Nothing but zeros? Put a 1 in front

Doing things out of guilt is not the same as doing them out of love.

I still struggle with this. Sometimes it’s the guilt that gets me going, before love takes over and sustains the action.

I’d rather start out with love in the beginning, love in the middle, and love until the end.

It is love that brings value to our efforts, our gifts, our knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

This excerpt from Jerry Bridge’s True Community brings this to life. Without love as our motivation, we have nothing but a row of zeros.

True Community

Write down, either in your imagination or on a sheet of paper, a row of zeros. Keep adding zeros until you have filled a whole line on the page.

What do they add up to? Exactly nothing!


Even if you were to write a thousand of them, they would still be nothing.

But put a positive number in front of them and immediately they have value.


This is the way it is with our gifts and faith and zeal. They are the zeros on the page. Without love, they count for nothing.

But put love in front of them and immediately they have value.”

–  Jerry Bridges (adapted from J.D. Jones’s illustration in An Exposition of First Corinthians 13)

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5 thoughts on “Nothing but zeros? Put a 1 in front

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    interesting how minds and events coincide

    after 18 hours of unadulterated hell, which goes on, realized that does not matter how i feel

    only that i did it

    protect the weak, you dont have to love them, just be willing to die for them

    sorry for awkward phrasing, trying to get this down befor e passing out again

  2. Linda Stoll

    Guilt is a lousy taskmaster, for sure.

    Love lifts us high, lifts Him high.

    That’s where I want to come from.

    May this weekend refresh you, body and soul, dear Lisa. Hugs for ya’, too!


  3. Barbara H.

    Interesting illustration! I am the same way – I’d rather operate from love, and I pray for that, but sometimes I have to start with duty. One former professor used to say, “Good feelings follow right action,” and I have found that to be true.

    Sometimes, too, I wrestle with the fact that Biblical love is not a warm, fuzzy, feeling, but rather a self-sacrificing desire to do the best for the loved one, so does it really matter how I feel? But the first verses of I Cor. 13 talk about sacrifice without loving, so it’s not just the sacrifice of time, attention, goods, etc., that expresses love. I don’t have that all figured out yet. 🙂 But I do pray for right motives and a loving heart even if sometimes I have to “do” without feeling particularly loving. I liken it to a mom waking up at 2 a.m. to feed her baby. She may not be feeling very loving – she may feel more like a zombie — but the fact that she gets up anyway and tends to her child evidences her love.

  4. Dianna

    There was a time when I did a lot of things with duty as my motivation and I know there are times when I still do, if I am really honest. But the more I am in His Word and stay focused on Him, the things I do I do for Him…which makes it easy to do out of love.

  5. Betsy de Cruz

    What a powerful illustration, Lisa! O Lord, pour out your love over me and through me.

    He always pours out that love, it’s me that sometimes blocks the overflow that should reach others.

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