I’ve been reading a lot of philosophical books of late, among them Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The outlining focus is that as individuals, it is almost impossible not to “add on” to Jesus, but in reality, we need to come to a place of acceptance that He has no need of excess additions, and that it is only through our complete acceptance of this that we can find true inner peace.
Yet, for hours last night I got caught up in the concept of “giving.” I chewed on it a lot, because it finally struck me that often as Christians, we fail to understand what “gifts,” and especially from Christ, are all about. In doing this, I think that in many cases we do ourselves (and others) more harm than good in the long run, because in subtle but profound ways, we hint that God’s gifts are not just that – gifts.
Within the Christian community, a lot of emphasis is placed on “using the gifts God has given to you.” The focus drives us to become the best we can be, and to “join the ministry and use our gifts.” As such, it leaves us constantly wondering if we are using our gifts well, or if we should be doing something “more holy” with them. Do our actions alone bring glory to our savior or do we need to devote ourselves to greater ministry? What we fail to realize is that the Christian life in and of itself is indeed our ministry. You don’t have to sit behind a church desk or volunteer at a religious organization to be “in the ministry.” The fact that you are a believer, and are doing something, is your ministry – your entire life is your ministry. When we start claiming that unless we “use our gifts” in “greater ways” for God’s glory, we are hinting that payment should be given for those gifts that God has given to us.
But… a true gift is free. If it comes with strings attached, it means equality, expectation of return, or payment, which renders the thing being given no longer a gift. If we give another person a true gift, we expect nothing in return and do not care if they use it or not. It is our hope that the gift will bring them pleasure, but it is not about what we get out of it so much as simply giving it to them out of an act of love.
Could not the same be said of God? His gifts are given without any expectation of return other than what is required – our acceptance of the greatest gift of all, salvation from sin. Our refusal to accept that particular gift is the only thing He will not forgive. Our gifts are just that – gifts, given to us, to be used if we desire to use them. Simply because I can draw does not mean I am shunning one of His gifts if I do not become a great artist. God cares more about the state of my soul, and my relationship to Him, than about what I do in our free time, or what I do as work. I am under no obligation to use all of my gifts, or to arrange my life around those gifts. It brings Him joy, however, if I do choose to use them.