Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (verses 7-11)
So often we find ourselves living in a world of “haves” and “have-nots.” We know this to be true economically. We see unending profiles of the fabulously rich, played out against the real-life backdrop of poverty, homelessness, tent cities, and squalor, right in the heart of some of our richest cities. Even for those in what should be the comfortable middle, the focus can also easily ratchet up into a race to have what we currently have not. We get fixated on the relative emptiness of our hands. We crave more.
The same can be true when we see others’ accomplishments in art, sports, politics, relationships, academia, social influence – you name it. We can see what we ourselves are missing and covetously want something more for our own benefit – something we perceive others as having.
Dare I say it? The same can be true in terms of spiritual gifts. It would be very possible (I speak from experience) to review a representative list like Paul records here, quickly tally up our ranking of each gift, see where our own hands are lacking, focus on what we have not, while at the same time looking jealously askance at those who have, wanting their gifts for our own use and benefit.
All of that would be to miss the power and simplicity of the verses which frame this very portion. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good ... All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
Several powerful phrases stand out:
(1) “.. to each one …” In Christ, no one has empty hands – not a single one. Can I say it again? No one. Each is gifted. No one is left out. When it comes to spiritual gifts, this is both starting-line and finish. There are no “have-nots” in this arena.
(2) “… the manifestation of the Spirit … all these are the work of one and the same Spirit.” There are no greater or lesser gifts. It’s not that some are truly “spiritual,” while others are not. No. Each gift is a wonderful, gracious, marvelous “manifestation of the Spirit” – each is the Spirit’s own means of “showing himself.” Similarly, each is a truly authentic, purposeful “work” of the Spirit. Who are we to value some works and devalue others? Who are we to rank some of his showings above others? The Spirit who hovered over the waters at Creation is doing his work, making himself known, in us. That’s powerful.
(3) “… is given … he gives them …” The gifts are not a reflection on us. Rather, they are a reflection of the Giver himself. Our hands would be empty apart from his gracious gifting – we must never forget.
(4) “… given for the common good …” The purpose of the gifts is not for our own benefit (though, wonderfully, benefit comes). They are not for us to clutch to ourselves. Rather, they bless everyone else. Therefore, I rejoice regardless of who is gifted. The whole Body benefits.
(5) “… just as he determines.” It is the Spirit himself who chooses. He is wiser than me, and much more gracious! Therefore, I trust him with his choices.
“Have-nots”? Never. In Christ, our hands are full, gifted by the Spirit, just as he chooses.
Lord, I look in my own hands and give thanks for your gifts – they are good. I look in the hands of brothers and sisters and rejoice in what you are doing. May the good gifts of your Spirit overflow to the blessing of your Body. In Jesus’ name.
Reflect: What manifestation of the Spirit is he working in you? Yield. Employ his gift. Do it for the good of all.