Over the next couple of weeks, we will encounter one of my favorite set of passages, Paul’s exposition on spiritual Gifts. I will call them: “You’re Special;” “We’re Special;” and “God’s Special.” Now this is not like the old SNL Church Lady skit as she would look down her nose at the poor sap that was just not good enough for her. The specialness that these passages have come out of is one of the very first lessons we are taught in Sunday School and that is “God has uniquely created each of us and loves us for who we are.” Unfortunately, this teaching can easily traverse into narcissism, which the SNL skit exemplified. Thus, we must always remember that our uniqueness or special attributes are not about us; they are about God.
A few years ago I was teaching a class and asked people to tell their gifts. We went around the room; some people were boastful for their great and profound gifts, others were embarrassed because they did not see themselves having any. This is pretty common and we began to discuss what gifts are.
With Christmas so recently celebrated, we have a great example of the problem that arises when Gifts are discussed. In that class, many began to talk about gifts of things: sometimes useful, sometimes silly, and sometimes gestures of love. The bad part about how we think of gifts in our culture is that most of the time it is fairly superficial. More importantly, we can see that these are far more often about the receiver and unfortunately forgotten soon after.
When the Bible talks about gifts, we need to change our definition of the word because the gifts that the Bible talks about are not things or even the individuals, but it is the relationship between us and God and the individual and the community that are at the heart. Moreover, gifts in the Bible are not one-time forget-about-it things. There is accountability with every gift found in the Bible. For modern people that does not seem fair; I can hear the child in my mind crying right now “It’s mine, IT’S MINE I CAN DO WHAT I WANT WITH IT!!!”
The problem is that it is not all yours. What makes the Biblical gifts so different is that each gift is given to us as if we were a caretaker of that gift. What makes Biblical gifts so special is that they come from the Holy Spirit and are actually never really fully ours because they are from God. This puts a special burden on us to care for and nurture those gifts so that they can be used for the purpose which God gave them.
Now this does not mean that they are not special; these gifts are very special. God has designed each gift specially for us individually. This is important since we also have to realize that no one person possesses all spiritual gifts, and that is where we will pick up next week!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen