Friday January 16, 2009
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10.
You should really read the previous verse: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”! Peter knew a thing or two about human nature; we often know what we should do, but do it resentfully. Why? Perhaps because we are tired, it won’t be recognized, the recipient of our largess is ungrateful, or we would simply prefer to do something else. Maybe some incentive will help: you will receive your reward in the life to come, or it makes you feel good inside. Possibly some “encouragement” may help: it is your Christian duty, it will devalue you reputation if you don’t, or how will you feel if you don’t?
Ah? The “should” and “oughts” of life. Too easy to feel our lives are being manipulated, or we are pushed into doing what someone else wants and our own plans for our lives are on hold. What is real service and what is coercion? How do we set priorities and boundaries for our lives yet still feel we are making a meaningful contribution? If we are supposed to consider others before ourselves (Phil 2:3) where do others needs leave off and our own begin?
It is here that I have no simple answers—each of us must evaluate our level of service. I find myself constantly assessing whether my service is meagre, sufficient or too much. The need is always there Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” (Matt. 26:11) indicating that we can never cover the needs we are aware of. Perhaps the text gives some help; we should use the gifts we have been given fulfilling those tasks that we are equipped for. Others have gifts that we do not have, for tasks that we are not prepared for. And then, of course, it is not our gift we are giving away, but the grace of God that we have freely received. We act, not out of a need to serve, but from gratitude to God.