Each of us is born with a special talent, a spiritual gift that God gives us so we can help build up the body of Christ, the church. Often, however, spiritual gifts go unrecognized. We fail as a body and as individuals to tap into this source of strength, of energy, and fall short of being all we can be. As we look into this text in 1 Corinthians, ask yourselves, what is my spiritual gift and how can I use this for the good of the body, Christ’s church.
As we read in 1 Corinthians, we see there is conflict in the Corinthian church. Everybody knows it. Everybody can feel it. Some more than others. Some want to get to the root of the conflict. Others are convinced they know what the problem is. Still others are pulling away from the community, not sure what to think about the conflict.
The Apostle Paul knows what the trouble is. Some people in the Corinthian church are beginning to believe they are more religious, more spiritual than others. There is growing division between those whose faith is dynamic, witnessed in such things as speaking in tongues and prophesying and those whose faith is more subtle, less visible. Blame is being tossed back and forth. “If only you would be less self-righteous” says one group. “If only you would take faith more seriously.” say the others.
Paul knows what the trouble is, or what the source of the conflict is and yet he proposes no easy solution.
This is the way things are, says Paul. It’s not that God is more present with someone who prays louder or who looks more religious; it is that God’s Spirit leads us to put our faith to use in different way; God’s Spirit gives us different gifts. If we view this as the problem, then we are heading for trouble. We might try to root out those we find to be “less religious,” who don’t share the same gifts as us, whose faith looks different from ours.
At times we’ve taken the route and the results have been painful divisions in the church.
In the Corinthian church, the believers became so concerned about being “spiritually correct” that they failed to notice the value of spiritual gifts other than their own. Those with gifts of wisdom and knowledge looked down on those who prophesied. Each gift became considered an end in itself rather than a means to a faith greater than any one person could hold.
The litmus test, or the standard, for true faith is not whether we share the same gifts, but whether the gifts we bring build up the body. Paul makes this clear in verse 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This is the key. We may want to test the spirits, the gifts people claim to have. The best way to do this is to look around and see if these gifts are being used for the common good. Are these gifts building up or tearing down the body?
Have you figured out what your spiritual gift might be? It’s not easy, particularly as you look at the list Paul provides. Outside of wisdom and knowledge, and maybe faith and healing, the other gifts seem removed from us. Working of miracles. Prophesy. Speaking in tongues.
Understand that these were simply ways that the Corinthian believers lived out and expressed their faith in their time. This list is by no means complete. We might add to this list things offered today for the good of Christ’s body, the church. There are those with a gift of teaching, or learning who help us all to be better students of God’s word and will for our lives. There are those with the gift of prayer who remember others in time of need. There are those with a gift for listening who can provide comfort and encouragement. There are those who are gifted with their hands who are able to do repairs and provide a place for us to worship. There are those who are gifted to know what needs to be done and to do it for the good of the body.
What is your spiritual gift? Think about it, pray about it. Sometimes we lose sight of what we’ve been given as we struggle to make ends meet. As one writer puts it, “We lose sight of our natural gifts and cling more to our acquired skills.” Because we have to make a living and we fear failure, we learn to spend a lot of energy covering over our weaknesses rather than building on our strengths. We lose sight of some of what we most care for, some things we’re best at, because our time is filled with obligations and commitments.
Sometimes our spiritual gift is so simple we fail to recognize it or appreciate it, either in others or in ourselves.
What a blessing when God’s gifts are put to use!