When spiritual gifts become toxic

2018-02-07T15:04:55+00:00 By |Categories: Church Life, Pastoral Theology|

By grace, God has dispensed unique spiritual gifts to his people that are intended to bring him glory and benefit the church. Lists of gifts occur in several places in the New Testament (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10). From gifts of service, to preaching, to encouragement, to giving, to administration – we are well equipped to bless the Lord and his people.

With years of use, gifts grow and mature over time and find expression in many areas of ministry.  As teachers mature their giftedness can become so pronounced that they become known far and wide for their God-given abilities.  A person gifted in discernment may become an incredibly effective mentor and counsellor, sought out by many.  A believer gifted in giving, who may also be wealthy, becomes equipped to fund massive ministry budgets.  But here’s where our giftedness can become toxic: when we become so accustomed to exercising our dominant gifts, over lengthy periods of time, and have seen them bear much fruit, we can become arrogant and unable to relate to believers with less prominent or underdeveloped spiritual gifts. Consider the following scenarios:

  • “The Giver” starts to seethe with anger when she discovers that not everyone is as passionate about giving as she is, and feels taken advantage of.
  • “The Teacher” grows prideful of his ability to understand and teach God’s Word and considers everyone else to be spiritually and intellectually inferior.
  • “The Servant” labours behind the scenes for years, but harbours a false humility, as he becomes that behind-the-scenes guy that ironically, everybody recognizes and knows by name!

The same toxicity applies to the functions of Christian living and ministry, including the prayer warrior who considers himself closer to God than others, the youth leader who considers herself more culturally in-tune than others, the denominational leader who fuels his sense of worth every time he’s called upon to solve a crisis.  All of these examples point to the age-old problem of stealing God’s glory!  When we take that which the Divine Giver has given and derive a sense of security and pride from it, the given becomes our god and anyone else that doesn’t worship that god becomes less than worthy of our love. How then do we avoid turning our spiritual gifts into something toxic?

  1. Never forget who gifted you. Every time you use your spiritual gifts, thank God for the privilege of ministering.
  2. Be open-handed about gifts, rather than close-fisted. See your gifts as a stewardship that you will one day be called to account for. They are not yours to keep!
  3. Openly and publicly praise God for your gifts as they bear fruit.  When you see the results, or receive encouragement for your gifts, immediately thank God.  Don’t let the compliment become food for pride.
  4. Remember where you came from.  Recall to mind the years before your conversion, or early on in your Christian journey, when you weren’t as gifted, and then show patience with others.
  5. Model a ministry mindset.  Everytime we grow prideful, angry, or impatient with the immature, we subconsciously communicate a false view of giftedness: gifts exist to feed my contentment!  On the other hand, when we serve without applause, exercise patience, and check our pride, we display the selfless nature of spiritual gifts and guess what happens next?  God is glorified, and the church is strengthened-which is the very reason God has gifted his people in the first place!

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. -1 Pet. 4:10-11