Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gifts for Good

I am in the process of reading a series of articles pertaining to our spiritual gifts. Of course the usual encouragement to find our gifts and put ourselves in the position to use our gifts is ever present. But there are some things I still am not sure about, but know it is popular for many Christians to believe.

First of all, the idea that we need to "find" our gift is interesting to me. Not because it is worthy of much thought, but because it is so strange. Granted, the gift of the Spirit was always preached, and there seemed to be a need for people to understand it. However, the manifestation of the Spirit empowering believers in different areas was simply evidence of the Spirit's work among God's people. It was obvious. And, it was only addressed in Scripture in the context of why and how we use those gifts. Not much, if at all, is addressed concerning finding our gifts.

Maybe someone can make the argument that since Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we need to serve with whatever gift we have, that it implies that in order for one to do so, one must know what one's gift is. I am not sure about that. What if that passage simply means that the natural action we take after spending our time renewing our minds and serving the body of Christ will be to use our gifts in the process.

Additionally, the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 addressing the various gifts in the Church is offering a similar explanation from the perspective of exhorting people to stop valuing gifts more than their purpose. Rather use the gifts they have to edify and build up the Church. In other words, using our gifts to serve one another should be the natural result of understanding who we are in Christ (renewal of mind).

This idea is carried over in Ephesians 4 as well. Paul is saying that our gifts (or rather our differences) are necessary to help the Church grow and mature. They should be a source to perpetuate unity instead of division. The ultimate goal being that a change in mindset should be occurring, and as a result, the whole body of Christ will serve and grow. This brings us to an interesting problem.

When we view our spiritual gifts from the perspective of our current culture, we naturally have to separate our spiritual gifts from our natural talents and abilities. There is some truth to this, but it can be a problematic, because all our abilities and talents are, well, spiritual. God made us and endowed us with gifts at birth. On the other hand, Jesus did do something new when he conquered death according to Ephesians 4. He spread gifts to men. So in a since, we are given something new as a result of being in Christ, but that doesn't matter. In Christ all that we do is colored by Christ.

For instance, if I am a civil engineer by trade before becoming a Christian, that doesn't change after I become a Christian. But that trade becomes a holy work of God, because of Christ. I no longer see civil engineering the same way anymore. I rather see the will of God in my work, in how I work, and in what that work is suppose to be like. I can see this trade's true intent; its true nature from the perspective of a Christian reference point.

So, what difference does that make? A lot. From a less developed perspective, a person may value seeking out their gifts as the best way to serve God effectively. In fact, in one article the author went so far as to say that if we serve where we are not gifted, we will not produce any fruit. I bristle at that thought. The only reference in Scripture to fruit-bearing in our lives is what Jesus said about our abiding in him (John 15). The act of abiding in Jesus (finding our sense of meaning, purpose, and sustenance in Jesus) is the main reason we bear any fruit. It is not about fitting our gifts to our ministries. If we abide in Jesus, no matter what we do, we will bear fruit. Therefore, maturity in Christ as we serve each other is what will bear fruit.

Finally, I've seen people produce great results from doing a gifts inventory, and working in a ministry they enjoy—even when they didn't know Christ. But the results, or rather fruit, is all about what God is looking for, not what we are looking for. I want to be very careful about this. It is about what God is looking for, not what we are looking for. The New Testament is very clear. Don't spend too much time assessing your gifts. Spend your time renewing your thought patterns; submitting them to Christ. And as a result, serve your fellow believers and help your neighbors, so that they too can be transformed by Christ. You can't help but be empowered by the Holy Spirit when you do these things. Be filled with the Spirit, not methodologies.


  1. Really great thoughts, Kerry. I'm all for having people serve in their areas of giftedness. But I'm even more interested in seeing them tranformed into the likeness of Jesus.

  2. "Be filled with the Spirit, not methodologies."

    Good stuff!

    the Other Kerry

  3. Thanks John and "the Other" Kerry.

    I agree that transformation is the greater issue. In fact, in Romans 12, the passage starts out with the admonition to be transformed in our thinking because of the grace of God. In Ephesians 4, the same admonition to be transformed is given. Of course, 1 Corinthians 12-13 discusses the use of gifts as a by-product of a transformed lifestyle.