'Just Do It': How to Stop Hiding Behind Your Spiritual Gifts
- 2011 14 Feb
If you have been a part of the Body of Christ for a reasonable amount of time, there is a good chance that you have heard teachings on spiritual gifts and how they are used in the church. Particularly over the last two decades, congregations all over the country have been reading books and completing written evaluations to uncover their spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are very important to God and are quite crucial in our service within our local churches and every other aspect of our walk with Christ. In fact, God made sure that spiritual gifts were adequately covered in the New Testament as He penned them through the Apostle Paul.
Chances are also that you have heard the "80/20 rule"—that is, the premise that 20 percent of a given congregation is doing 80 percent of the work. There could be many reasons for this "80/20" scenario. Could one of them be because we tend to overemphasize the gifts of the individual and overlook the need of the whole, the Body of Christ? If we are not careful, we can make excuses to be idle if the task doesn't exactly fit what we believe to be our spiritual gifts. Here are some examples of thoughts that can steer us away from meeting very real needs within our churches and in our communities:
- I don't have the gift of service, so I can't go with the team to serve food at the homeless shelter.
- I don't have the gift of mercy, so I can't show mercy to the addict who lives in bondage to a substance.
- I don't have the gift of giving, so I won't contribute more than my 10 percent to the work of the Kingdom.
Let's examine some biblical principles to help us expand our thinking on this matter.
Understand the Purpose of Spiritual Gifts
One thing that can help us look beyond our spiritual gifts for ways to serve is looking more closely at what the Scriptures say about them. The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 has much to say about the use of spiritual gifts, but let's take a closer look at verse 12:
"For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ."
When Paul wrote this particular statement in his letter to the Corinthians, he was emphasizing the whole, not the individual. Human nature screams for us to focus on ourselves as individuals and what we're "good" at doing. While it is important to understand and use our spiritual gifts, we must look first to see how we can be contributors to the Body of Christ and those she serves. Spiritual gifts were meant to strengthen the church, not the individual. Next time there is a need, assess your ability and willingness over your personal giftedness. Needs sometimes go unmet that several people are "qualified" to meet.
Recognize Needs—And Meet Them
Too often, when we make excuses like those listed above, we are looking at our own gifting—and perhaps our own preferences—rather than examining the needs of the church body and the needs of those outside the body, whom we serve.
As believers and members of the Body of Christ, we should first examine the needs, and how to meet them, rather than the consistency of the needs with our spiritual gift sets. If this happened, the "80/20 rule" would no longer be a problem. Do the unnoticed, least publicly recognized jobs go undone because the service philosophy is more gifts-based than need-based?
Also, remember that God calls people—whomever He desires—to fulfill His purpose. He doesn't always do so according to gifting. For instance, there was a need for Israel to be delivered from Egypt. Did He call someone who was gifted in leadership, had strong public speaking skills, and had natural courage? No, He tapped Moses, a frightened, stuttering, otherwise incompetent individual. But God chose to meet a need through someone He equipped after He chose them to fulfill that need.
Let's focus on the needs at hand more than our individual gifting.
However You Serve, Do So With Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 explains to us that we must be motivated by love, regardless of our gifts or how we choose to serve in our local bodies of Christ:
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
The instruments mentioned in the first part of this passage, gongs and cymbals, were used to make loud noises, but frustrated listeners when the appropriate words were not used to accompany a song. Does this describe us when we serve? What is our motivation for doing so? When we serve out of any motivation besides love, it not only displeases God, it is not useful to those we are serving here on earth.
Whether we are engaging in a task or act of service that utilizes our gifts or goes beyond those gifts, we need to do a heart check. Why do we do it? Are we motivated by love? Do we serve so that we can appear to be better in front of others? Are we appeasing our own sense of self-righteousness?
1 Samuel 16: 7 tells us that "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Keep this truth in mind when you are faced with opportunities to build up the Body of Christ and expand the Kingdom of God through service. God knows your motives for serving, whether it is love for Him, recognition from man, or to satisfy our own preferences.
Admittedly, it's not as much fun to serve when the need requires getting our hands a bit dirty, not getting the recognition we want, or not doing something in which we feel particularly gifted. But remember that the Lord sees and rewards when we serve out of love for Him and love for others.
Joy Allmond is a writer for billygraham.org. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two step sons and two dogs. In her very little spare time, she can be found concocting her latest culinary masterpiece, watching college basketball or buried in a book. She is working on her Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
*All Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible.
Publication date: February 14, 2011