The Greatest Thing in the World

By Henry Drummond

Review By Casey Fedde

Categories: Bible Study, Motivational, Spiritual Living

What is the greatest thing in the world? Knowledge? Happiness? Wealth? Faith?

It is love, declares renowned 19th-century evangelist, lecturer, and writer Henry Drummond. And it must be lived. "To love abundantly is to live abundantly," he preaches in his aptly titled sermon, "The Greatest Thing in the World" (50). But what is love? There are so many different concepts of love. So Drummond expounds on the subject of love, defining and explaining its nine components, the “spectrum of love” based on 1 Corinthians 13—patience, generosity, good temper, kindness, courtesy, guilelessness (thinking no evil), humility, unselfishness, and sincerity (rejoicing in truth). His sermon, published in 1874 as a mere 50-plus page book, has since sold more than 12 million copies, and it can transform our lives. Its promise holds true. Love lasts. Love endures.

And it has. Paul, almost 2000 years ago in his letter to the Corinthians, singled out love as the “summum bonum” – the supreme good. More than faith, more than hope, which the religious world declares as essential, love is the greatest thing in the world. Jesus was living proof of love in action. According to Drummond, the Bible's Peter and John also stated love's superiority. But Paul explains it further: "Love is the fulfilling of the law." So love, says Drummond, "is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments..." (16). If you love someone, you'll never covet what he has, steal from him, or bear false witness against him. It is for this reason that Drummond bases his sermon on Paul's message of love as the so-called supreme good. "Love," Paul writes, "never faileth."

Drummond challenges us to live Paul's words, to practice loving “in the midst of life” (37). Otherwise, love is just a word. "The Greatest Thing in the World" is a call to action – and a call to love made practical and powerful. Its universal, uplifting message is beautifully simplistic yet richly satisfying, and it asks us to add the ingredients of love – patience, generosity, good temper, kindness, courtesy, guilelessness, humility, unselfishness, and sincerity – to our lives. Drummond's sermon is timeless and worth reading or revisiting, especially now. "I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are?" Drummond asks. "How much the world needs it!" (24). And the world still needs it. In fact, maybe love is all it needs.