Spiritual Gifts and Recognizing our Interdependence
I am in the midst of revising my book Unfettered Spirit, which came out in 2013. It is a book about Spiritual Gifts. I am posting an excerpt that I've revised, though not completely, which can be found in chapter 2 of the book, "Gifted by Grace." This brief excerpt focuses on our interdependence as the body of Christ. I invite you to reflect and respond.
As we make use of our spiritual gifts in service to others, we will our dependence on each other. Spiritual maturity emerges from the realization that service to others sets us free from the grasp of self-centeredness, greed, and envy (1 Cor. 13). It also helps us understand that, ultimately, we need each other.
The sense of community commitment that results from sharing our spiritual gifts with the community helps alleviate the problem of burnout and spiritual dryness. When we feel, as many of us have on occasion, the full load of responsibility, we become cut off from the springs of living water, which is the presence of the Spirit. When this occurs, we may begin to experience a sense of spiritual abandonment (Jn. 7:37-39). By discovering our gifts and then focusing our ministry in those areas of giftedness we can resist the tendency to do everything. We can recognize that others in the community are able and possibly willing to pick up jobs we’re not especially gifted for. Perhaps we could illustrate this by reference to a baseball team. No one, not even the best player on earth, can play all nine positions. You need nine players, each with their own gifts, to play the game. Once we realize this truth and welcome the gifts of others, we can find relief from the unnecessary stress we put on our lives and the lives of our family as well. This is especially true for clergy who tend to take on the entire ministry of the congregation, believing that if they don’t do it, no one will (I know this to be true from experience).
I have long appreciated an analogy made by Thomas Hawkins, who points to the story of David and Goliath as a good example of what happens when we try to take on a job using someone else’s gifts. In that story, Saul offers the young hero his own armor. David tries on the armor but realizes that the armor doesn’t fit. Instead of dragging that massive suit of armor onto the field, David goes into battle armed only with a sling (1 Sam. 17:38-40). Hawkins writes:
We sometimes fail to perceive what David instinctively knew. We long for someone else’s armor and achievements. We greedily seek that person’s talents, believing we can defeat our giants if we are using someone else’s gifts. Yet, it never works. We cannot put on someone else’s gifts. We can effectively use only our own gifts. [Thomas Hawkins, Claiming God's Promises: A Guide to Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 28-29.]
Although spiritual gifts have an outward directive, we will find immense benefit and blessing as we let go of the need to do everything and instead choose to contribute our giftedness to the community of faith.