Uncommon Good


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, 2 Kings 23:4-25, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Matthew 9:18-26

President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The Apostle Paul spent a good chunk of time assuring members of the early church that they need not compare their spiritual gifts: each one – wisdom, prophecy, healing, tongues, etc. – had its own important role to play. He wanted them to understand “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

“Common good.” That’s a phrase that’s become loaded. Though it was a principle of the earliest Christian communities, today it’s as likely to be associated with socialism. And like socialism, common good is a slippery term which not everyone can agree on. Perhaps there’s no real incentive to find agreement; the common good often demands the personal not-as-good.

But all those spiritual gifts Paul lists (and some he doesn’t) have something in common: they are useless until we employ them in service to someone else. Healing, wisdom, and prophecy aren’t too impressive if no one benefits from them. For that matter neither are generosity, empathy, and patience. It seems the common good is inherent in the activities of the Spirit.

Christianity is a full contact sport. If we are not willing to encounter people – via whatever gifts we’ve been given – in spirit, mind, and body how can we possibly be servants to all? We say we are blessed by things like talents, resources, and relationships, and while we may legitimately benefit from them ourselves, they are meaningless until we use them to bless someone else.

Maybe you don’t feel like you have blessings to share. If so, could that be because you’re unfavorably comparing what you have to offer with other people’s gifts? If we can’t seem to find our gifts, maybe instead of looking inward at what we lack or sideways at what someone else has, we should look outward to see what other people need. If we want to feel the charge of the Spirit moving through us, we might have to establish contact with someone else to complete that circuit. Only by getting to know people do we learn what good needs to be done.

Comfort: You have something someone needs.

Challenge: Be open about your needs so that others might feel more comfortable letting you know about theirs.

Prayer:  I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; I keep the LORD always before me. (from Psalm 16)

Discussion: Have you ever assumed you knew what someone needed and later learned you were wrong?

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