Monday, September 08, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
(1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-28)

10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers...
(Ephesians 4:10-11)

6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
(Romans 12:6-8)

I've already talked a little about spiritual gifts in a previous post, but since this is another aspect of stewardship that I'm studying, I thought it would be beneficial to post something about it right now.

My own definition of spiritual gifts are those gifts given by God through the Holy Spirit which enable Christians to minister to and serve others. Another definition I came across said almost the same thing: "...a spiritual gift is a God-given ability to serve the church effectively" (Fred G. Zaspel).

It's important to know that these are the three main sources of Scripture when discussing spiritual gifts, but other authors (if you'll allow me to call myself that for a minute) include other possible gifts. The gifts listed here are:

speaking in tongues
interpretation of tongues
shepherding (pastors)

You might be looking at this list and thinking, "Um, isn't every Christian supposed to have that gift?" In the case of faith, helps, evangelism, serving, encouragement, and mercy, then yes, I think every Christian probably has those qualities to a certain extent. However, it's probably a spiritual gift if it's more defined than just your run of the mill quality. For example, in Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells the disciples to "go and make disciples of all nations." Most Christians would say that command is for every believer, not just the original 12 disciples. So while all believers are commanded to share and spread their faith, some are given the gift of evangelism, the gift to spread the gospel on a scale that others don't have. Here's a hint: it's the difference between me and Billy Graham (and I'm not an evangelist). Another example: in the Old Testament, God commanded the tithe, and I personally believe that all Christians should tithe as well, though the New Testament seems more concerned about giving willingly and with the right attitude than a set number. So while we're all called to give money to the Church (or charity or whatever serves the Kingdom of God), some people have this gift of giving that allows them to give more than that on a continual basis, and that giving is one way they minister to others. That's one of my gifts. (I'm not working in full capacity yet, but I'm trusting that the vision God has given me of my future will make that happen fully)

My personal theory when it comes to any of these types of stewardship is that if every single member of the Body of Christ did her or his part, not only would the Church be healthier and run more efficiently without all the drama, the world would be a better place. Here's the reality: 20% of the people in the church do 80% of the work. That's not the way God intended for the Church to work. Paul continues the letter to the Corinthians:

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Paul's message is clear: the parts of the body remain parts of the body, even if they say they aren't anymore. The same is true for the Body of Christ. Just because you decide, as a part of that Body, to not do your job or serve your function doesn't mean you aren't a part of the Body anymore. What it really means is that your lack of function is making the rest of the Body sick. The little toe, as small and unworthy as it seems, provides balance to the human body. The little toes in the Body of Christ all have a function too.

But here's a thought - I have a feeling that it's not the "little toes" in the Church that aren't doing their jobs. Little toes are humble creatures and true servants. They do their job without complaint. Even when you break them, they might cry out in pain, but they don't even require a splint to be repaired, other than a humble fourth toe, who props them up in sympathy and helps them heal. No, it's not the "little toes" in the Body that we need to worry about, because they're in that hardworking 20%. We really need to worry about the hair. Seriously. Hair is pretty. It keeps you warm, and sometimes even gives you the warms fuzzies. But you never know how it's going to act from day to day, and it can be really unreliable. Hair comes in many different personalities and colors, and some days it jut screams, "I am NOT a part of this body!"

Lest you think I'm being silly in this illustration, think about it hard. You know someone in the church who is unreliable, who refuses to just do her job for no real reason, someone who just screams that they want nothing to do with what the church is doing some days.

And there are all the body parts in between: the hands that type one day and play video games the next, the stomach that starves one day and is a glutton on another.

It's hard to be a member of the Church, but that doesn't mean we cut ourselves off from the body when it gets too painful. We can't (I know this from experience). Instead, we have to dig in harder and use the gifts God has given us. And really, what you find when you try not to use your gifts is that you can't not use them; they are as much a part of you as your personality, and they flow in, through, and out of you as much as the Holy Spirit does. You'll find yourself teaching a child a Bible verse, or helping an elderly neighbor clean her house. Maybe you take on a volunteer management position at a local charity, or help someone figure out what God wants them to do in a particular situation. You might want to avoid using your gifts, but you just can't.

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