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.