Why do some Christians speak in tongues and others don’t?
Why do some Christians speak in tongues and others don’t? If tongues are given to us by God, why don’t all Christians speak in tongues when they pray?
I think the part of the Bible which most closely addresses it is 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14, and I’ve included some references to those chapters in the answer below.
The Bible says that God gives all Christians gifts for the mutual benefit of the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The church is like the human body - it’s designed to work together as a whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-16). But a human body needs eyes, ears, nose, hands and so on in order to function properly. If it was all eyes, we wouldn’t be able to hear; if it was all ears, we wouldn’t be able to smell.
In the same way, the church is made up of lots of different people with different gifts, and that’s good because we all need each other (1 Corinthians 12:17-30). Some people are great musicians and help the rest of us to sing praise to God. Other people are good teachers and preachers and help us to understand the Bible and to love God more. Others are gifted in administration, and so on. Because the church is one body, all these gifts are there for the benefit of the whole church. It’s not necessary or beneficial for everybody to have the same gift, because God wants us to work together.
Some people find it helpful to speak in tongues when they pray, but the Bible says that it isn’t helpful for other people unless someone is present who can explain what’s being said (1 Corinthians 14:1-12). So in church (that is, in public) we must speak in a way that’s understandable to other people (1 Corinthians 14:13-19, 28). The Bible says that because God gives gifts for the good of the church, the best gifts are ones that help the church as a whole to grow, such as prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5). Prophecy here seems to mean telling people what God says in language they can understand, and includes instruction and teaching from the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:19).
So to summarise, tongues can be a blessing if you have it, but not everybody does (1 Corinthians 12:30), and it’s not as important as some other gifts.
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au