This past month, our community has been in a conversation about spiritual gifts and other ways God has designed us as human beings. We all were created with a specific purpose, designed with a calling in mind that God dreamed up for our lives. That also means that God equipped us with some incredible gifts, talents, and other abilities. And when we use those and develop them, these gifts become powerful tools in our lives. But there’s some dangers that come with spiritual gifts that the Bible gives clear guidance about.
First, if spiritual gifts don’t operate in LOVE, the Bible declares them worthless. This is critical to remember. Spiritual gifts should ALWAYS be exercised in LOVE. I did a word study of “always,” and in the Greek, the word always, after lots of study, literally means… ALWAYS. Yeah, that’s right, it’s pretty clear what Paul meant. One of the core passages on spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12, ends with this verse: “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (v. 31 ESV). And then the very next chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, goes into this eloquent way of talking about the importance of love. What Paul saw, and I know what I’ve seen, and perhaps you have too, is that spiritual gifts can be used wrongly (abused or misused) or they can get neglected and people don’t use them at all to serve. Neither are ok. Paul speaks poignantly to this in the New Testament, where gift abuse and misuse is happening. People put giftedness above character and it trumps love.
There is also gift projection (you thinking your gift is better than others), gift envy (you wanting another’s gift), and unhealthy comparison that can happen. The Bible says, “Have nothing to do with this.” In Corinthians, Paul addresses these kinds of issues head on, as there was chaos and confusion and misuse of spiritual gifts. Paul sets them straight in their confusion and disarray. We could do an exhaustive study on this, but basically, we’re challenged to be careful with how we use and handle our spiritual gifts in the context of a local church. And if we don’t, unnecessary conflict, disunity and division will emerge. It did in the New Testament times and it can today. And letting spiritual gifts get out of hand like that and be misused, that’s out of line. And that’s not what God intends for his church. Spiritual gifts MUST be used in love and in the spirit of unity. Spiritual gifts must not create chaos and we must resist the temptations to project our own gifts on others or to compare our gift with another person’s gift. Right character must always remain more important than giftedness. If we don’t have love and right character at the center of this conversation, Paul tells us that we’ve missed the most important part. And if we build a church like that, it will fall flat on its face. So at the center of stewarding our spiritual gifts (and other abilities and resources that God has given us), keep love front and center.
Live to serve and serve to live.