Friday, July 15, 2016

Gift Problems

So, as I’m reading through 1 Corinthians and trying to prepare for a lesson on Sunday, it occurred to me that when we get to chapter twelve, Paul is still dealing with problems. He has just addressed the unfair distribution of the Lord’s supper. Chapter thirteen is going to call for them to place a priority on love. But that usually not the way we address it. Usually, when we see this thing about spiritual gifts, we ask people what their spiritual gift is. We may even send them off with a spiritual gift assessment and when they come back and tell us that they have the “gift of wisdom” or the “gift of prophecy” or whatever it happens to be, we start trying to match them up with some ministry that tends to have a lot of people with the same assessment as they have. Besides the fact that the Bible tells us nothing about what circles to fill in for each of the spiritual gifts, what does that have to do with problems?

It seems to me that Paul is stating what he seems to think is obvious to give support for what he is actually saying. If so, he didn’t need to tell them how to find their spiritual gift, but rather he needed them to recognize that they were all good at different things. But they appeared to be taking it too far. It wasn’t just that they were good at different things, they appear to have the idea that a different Spirit gave them different gifts. Or at least, Paul feared their pagan upbringing would lead them to think that. I can see where that would be a problem. If I am gifted in one thing and think that the spirit of that thing is telling me to do one thing and someone else is gifted in something else, then they would see no reason to doubt that the spirit of that thing might be telling them to do something different. Paul corrects this thinking by telling them that it is only one Spirit, so whatever the Spirit is leading them to do, he’s going to be leading the other people to be working on something compatible.

Today, when I look at what churches do, I see a different set of gifts than what Paul talked about. Sure, you may be able to cram them into the gifts he mentioned, but I think about that there are people who are gifted greeting people at the door. I’m not gifted in that and I know it. I do it when no one else is doing it, but that’s not my gift. There are people who are gifted in getting people’s attention. Again, I’m not gifted in that, so when I find myself with responsibility over a noisy bunch, I pick out someone I know is gifted in that way and I’ll ask that person to pray. There are people who are gifted in decorating stuff. There are people who are gifted with knowing what to say and saying it. There are people who are gifted at keeping up with the latest trends. There are people who are gifted writers. There are people who are gifted geeks. There are people who are gifted soul winners.

Think about those various gifts. Each person is likely to think that what they do is more important than what other people do. That can be a problem. Many times, a person who isn’t gifted in a certain area will assume that no one is. For example, we have some people at our church who are very gifted at serving meals for the whole church. If it were me, I’d put some bread and lunch meat on the table, point people to the racks of chairs and tables and tell them that if they wanted to sit down they could get their own chair and put it back when they were done. Okay, so maybe not quite that bad, but I’ll admit that I sometimes wonder why we’re worried about whether the centerpieces on the table match and stuff like that. But you can be sure that if I make an issue of it, the people who are gifted in that are going to be very upset with me. And rightly so.

It occurs to me that if you aren’t gifted in an area, you would do well to stay out of the way of those who are. If you aren’t a gifted singer, you have no business telling a gifted singer that they don’t need to practice. Instead, you turn them loose to do what they do, including those things that you don’t understand why they need to do them. If you do, what you’ll find is that all that strange stuff they are doing comes together with the strange stuff you are doing and the end goal will be more easily achieved. In other words, let the experts be the experts.

Paul seems to be saying this 1 Corinthians 12:21, “So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” It is easy for us to say that an eye can’t be a hand or a head a foot, but what about people? Why is it that we see people who have no business trying to lead music get up and wave their hand around like they know what they are doing, while singing in a different key than what the pianist is playing? Instead of saying, “We can do it ourselves,” why didn’t they go find someone so gifted?

It leads to problems, because the person who is gifted will feel like they aren’t respected and if they aren’t respected, they aren’t loved. Even so, I don’t think most people even realize what they are doing. What does an eye know about what a hand does? It has seen a hand do everything it does and it doesn’t look difficult. It just has to open and close and move things around. The impression most people have of a music director is just what they see. He gets up on stage and does what he does and that’s it. They don’t see the hours he spends looking for music and running through it over and over and practicing with the other musicians. He has it easy, right? And I suspect you’ll find that with everything else that people in a church are gifted to do. When you begin to say, “we don’t need them,” you are going to have problems.