If you’re a football fan, I’m sure you’ve heard of the two brothers playing the same position in the NFL today that their father played a few decades ago. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of one of these talented families anyway. The Manning brothers are household names, but there is another family with a similar story: the Colquitt brothers are punters for the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. As I was watching this matchup a few weeks ago, noticed that the weight of the Manning brothers far outweighed the weight of the Colquitt brothers when it came to media coverage. Weeks of buildup are given to the Manning bowl, but a simple aside was given to the punter brothers. There’s a difference in hype because the quarterbacks are more talented, exciting and more important to the game. We care more about the Manning brothers because, frankly, they’re more important to us. As believers, do we view the church through the same lens of talent scouting? Or have we learned to view talent through God’s eyes?
Our society tends to tell us we can become anything we want to be, and success is measured by achievements, rewards and recognition. But God has designed the church to work as one, with each member contributing in a specific way (1 Cor. 12:12), being given specific gifts by God (1 Corinthians 12:7) to accomplish his will. In Ephesians 2:10 we are also told that even the good works we are to do are laid out in advance by God himself. With these promises we know we are given every opportunity, gift and skill to serve well. We find our greatest joy when we serve as we are designed to serve, participating in the greatest story ever told.
God also promises reward in relation to how we use what we are given, not according to how great or small we appear to be. In the parable of the talents Jesus gave the same commendation to both servants that multiplied their gifts, and being faithful over a little they were placed in authority over much (Matthew 25:14-30). While both men produced different amounts, God rewarded each individual according to their labors.
No matter what your position in the church is, you have exactly what you need to serve God with all you have. Often we believe our service to God and the church would be better if we just had a little more time, gifting, talent, or if we were blessed with a little more money. Jesus said the widow who gave a gift many times smaller than the rich contributors actually gave the most because she gave all she had (Mark 12:41-44).
With all of this we can be free from the fear of inadequacy or failure and be satisfied with what we are given. Yet, in scripture we are cautioned to guard the posture of our heart; not serving “out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:7). We can even be viewed by others as faithfully serving God, but fail by misusing gifts for our own gain or without the love of God inhabiting all that we do.
We must be watchful of our hearts to not use gifts for our own gain: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Jesus speaks here from Matthew chapter six and goes on to explain how the Pharisees received their full reward through the acclaim of others by doing their good works for all to see.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul eloquently describes the love of God expressed within the church. It is possibly the most famous chapter in the entire Bible, and if you are anything like me the mere mention of it brings to mind scrolling font in framed artwork. Not that a framed Bible verse is a bad thing, but when it is so frequently referenced it can be more difficult to see beyond our preconceived notions. I read verses 1-3 recently from a different perspective, by reading it without the “if’s” and references to love – basically to hear what the person would say who attained the highest spiritual gifts, but without the love of God inhabiting all actions:
I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, and I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal
I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, I am nothing
I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, I am nothing.
I give away all I have, and I deliver up my body to be burned, I gain nothing.
Without the love of God, we lack grace and true efficiency. Your gifts don’t add worth, God’s love brings worth, which in turn brings weight to your current giftings.
Your position in the church might be the equivalent of the star quarterback, punter or maybe something far less glamorous. One thing we can be sure of, our God gives according to his purposes, and he sees all motivations, opportunities and will reward justly. One of the more cautionary and encouraging passages for me is, “many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30). Cautionary because gifting does not equal favor with God. Every person living in this country today is blessed with physical blessing, opportunity to tell others about Christ, and freedom to serve God to a greater degree than most. We are blessed, and we need to use that blessing well. This is also an encouraging passage because we are assured that God cares about what is done in secret and all will be revealed. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).