Various Gifts, One Giver
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.
1 Corinthians 12:4
Most Christian communities value certain kinds of ministry more than others. For example, I grew up in a church that held biblical teaching in the highest esteem. All ministries were valued, but teaching was prized. Those who were gifted teachers were honored above all others.
The Corinthian Christians, or at least a significant subset of them, were especially impressed by speaking in tongues, as we'll see when we get to chapter 14. Those who were gifted by the Spirit to speak in an unknown language (either human or angelic) thought of themselves as the most spiritual of all. Those who did not speak in tongues were second-class Christians.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a church valuing the gifts of the Spirit and honoring those who employ them faithfully. The problem comes when we implicitly or explicitly downgrade other gifts and practitioners. This injures the church, and it limits our openness to the work of the Spirit in and among us.
First Corinthians 12:4-6 makes it abundantly clear that the Spirit works in many different ways through us. Paul uses three parallel phrases to emphasize this point. There are:
• Varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
• Varieties of ministries, but the same Lord;
• Varieties of workings, but the same God who works.
Thus, we must not limit the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our churches by cherishing some gifts while neglecting others. Rather, we need to understand that the Spirit works in a wide variety of ways. This understanding helps us to be open to all that God wants to do in us. It also helps us to celebrate the diversity of the Spirit's work in our churches, thus becoming more and more the churches God has envisioned.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you value certain gifts or ministries more than others? Why? Do you tend to undervalue the ways the Spirit uses you? Are you open to new works of the Spirit in and through you?
PRAYER: Thank you, Gracious God, for choosing to work in and through us, in spite of our failings and weaknesses. Thank you for the diversity of your activity in our lives, for gifting and empowering us in various ways.
Help me, dear Lord, to be open to all that you would do in and through me. May I never limit your work by my narrow understanding or truncated expectations.
Help my church be a place that is open to all that you want to do among us and through us in the world. Empower us, Lord, for your service. Help us to honor all who serve you, recognizing the one Spirit at work among us.
I pray in the name of Jesus, the Lord of all and my Lord. Amen.