Speaking of gifts…


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 19; 150, Joel 1:1-13, 1 Corinthians 14:1-12, Matthew 20:1-16

Paul encouraged followers or Christ to seek and develop what he called Gifts of the Spirit. These were abilities granted by the Holy Spirit and meant to be used for the benefit of the church. Such gifts included, among other things, the abilities to prophesy and to speak in tongues. To prophesy in this sense was not to predict the future, but to “speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Speaking in tongues was speaking a language, either earthly or divine, that was not known to the speaker.

Not surprisingly, even though there was no need or directive to do so, people wanted to rank these gifts, and also looked more favorably on Christians who demonstrated them. Speaking in tongues seemed to be very common, possibly because – let’s be honest – it’s relatively easy to fake. Paul didn’t level this accusation against anyone, but he did tell them he’d rather see them strive for prophesy. While speaking in tongues might have been flashy and dramatic, in few cases did it have any real, positive impact on the life of the church.

Whatever gifts we have – whether the specific spiritual gifts listed by Paul in his letters, or the more mundane gifts granted us at birth or through study – we are meant to steward them well in service to the kingdom. The most immediately impressive ones, like strong leadership or inspirational preaching, are rare for a reason: we don’t need that many people to do them. Many Christians think seeking a purpose through ministry means they should be the face of a unique calling – but Jesus tells us the first are last and the last are first. Being in the trenches with other people who share a common gift is not a sign of insignificance, but of value. Rebuilding homes for the victims of disaster, preparing meals for grieving families, and visiting the sick in hospitals are the work of the kingdom; making a name for ourselves is not.

We don’t value what comes easily to us, but it may be gold to someone who doesn’t have it.

Comfort: Your gifts are valuable.

Challenge: When considering how to use your gifts, start by finding where they are lacking elsewhere.

Prayer: Thank you, generous God, for the for the many gifts you have given your people. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever been surprised that something you could do, which seemed unimportant to you, was important to someone else?

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