Listen to the commentary
The power of the press for the next few weeks will be split between the life-or-death Senate rematch in Georgia and the life-or-death selection of Christmas gifts for the people in your circle. Will your gifts be valued and memorable, or re-gifted quickly and forgotten by the New Year?
Most gifts are exchanged: we have people in our lives that trade decorated boxes with us for Christmas and birthdays. We work hard to be sure that the value will be comparable; the excitement comes from the mystery of what they’ve chosen to put in the box.
That’s not the way God does His gifting. He doesn’t put an exchange receipt in the box; He doesn’t practice reciprocity in His giving; He doesn’t owe us anything in our relationship with Him.
The Old Covenant – God’s operating plan with/for Israel – focused on the real estate gift God gave to the Jews. The Promised Land was His present to the family of Jacob across the generations. Last Monday, I shared Paul’s revelation of God’s incredible strategy for the Church: the followers of Jesus would be gifted with supernatural capabilities. The Jews would have deeds to earthly property; the Christians would perform deeds for eternal rewards.
From Romans 12: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (vs 3-8).
Forty-four years ago, my friend Ted asked me what I was doing to develop my teaching gift. I rebuffed his question with my aw-shucks dismissal of his discerning insight. God used him to open my eyes to one of the most important issues a Christian can clarify. Christian service outside the narrow lane of your spiritual gifts will never produce the kind of 100x returns that God is looking for us to create.
I write this blog every week as one of the outputs of my teaching gift, a competence I have worked to fine-tune over four decades since Ted challenged me. I’ll be forever grateful to him for his willingness to call me out. Only a fool – and I’m no fool! – would take the credit for what God has done through me being willing to take His gift to me and to prioritize its emphasis in my life. He deserves the high-fives for any good thing that has come through me learning His truth and passing it along.
Here’s another critical discovery that I’ve made during my lifetime of Kingdom engagement: there’s a good chance that each of us has more than one gift.
In addition to the gift of teaching – which Cheri and I both have and work to exploit – the two of us also have the gift of giving. We’re working to exploit that gift as well.
In a recent survey of Christians conducted by the Barna Group, respondents were all over the map regarding their sense of spiritual gifting. About 1% felt they had the gift of evangelism (interesting: there is no biblical basis for evangelism being a “gift;” rather, it’s a directive for every believer!). The Christians who believe that they have the gift of giving is less than 1%…
The underlying principle, from Jesus Himself: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). It doesn’t sound like God is playing around with this gifting/giving business.
One notable clue to ascertain the gift of giving: God has given you have more than you need, and you know it. Tithing – the baseline of biblical giving – is, like evangelism, a universal principle. The gift of giving anticipates engagement far beyond the baseline.
In this Season of Giving – Christmas brings out the boxes, the year-end deadlines for tax deductibility brings out the checkbook – it may be valuable for me to offer some coaching to my friends who have more-than-enough, and are likely to have the spiritual gift of giving. Tune in next week – after we experience Thanksgiving – and we’ll learn together!