“It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have” – 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)
For many people, the Christmas season is their favorite time of year. The time spent with family, the abundance of favorite foods, and of course the opening of gifts all make this holiday special.
When I was a kid, I was so keen on getting gifts I would often peel back the wrapping paper to get a peak at what was underneath (and I’ll bet you did, too). After all the gifts were unwrapped on Christmas morning, I would head outside to gather with my friends and compare gifts which, in Southern California, inevitably included a few new bikes, a skateboard or two and usually one remote-controlled car. However, it seemed to me that no matter how cool my gifts were, there was always some other gift my friends had that I envied. I guess they felt the same, because we usually ended up playing with the other person’s gifts more than our own.
What bothers me is how often I have this same attitude towards the gifts the Holy Spirit has wisely given to me. Instead of enjoying and showing gratitude for the gifts God has graciously given me, I find myself desiring “other” gifts – gifts I see in people that I, with self-proclaimed omniscience abounding, deem more successful than I am. I figure if I had their gifts then I, too, could have what they have: house, car, job, successfully published book, prestige. You know, all those items that are destined to perish.
However, by pursuing this attitude all I’ve really done is whine, tell God I don’t like my gifts and, in a not-so-subtle manner, suggest He made a mistake. The Lord God Almighty, with true omniscience abounding and from the depth of His own mercy and grace, has loved me enough to give me gifts I didn’t deserve, and I in turn thank Him by breaking the tenth commandment as I covet my neighbor’s possessions.
Excuse me for a moment while I head off into a corner and repent.
Furthermore, it is little comfort to know I’m not the only one who has problems with the gifts of God. Often I’ve heard some Christian say they don’t have any gifts, which doesn’t make any sense. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says God decides which gift each person should have, not some people should have. It is hard to imagine loving parents who only give Christmas gifts to some of their children while neglecting to give to others. Maybe there are some scoundrels like that, but God does not reveal Himself in such a manner.
Paul goes on to say in the rest of chapter 12 that the gifts of God are like the parts of the body – every part is important and has a reason for being there. Likewise, every Christian is important in the Body of Christ and has a part to play, a gift to use, for the overall health of the body. And I guess God knew there would be people like me who would compare their gifts to others, for verse 15 says, “If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body.” God has given me a part to play and instead of rejoicing in it, I’ve murmured because I don’t have a different part. What a shame.
My challenge is to stop wanting my neighbor’s gift and start exercising my own. Being a part of the Body of Christ is not about me, but about the health of the Body as a whole. It’s time to change my prayer from a whiney, “But Lord, I want THAT gift” to a grateful, “Thank you Lord for the wise gift You’ve given me.” Only then will I stop comparing my gifts with the gifts of others and find myself at peace within the Body.
Contentment with what we have whether material gifts or spiritual ones is something I think we all struggle with. However, Paul had the secret to contentment In Philippians 4:12-13 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. We find our contentment with our spiritual gifts when we are using them fully for the body of Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit.