Better Than the Best Gift

When I started writing my first post about gifts, I did not intend to launch myself into a full-blown Bible study. But since I believe the Bible is the ultimate authority, I ended up reading all the verses that included a form of the word gift, as well as various chapters for context.

What I read led me to the conclusion that I am not being selfish when I find joy in using a gift or talent to serve others. God expects me to use what He has given me. However, a gift in one area does not excuse neglect in another area when I have an opportunity to serve in a less talented way.

That was clumsily worded. An example will work better: I need to show warm hospitality even though I feel neither skilled nor comfortable with it.

But then, in my reading, I found 1 Corinthians 12:31: “But covet earnestly the best gifts….”

Covet? Was that what I was doing when I eyeballed my pastor’s wife’s beautifully laid table? And it was okay?

But wait. What are the best gifts? Who gets to decide? Was making cute food one of them?

I read the previous verses. Nowhere did it say which gifts are the best.

Was I then supposed to covet those gifts I thought were the best?

Dissatisfied, I looked up covet in the original Greek. I’m no Greek scholar, but it appears to mean “to have warmth of feeling for or against,” such as desire or envy. In a word, covet.

That wasn’t helpful.

I looked up gifts in the Greek. Perhaps it was originally a different word. Perhaps the gifts I’m supposed to covet are different from the gifts mentioned throughout chapter 12.

Nope. Same gifts.

Now what?

Distractedly, I read the rest of verse 31, the last verse in the chapter: “and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”

What did that mean? I lifted my eyes to scan for a more excellent way in the earlier part of chapter 12. Not there.

Wait. Chapter 12. That meant the next chapter is 13. And 1 Corinthians 13 is….

I shot to my feet and started pacing—the more excellent way was—of course, why had I not made the connection before?—found in the chapter following 12.

…the love chapter.

So, this verse was saying “Go ahead and desire the best gifts, but there is a much better way than wishing you had other gifts.”

Love is the more excellent way.

The first three verses of chapter 13 started making more sense than they ever had before.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels….”

“Though I have the gift of prophecy….”

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor….”

Without love, gifts are nothing.

The value of my gift is measured by my love.

All this was galloping around in my brain as I paced back and forth, when Cheryl’s comment on the first post on gifts came in. I sat down to read it. She mentioned being afraid of rejection.

I shot out of my chair again. It was like that thunderstruck incident back in November, except this time, it happened at home.

Why did I fear rejection? Why did I feel threatened by the talents belonging to others? Why did I wish to assume gifts that weren’t mine? Why did I even worry about gifts in the first place?

Not because I had been rejected in the past. Not because I have super-talented friends. Not because my self-esteem is low. Not because I am insecure and neurotic.

It was because I lacked love.

The words of 1 John 4:18 marched through my head: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (emphasis mine)

If I love people, I am not afraid of serving them to the best of my ability, whether or not I am gifted. If I love people, I will rejoice to see them using their gifts, even if those gifts overshadow mine.

When I love, it stops being about me and my gifts and my secret fear that I’m not measuring up to some unknown ideal.

When I love, I will serve without fear.

And what are gifts but extra special ways God allows us to show love?

Foolish, foolish, foolish, to think that this whole gift thing was about me.

Gifts are called gifts not because they are given to me but because I am to give them to others.

With a fearless love.

10 thoughts on “Better Than the Best Gift

  1. So, so, for me. I do like how you outlined how you came to this realization. Yesterday I sat in church listening to the sermon, praying for love for ones closest to me, in my own home. More for them? Or less for myself? I’m not sure what it should be, but this post is quite applicable. I am not good at mothering and being a helpmeet, but I can love…! And that’s what counts.

  2. Wow! You condense this whole convoluted problem with gifts into one clear focus. Do I love?

    I remember years ago being in a Bible study when for weeks, the leader started out each session with reading that verse on “a more excellent way.” And then went on to study 1 Cor 13. She pointed out that at one time there were no chapters and verses in 1 Corinthians – this was all one letter. Since then I haven’t been able to read those verses in chapter 12 without moving on to the 13th chapter.

    Thanks for your insight on fearless love.

  3. Thank you for sharing all that you learned. I never connected the love chapter in that way before. It makes sense.
    If you keep reading in ch. 14:12. he mentions seeking those gifts that edify the church, and maybe specifically can speak to an unbeliever. Some of the gifts talked about speak to us as believers and encourage us while others can speak to an unbeliever and convict him… and like you said all needs to be done in love.

  4. Very well said Stephanie… just what selfish carnal me needed to hear. What a good challenge… to use our gifts freely because we love An want to bless others!

  5. Thanks Stephanie! Your words strike a chord in my heart! Your gift of writing has put words to my feelings! I love how plain and simple this is. When you look at it this way, it simply removes the pressure to perform when asked to serve in those areas where I am not gifted. God is only asking me to share His love, not to display my talents.

  6. Thank you, Stephanie. You are right, and I want to reference this in my mind when I struggle with fear or inferiority/pride. If I am loving as Jesus does, I will rejoice in others’ giftings. I want to love the way He did, laying myself down. I was pondering this post yesterday while I hung out clothes, and was reminded that self love aims to exalt self above all others, striving for personal honor and glory, while Christ Love lays self down, and looks to lift and serve others for HIS honor and glory.

    • True words, Cheryl. I hope you don’t mind that I used your comment as a springboard, but it truly helped me understand how true love will remove the fear I can struggle with in this area.

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