Everyone loves gifts. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like to receive a gift. To know that someone thought of you and picked something out especially for you is a great feeling.
In Romans, Paul uses this idea of gifts to speak about the talents/abilities/ministries that we each have been given by God. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” (Romans 12:6) We don’t all have the same talents or responsibilities, and we especially don’t all have the same ministries; but we all have gifts. These gifts are given to us by God. They are gifts of the Spirit who comes in and transforms our lives in ways we could never do on our own. Thus all gifts are miraculous gifts. Not just gifts of tongue speaking or healing, which we often designate as “spiritual gifts,” but even generosity and compassion are miraculous gifts. It is the Spirit who allows us to be generous. It is the Spirit who allows us to have compassion. As humans, we are not naturally generous or compassionate, but instead selfish. It is only through the gifting of the Spirit that we become generous, compassionate, or encouraging. We have all been given spiritual gifts.
We need to use our gifts. To not use our gifts is rude. It is similar to being given a beautifully wrapped present but refusing to open it. It is dishonoring to the gift giver to refuse a gift that has been given. But even more so, we need to use our gifts because our gifts are for the sake of the community. Our gifts have been given to us to build up the body; to make the community stronger and more able to embrace Kingdom life.
Paul talks about gifts in Romans 12:3-8. He begins with a reminder to be humble about your gifts. Do not think too highly of yourself; a common reminder from Paul since gifts are not for personal glory. Paul ends the section with a simple encouragement to practice your gifts. If it’s prophecy, prophesy. If it’s teaching, teach. If it’s generosity, give. But in the middle, Paul makes an interesting statement. “For as in one body we have many members…so we who are many are one body.” (Romans 12:4-5) In the middle of a discussion about spiritual gifts, Paul talks about unity. Paul is reminding us, these gifts are communal.
You have been given a gift. God has looked on you with favor, and the Spirit has implanted within you a gift; a talent for ministry. It is a gift that only comes from the transforming power of the Spirit. You should be excited about this gift, it is a blessing from God. So use your gift. To not use it is not only rude to the gift giver, it is damaging to the community because it was meant for the good of the community. God does not give individual gifts. God doesn’t give gifts so that you and I can feel good about ourselves and do great things. God gives gifts so that the community can be built up, and the Kingdom can be advanced in specific ways.
We sometimes think that we choose particular church communities to be apart of because they meet our needs, have great programs, or just feel right. But what if God has specifically placed us in a community because the gift God has given us is exactly what that particular community needs to more fully embrace the Kingdom. Our local church communities will never be all that they can be if we sit on the sidelines. We must get involved and use our gifts for the sake of the community as a whole.
Even more so, we must use our gifts because it is our spiritual worship. Paul begins chapter 12 with a famous verse about offering our bodies as a living sacrifice and not being conformed to the world. How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices? How do we act differently from the world around us? We exercise our gifts, not for ourselves, but for the community and the world. When we give, when we encourage, when we serve, when we get involved, when we teach children, when we paint houses in the community, when we build relationships with neighbors, we are offering ourselves to God. We are loving, serving, and being what God has called us to be.
You have a gift. It is a gift given by God, and it is given for the sake of the body. Open it. Use it. Honor God through it. This is your worship.