Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
I think the trick to understanding Spiritual Gifts is remembering their purpose…remembering for whose benefit they are intended.
Have you ever been so pleased with a gift you found for someone that you decided to get the same thing for yourself as well? Should we feel guilty about that? Do we have to tell the person that we did that, or can we just give them the gift and keep the rest of the story to ourselves? Is that deceptive? Does that break any gift-giving rules? Can we please get a ruling on this?
One of my two team members (Andrew) on our recent South Africa trip had a birthday while we were traveling. I happened to be walking through the Waterfront at Cape Town a day or two before and saw the coolest little key chain. It was African art, a symbol for unity (it shows two crossed crocodiles). I thought it would be a perfect and simple little birthday gift for Andrew. I bought it. But I was so excited about it, I decided I wanted one for myself too! And then I decided I wanted one for Kelley too, so that our whole Unity Ministries team could have this as a memory from this trip. And, alas, Andrew’s birthday gift became a team gift for all of us! I suppose the original purpose of the gift got a little blurred in the process…Very sorry, Andrew!
I think that can happen with Spiritual Gifts as well. When the Spirit manifests Himself through you in a clear and powerful way, it draws attention…and often praise. It makes you feel important. Other Christians notice it and often say lots of very nice things about it and about you. It feels like a very special gift…for you. But it is not for you. It is for everyone but you. It is intended for the benefit of the church…the body of believers around you. Specifically, according to Paul, it is intended “…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
You probably do not feel convicted about this, as I do…because you probably have never been tempted to receive and embrace the glory for your own spiritual gift. :) But perhaps you have seen someone else do that. Perhaps you have seen somebody who was particularly gifted in one way or another by the Spirit and he/she was pleased to accept all the praise and the glory for it. Rather than being humbled by the fact that God would use such a broken vessel as him/her to accomplish His work, he/she wraps up in the glory of it all and demonstrates a sickening sense of entitlement to the praise of others. It is ugly. Do not be that person.
When the Spirit manifests Himself through you and causes all the believers around you to be lifted up toward God and toward each other in a grand and glorious fashion…when you (with all your flaws and faults) are used by God to grow others up into Christ…just stop and praise God along with everyone else, and remember His intended purpose for that gift. It is not for you. It is for them.
And I think I should keep my key ring as a perfect reminder of this lesson. :)