“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
If you have been around churches for long enough, you’ve probably heard sermon after sermon on spiritual gifts. You’ve probably heard that the Spirit gifts us with different skills in order to share the Good News. What we often forget is that these gifts are the very presence of God. Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit,” meaning the gift is the presence of God. The difference in gifts is because God manifests, or incarnates, into each person’s life in different ways.
The gifts God gives us are intended for the common good. They are intended to help in the process of sharing God’s love, bringing heaven to earth, or ushering in the Kingdom of God. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be given the gift of vocational ministry. In today's scripture, Paul lists a number of gifts the Corinthians were given. They vary just as the people of God vary. Some have the gift of wisdom; others have the gifts of discernment. Some have the gifts of miracles; others have the gift of interpretation. Today, we might say that some have the gift of casseroles. Others have the gift of presence. Some have the gift of fun. Others have the gift of meaningful conversations.
Whatever the gift, it is easy to use it for ourselves. In fact, in our culture when we are given a gift, it is for the purpose of making our lives better. This message from Paul is countercultural. When you are given a gift, let it be for others. Our temptation is to use our gifts for ourselves, to raise ourselves up. Some may use their gift of knowledge to make themselves look smarter. Others may keep their gift of fun for themselves, always seeking self-satisfaction in their life. God forbid someone keep their gift of casseroles to themselves!
Self-reflection and repentance defines the season of Lent. Reflect on the gifts you have been given. Perhaps you’ve uncovered these gifts in a not-so-grand way, but perhaps other gifts have come into your life through your own transformation by the Spirit of God. Maybe you’ve lost sight of the fact that these gifts are the very presence of God. Regardless of their arrival in your life, how have you kept your gifts to yourself? How can you better use your gifts for, as Paul says, “the common good?”
God you are the giver of all good and perfect gifts. You know the right gifts to give to the right people. Help us to continue to uncover your presence in our lives as we uncover the gifts you have given us. Empower us to use them for the common good rather than simply for ourselves and the ones who matter most to us. Amen.