Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
When my oldest daughter, Carissa, was in early grade school, her mother helped her buy me a gift for my birthday. She was beaming as she gave it to me; giving was such a joy for her! It was a tie of course, the first of many, but that didn’t matter. I smiled at her and said thank-you, and then I smiled over at her mom because I knew Diane had done all the work. One day after school she had driven her to JC Penney’s and helped her pick it out. Then she had shown Carissa how to pay for it. Once home, she had wrapped it up and had Carissa put on the bow. Then on my birthday after I had come home from work, she had retrieved it from its hiding place and given it to Carissa, who then gave it to me.
Spiritual gifts operate in a similar way, God does all the work and gives them to us, so we can bless others with them. But we so easily mess it all up, by going in one of two wrong directions. We either forget that it’s from God, or we forget it’s for others. To use another analogy, we are to be the tools God uses for others.
Error #1 – When we forget that it’s from God, then it’s easy to want to take the credit and get a big head, especially if you have a more visible position. The preacher with an oratory gift can become expectant of greater accolades, more money and ever-increasing responsibility. He begins to think that he is the center of the church, everything must be done his way, and he is above being held accountable.
But laypeople can just as easily fall into the same trap, maybe because of leadership gifts that are seen as indispensable to the church. Even the person with the gift of helps can get exasperated when all their behind-the-scenes work seems to be taken for granted. Who is to get the glory, not us … God!
Error #2 – On the other hand, when we forget that it is for others, we begin to luxuriate in this gift we have. We forget that it is to serve and help others; it’s not just for our expressing ourselves. How sad when someone gets so wrapped up in their gift that they lose touch with the people it is for. And as a result sometimes sadly people become ineffective in their gift or worse their use of it hurts other people. The administrator becomes inflexible in his organizing, leaving no room for extra spur-of-the-moment concerns. The teacher is off on topics that aren’t relevant to the needs of their listener. Or the mercy person is unable to confront someone, maybe a counselee, that really needs it. How good is the gift then? Sadly, not much!
Error #3 – But there’s a third error as well. Because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves instead of God and we don’t want to get too wrapped up in our gifts, we fail to use them at all! We hide away in a corner and aren’t actively serving anywhere in the church. Then we have the same effect anyway; we deny God the glory by not using the gift he has given us and we don’t help those who need our service in the church.
Imagine if my daughter had boasted that she had done all the work for the gift (Error #1)! I would have had to correct her since she was hurting her mom. Or what if she had decided since she liked opening gifts she would open mine instead of me (Error #2)? Then her mother would have had to correct her because the gift was for me. On the other hand, she could have avoided the problem altogether, and refused to go along with her mom in the first place (Error #3). It’s safer, and less risky! But then she would have missed the joy of giving!
Yes, spiritual gifts are given for giving, for you, others and God to benefit!