Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

When Gifts, Then Quarrels

Kids love Christmas… and kids love Christmas presents. Just about the only thing that’s better than getting a great Christmas gift is getting a Christmas gift that’s better than any of the gifts your siblings or friends got. Nothing ruins a good gift quicker than realizing that someone else got a better gift.

Kids and earthly-minded churches aren’t all that different.

Apparently, the churches to which James wrote (Jas 4.1-3) weren’t the only ones who struggled with the presence of gifts (or lack thereof) and quarrels. It struck me the other day that the apostle Paul was keenly aware of the danger here.

The potential for gifts given by the Father to his spiritual children to become an issue over which to quarrel is quite strong. And yet, just as no human father would desire for his good gifts to be used as weapons of war between his children, so also the heavenly Father desires for gifts to be a blessing to all, not a source of division. Paul warns against this reality time and again. For example, take Romans 12.

Before the apostle lists some of the spiritual gifts given to the church in Romans 12.6-8, he begins by emphasizing humility:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Rom 12.3)

His next step is to argue that the church is one body in Christ, built by one Spirit. Even though the members of the body have different functions, they are still one (Rom 12.4-5). Once he has listed the gifts, he returns his focus immediately to maintaining peace in the church (Rom 12.9-21).

Why book-end a listing of gifts with admonitions to humility, love, honour, empathy, and grace? Because the opposite of all those virtues is fleshly reaction to seeing others blessed in ways we ourselves would like to be blessed. Without love, humility, etc., we would quickly become like a jealous boy or girl on Christmas morning, complaining that our gifts are not as good as another’s.

So what should we do? We seek the best gifts, but acknowledge that whatever comes is a gracious, undeserved gift from our sovereign Father who desires our good. Then, when our brothers and sisters are blessed beyond us, we rejoice with them as they rejoice! We celebrate that the body has been blessed and will be blessed through the gifting of that individual for ministry to the church-at-large. That is what our heavenly Father desires.

1 Comment

  1. Theodore A. Jones

    26 December, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Peter said about what Paul wrote “he’s hard to understand.” The truth about the Roman church is there were not then and not now any gifts given to those people by God’s spirit. For doesn’t Paul say “that I may impart some spiritual gift”? It takes some reading between the lines of Paul’s statements using the spiritual gift of discernment to understand him or any other parts of the Bible for that matter. Even though Paul wrote a lot, what he was writing about and why is not a the clearly stated item. Even with the many translations of the Bible we have today; isn’t it still fully true that only a very few ever find the small narrow gate which must be used to receive any of those gifts that signify what you have heard, believed and obeyed is true? For didn’t Jesus fully describe the way things really are. There is the good seed. Meaning the only correct message that explains his crucifixion truthfully. Then there is the bad seed. Meaning the corrupted message that explains his crucifixion falsely. Which is which? Is the good seed what the majority preaches ? Jesus further qualified the way things really are by describing the two trees. The good tree comes from the good seed and cannot and I emphasize CANNOT produce even one bad piece of fruit. So then from your tree there is Ted Haggard, James Robinson, Jim Bbaker, Joel Olsteen, Rick Warren, John McArthur, R. C. Sproul,
    and a homosexual on one side of every confessional along with women that have authority over men. Great progress, aye? But it looks to me that your churches are like the list Paul made in Romans about people who have exchanged the truth of God about Jesus’ crucifixion for a lie. I really don’t think you’d want any person around any of your churches that has a spiritual gift from God. For they know that God’s word is the sword of his spirit and they know how to use it for its intended purpose. Reproof, correction of your thinking and instructing you about what’s right.

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