Giftedness and Maturity (a meditation)

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~1 Corinthians 1:7

The Christians at Corinth formed quite a dysfunctional church. You don’t have to read long into the letter to find Paul chastising their divisiveness, their pride in housing sexual sin, their misunderstandings of marriage, and much more. Towards the end of the book Paul even spent the better part of three chapters correcting their misunderstandings about and abuse of spiritual gifts.

Yet in his greetings to the church he reminded them that God has made them a holy people in Jesus (1:2), expressed his thanksgiving to God for them (1:4), and spoke positively about how they possessed their various spiritual gifts (1:5-7).

This confirmed his great love for them, even if he had to rebuke a variety of issues. But in light of chapters 12-14, Paul’s greeting also reminds us that giftedness is not equal to spiritual maturity.

Paul told them they had every spiritual gift they needed, yet later he had to teach them the proper place and function of the gifts. From what we read in chapters 12 and 14 it would appear that the jealousy and division among the church members extended to their use of spiritual gifts. Some who didn’t think their gifts were as spectacular as others felt left out or pretended to have the gifts. And some who thought their gifts were the more spectacular sought to exclude others saying, “We don’t need you.”

Paul slammed such attitudes and told the church a better way existed: the way of self-sacrificial love (chapter 13). Love is more interested in the good of others than it is the good of self. After all, in the context of the body, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (12:26). Seeking the good of others in the church community brings a greater good to self because the whole body is built up.

This is what spiritual maturity realizes: yes, there are a variety of gifts but they all come from the same Holy Spirit who gives the gifts as he wills (12:4-11).

The Spirit gifts us as a fact of new life. He doesn’t wait until we are mature enough before he bestows a gift upon us. But God also intends that we use these gifts properly as we mature and as we help others mature. We use these gifts to learn a deeper and better love which maturity manifests.

So more than the question of what gift you have (or wish you had in comparison to someone else), is the question: How will you use your gift? God intends them “so we can help each other” (12:7). Is your use of your gift a sign of increasing self-giving love and thus a mark of growing maturity?

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible together as a church.

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