Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.—1 Corinthians 12:4–7
It’s easy to look around and compare our gifts and abilities to others’, especially as students. However, in doing so, we often fall into one of two sins. Either we overestimate the value of our own gifts while downplaying the gifts of others, leading to pride, or we underestimate our own gifts and overvalue others’, leading to envy and resentment. In both cases, we fall short of a God-honoring gratitude for the gracious gifts he has bestowed and a God-honoring trust in the sovereign way he has done it.
In this passage we can see three truths to help us combat comparisons that lead to sin.
First, we all serve the same God. In verse 6 Paul uses three parallel statements to describe the different ways God equips believers for service, reminding us that all these gifts come from the “same” Triune God. Furthermore, verse 7 reminds us that he is sovereign over gifts, service, and activities, and he assigns them at his pleasure. When we remember that there is one God with one comprehensive purpose and plan, dispensing gifts according to his good will, we are reminded that we are a small part of his kingdom and are blessed to be included at all. It is by grace that the gift-giving, service-appointing, activity-empowering God has included us in the “all” and “everyone.”
Second, God gifts individuals in a variety of ways. While Paul emphasizes the common source of our gifts (“same . . . same . . . same”), he also stresses the various manifestations of those gifts (“varieties . . . varieties . . . varieties”). God displays his glory through diversity, both in creation and in re-creation. Later in this chapter Paul uses the analogy of members of the body to show the need for variety within the Church. This variety creates an interdependence, giving value to all members regardless of their perceived worth.
Third, what God gives us is for the good of others, not for our own benefit. If we are looking at our gifts in comparison to others’ and being prideful or envious, then we have lost sight of the reason we were gifted in the first place: “for the common good.” We aren’t blessed with gifts to feel good about ourselves but to serve others. (However, we must be careful not to allow serving others to be simply a means to make us feel good about ourselves instead of a means to glorify the Gift-giver.) Only when we look to Jesus, the One who secured the gifts, gave the gifts, and empowers the gifts, can we be truly free to use those gifts for the good of others and the glory of God.
I can remember it just like it was yesterday. We were sitting in a Ph.D. seminar and were sharing prayer requests before class began. It was my first semester in the program, and I was in way over my head. I felt like everyone in the room was smarter than I was, and half the time I didn’t know what anyone was talking about. I felt so inadequate. I had been pastoring for the last ten years and had been out of the academic loop and was still catching up. That day I thought, “Why can’t I have the academic abilities that guy has? Why couldn’t I have just completed my M.Div. and not be rusty academically?” And on and on. In my pity party, I doubted God’s plan. Just then, one student asked for prayer because he had to preach his first funeral later that week. He asked if others had done any funerals, and only one other guy had preached one before. Funerals?! God in His sovereignty had given me the opportunity to preach dozens of funerals over the previous five years as I shepherded the wonderful people of First Baptist Church, Savannah, TN. Though it’s rarely a joy to preach a funeral, it is a privilege and ministry, and one that God had blessed me with over and over again.
That day I was reminded that the same God gives varieties of gifts for the common good, and it is wrong to envy others’ gifts. Trust God’s sovereignty over all things, including gifts, services, and activities in Christian ministry.
Jason Mackey, PhD
Adjunct Instructor of Greek
- Pray for completion of the semester with in-person instruction free from COVID complications.
- Pray that the Lord will guide the students coming to our preview day.
- Pray that all of our Serious Joy Scholarships will be funded by June 30.
- Pray for our students and faculty as they return from Spring Break to complete the semester.