (e.g., Romans 12:7), but that does not mean all Christians should not participate in instructing others in the faith – parents, for example, must teach their children (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
The writer of the book of Hebrews chastised his readers, saying, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again” (5:12). It is clear that teaching others is an expected activity as we mature in our faith; it is, therefore, pleasing to God when we do so.
Volunteer. Paul instructed the Galatians to “serve one another in love” (5:13), and there are numerous ways to do this actively in or through the church. Church functions need volunteers, whether that is staffing the information booth on Sunday morning or coaching youth in an “Upward Sports” or “Pray & Play” type of league.
Similarly, charitable organizations – both religious and secular ones – need volunteers. As Peter said, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul echoed this sentiment in his letter to the Ephesians: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” (6:7). Whatever act of service we perform, remember that we are ultimately doing it for God; by keeping the focus on Him, our service will be pleasing to God.
Work. But volunteering is not the only way we can work for God. We should maintain a Godly perspective when performing our jobs, too. Writing to the Colossians, Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (3:23).
Do you dedicate your effort at work to God? Imagine how your customer service skills would improve if you interact with customers as an ambassador of Heaven; imagine what the quality of your products would be if you were making them for God.
If we work forty hours a week, we spend over 23% of our time at work – and almost a third of our waking hours. It would be tragic to neglect God for almost a third of our productive time on Earth. Whatever job you do, dedicate your effort to God and ask Him to use you.
Physical Touch. Jesus was never afraid to get his hands dirty, at least not when it came to helping people. He touched the eyes of the blind (e.g., John 9:6), lepers (e.g., Mark 1:41), a woman with a fever (Matthew 8:15), the coffin of a dead man (Luke 7:14), the body of a dead girl (e.g., Matthew 9:25), a crippled woman (Luke 13:13), and he put his fingers in the ears and on the tongue of a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:33).
He also dined with tax collectors (Luke 19:5), talked with a Samaritan woman (John 4:7), allowed a sinful woman to wet his feet with her tears (Luke 7:38), and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:5).
We are to meet the physical needs of others, even if that means allowing them into our American-sized “personal space.” James writes, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (2:15-16).
In Romans, Paul tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (12:15). Whether it is a hug of happiness or an arm of support, a hand of fellowship or the greeting of a holy kiss on the cheek, Christians shouldn’t shy away from making someone feel seen and valued as a person who is made in the image of God.
Again, it is not uncommon for passion to fade, whether in a romantic relationship or in our relationship to God. When this happens, one way to rekindle feelings is to speak the other party’s love language.
Spiritually, it’s important to remember that when our relationship with God seems distant, it’s not because God has gone anywhere; we have. We’re allowing life to pull us away from Him.
It’s up to us to heed the calling of the Holy Spirit and return to Him by speaking His primary love language: obedience. And, as we’ve seen, there are a lot of ways we can speak His language.
Remember: love is a choice. We can choose to show love through our actions. So, what choice will you make today? How can you express your love for God?