Church has become something other than what it’s supposed to be. (When we say that, we’re making a generalization, and specifically of the American church.) In our cultural propensity toward consumerism, we have become consumers in the church, ready to benefit from the gifts of others, but paying little mind to our own contributions.
But the church is not meant for that. In fact, the church cannot function like that. Church is not for Christians who will merely spectate or consume.
No, church is meant to be more like being in the game, rather than being in the stands. To see that, let’s take a look at 1 Peter 4.
Peter, encouraging the church to be a people ready for the end, exhorts them to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of their prayers. He says that above all, they should keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. He calls on them so show hospitality to one another without grumbling. And then he says,
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace – 1 Peter 4:10
Every single Christian has received at least one gift from God. And in this time of urgency, until the Lord returns, we are to use these gifts. Let’s take a look at the purpose of the gifts and the manner in which they are to be used. First, the purpose:
To serve one another
The gifts are not primarily for ourselves. Someone once defended speaking in tongues as a gift that really ministered to them in their quiet time with the Lord—that’s not what gifts are for. These gifts have been given to us as tools for serving not ourselves, but one another.
Think of a football team. What benefit is it to an offensive lineman to have the ability to block well, if he has no one to protect? What good is it for a quarterback to have a great arm if he only wants to throw to himself? Who cares about a kicker who doesn’t ever get into the game? Gifts are not to be used for our benefit, but for the benefit of the body of Jesus Christ.
So, we are to use these gifts to serve one another. Here’s the manner now in which they are to be used:
As good stewards
Good stewards of God’s varied grace, Peter says. In other words, Christians don’t have the same gifts or the same levels of gifting. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Christians aren’t designed to be exactly the same, but rather complementary. God has designed the church in such a way that we need one another.
The key here is that we are to be good stewards of these gifts. We shouldn’t squander them or keep them to ourselves.
Imagine if you gave your child a ten-dollar bill to get a bottle of milk, a stick of butter, and carton of eggs. And when they came home, they brought nothing back. Or worse, they bought candy with it instead. This would not be pleasing to you, because they have disobeyed you and misused what you have given them.
Christian, if you are not serving the church, you are misusing the gift that God has given you. You are like that servant in the parable who buried his talent. Would you be encouraged right now to get in the game, and serve the Lord, by using your gift to serve the church?
Praise God for His mercy for when we have fallen short of this standard. And may He give us the grace to make a change today.
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