Valuing spiritual gifts

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."

1 Corinthians 12:13-21

If you are a Christian, you have been given a spiritual gift. At first blush this may not sound very exciting or meaningful. Perhaps you would rather get a new car or whatever toy you’ve been dreaming of. A car is valuable, a new one could cost over $30,000! But a spiritual gift? How could it compare to something tangible and physical or useful or entertaining? It seems intangible and not all that useful.

I can’t say for certain that these are your explicit thoughts, but I will assume that they are somewhat implicit in your mind. We are pragmatic creatures in a pragmatic culture. I want to be able to tangibly see or make use of my stuff. I want my gifts to be something cherishable, and it doesn’t seem like these spiritual gifts fit into that category. The point I am making is that I think that we overemphasize our physical possessions and things that work and underemphasize things related to the spiritual realm. We would be in awe of a miraculous physical healing. You might say, ‘That person who we thought would die is alive!’ But we can more easily forget the greater healing that happens in conversion, when God spiritually does the miracle of making a dead heart alive. So we might treasure our physical possessions to the neglect of our spiritual possessions.

I’d also say that our culture has trained us to be self-focused, which is to say, because the spiritual gifts are given to be used in the context of other people we don’t appreciate them as much as we should. I would suggest that the problem lies both in the neglect of the whole church and the neglect of the gift itself. We cannot use our spiritual gifts if we aren’t involved in the life of the church. Paul uses the example of a physical body: the imagery implies an inseparable bond. You can’t remove a finger from your body without a lot of pain, but our association with the body of Christ is more akin to a bunch of people floating on innertubes in a lake. You might bump into each other, but you’d rather keep your space and let the waves take you your own way. You might call this organic, but it is more like chaos. To bring all these metaphors together, I would suggest that we are constantly tempted in our day to neglect our responsibility in the local body to use our spiritual gifts, and instead, we are content to be pretty passive in our relationship to one another because it is easier (and we have our own priorities).

I am writing this first as a challenge to the church: use your spiritual gifts in the body, but I am also writing this in appreciation for people who are using their gifts in the body even those to whom it might not seem like much. We are blessed with members who are gifted in spiritual discernment and prayer. We are blessed by members with the gift of helping. These gifts are especially not very public, but they are wonderful gifts that God has given his church to support us in our need. Our goal for each of us is to fulfill our role in the body so that we are not lacking. We are always struggling towards this goal, but I am encouraged today to have seen a glimpse of members using their gifts.

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