I turn 33 in ten days. I have a strange relationship with birthdays, I love getting cards and gifts from my friends but find the tumult of Facebook acknowledgments from people I haven’t seen in years a little strange. I like the play guess the sender by the handwriting on the envelope; I am usually wrong.
As I have grown older I have gotten fewer presents than I did as a child, and the presents I get these days are very rarely wrapped up in spiderman paper. As a kid it was important to read the label before I opened the present so as who the gift was from didn’t get lost in the chaos of tearing and throwing paper around the room. This label reading is even more important at Christmas when there are presents for everyone in the room as having your gift opened by someone else is devastating.
I have always found the word ‘gift’ when used as ‘spiritual gifts’ a strange phenomenon. The word translates equally well as ‘ Spiritual graces’ – undeserved blessings from God. It seems like these are gifts from God to someone else. Its unfortunate that our langauge uses the word gift in more than one way and I think somewhere along the line the meaning has merged with the other definition, that is, a talent.
This merging has led to a personalising of Spiritual gifts, suddenly one who has a gift of healing becomes a healer, and one with a gift of generosity becomes a giver. This has led to competition for recognition of gifts as stronger or more important than others. Yet I wonder how the label would read on a Spiritual gift.
I think the ‘to:’ section would read:
To the church for it’s building and strengthening.
and the ‘From:’ section:
From God, Your Father.
Perhaps we can do better with our language around these graces. If we are carrying a gift for the church we are in essence functioning as the Holy Spirit’s postman, delivering the gift that wasn’t for us or from us. When we place ourselves as the carrier we take our importance out of the equation. I have no recollection of the postman ever being the centre of attention at a birthday party, yet the gift would not arrive without them. When we take the position of carrying the gift to the church community, from God we in essence take the tiniest role in the exchange and allow the giver and receiver to take centre stage.
My hope is that this kind of view of Spiritual Gifts opens up church communities as places where everyone brings something to the table. God is the giver of what we bring and each of us plays the same role as deliver of His grace to the community. We can then concentrate on what it is He is giving us to bring to our church families rather than on which gift we want or how gifted we are.