The Thanksgiving Day Parade traditionally ends with Santa waving from a float, a signal that the Christmas season has begun. Macy’s motive, of course, is to get people to shop in their store. For me, it’s an opportunity to begin talking about the birth of Jesus Christ. After all, what better way is there to draw near to our Lord than to celebrate how He took on baby flesh and became a man. Without that event we would have no salvation! It also gives me an opportunity to return to the topic I’ve been addressing and remind us of the many spiritual gifts God has given us in addition to salvation. In a recent post, I addressed the speaking gifts. In this study, I continue with the first five serving gifts with this reminder: the abilities given to us by the Holy Spirit are not for our enjoyment alone, they are for the blessing and building up of the entire body of Christ. (1 Cor. 13:7)
1) Service must be the most needful of the gifts, because it is the gift most frequently given to God’s children. Unfortunately, some have concluded from this that they have no spiritual gifts or that their gift is unspectacular. Shame on us for demeaning what God considers indispensable. This gift is so valuable that it is mentioned throughout the New Testament. Romans 12:7 calls it the gift of “service,” the same word from which we get the word “deacon.” All one need do to recognize the importance of deacons is to read how the love of the church was threatened and the growth of the church came to a halt before deacons were added in Acts 6:1-7. Paul also uses the word “helps” to describe this gift in 1 Cor. 12:28, meaning to “take the burden off someone else and put it on yourself.” Think how the ministries of pastors, missionaries, and evangelists would come to a grinding halt without a host of saints using this spiritual gift!
2) Craftsmanship often accompanies the spiritual gift of service. This is the use of one’s creative ability to serve God’s people. Though it isn’t found in the New Testament, it is often mentioned in the context of the Old Testament Tabernacle and priestly garments. Exodus 31:2-5 gives an excellent example: “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.
3) Mercy is the kindness of Christ in action. Dorcas exemplified this gift. Acts 9 describes her premature death which left the church reeling with grief, so much so that they sent for Peter showing him all the garments she had made for the poor and praising her for all her “deeds of mercy.” This so touched the heart of God that He listened to the church and gave Peter the power to raise her from the dead. The one caution Paul gives in connection with this gift is that those who show mercy must do so with “cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:8) This is necessary because of how easy it is for the merciful to “grow weary in well-doing.” (Gal. 6:9) Filled with compassion, they feel compelled to respond whenever they see a need, often growing weary from the effort. The remedy is to keep our eyes on Jesus and remember why we’re doing it, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
4) Hospitality is included among the spiritual gifts because of how often it is mentioned in the context of the gifts, as it is in 1 Peter 4:9 where we are told to “be hospitable to one another without complaint.” The word is made up of two small words meaning “love of strangers.” This was a vital trait in the ancient church where Christians were often in transit due to persecution and public inns were akin to brothels. We in the western world often fail to grasp the power of hospitality, but I have found in visiting developing countries that invitations there continue to carry the expectation of meals, overnight lodging, and a “care package” for the road. Remember too that the call for hospitality went beyond entertaining someone in your home, for there were no church buildings in that day making an invitation to church a de facto offer to be hosted in someone’s home. Imagine how we could multiply the number of return visits to our church if we cultivated the same hospitable spirit toward our first time guests.
5) Giving is found in Romans 12:8 where it says, “he who gives with liberality.” The normal word for “giving” is didomi which is something every believer is expected to do. This word is metadidomi meaning a “super-giver.” It refers to those with an ability to make or save money with the goal of giving it sacrificially to support the work of God. Those with this gift are often quiet and careful about their giving, wanting to invest it in ways that make the biggest impact for God’s kingdom. Without this gift, ministries like Principles for Life would be unable to operate. One of the believers best known for this gift was George Mueller, the founder of five 19th century British orphanages and the number one contributor to the ministry of Hudson Taylor, the missionary to China. How did he do it? By faith he prayed for God to supply his needs and God faithfully answered. In fact, it’s said that during his lifetime Mueller contributed more than $3 million to Hudson Taylor’s ministry in spite of his poverty.
Have you been given one of these spiritual gifts – service, craftsmanship, mercy, hospitality, or giving? Then use it with all the grace God gives you remembering the engine that drives it and all the other spiritual gifts. Paul reminds us of this in alluding to what someone has called “the least prayed for gifts” – poverty and martyrdom. “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.” (1 Cor. 13:3) God has given you this gift for two reason: He loves you and He wants to give you the privilege of letting Him love others through you.