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.
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.