the weblog of Alan Knox

Using Spirit Gifts as an Excuse or a License

Posted by on Mar 8, 2012 in spiritual gifts | 5 comments

When I was growing up, I was given a spiritual gifts test. I didn’t study for it, but I aced. I got the best gifts. How did I know they were the best? Because they were exactly the things that I cared most about.

Then, I was told how to use those gifts to volunteer in the various church programs. I thanked God that day that “Nursery” did not show up in my list of possible jobs. But, unfortunately, I was actually too young to do anything that was on the list. So, I could look forward to the day when I grew up and I could finally use my spiritual gifts.

Someone told me about an opportunity to serve someone, but I informed that person that service was not my spiritual gift. I encouraged him to ask someone with the more appropriate spiritual gift. Service was not my responsibility.

There was another opportunity to help someone with administration. No. Trust me. I am not gifted in administration. Someone with that spiritual gift should handle that problem.

Meanwhile, I would wait for an opportunity to teach. I mean, I was gifted by the Holy Spirit of God in teaching, so that’s what I was going to do. Eventually. One day. I mean, when I got older.

Oh, but then an opportunity presented itself! It wasn’t like an official position in the church; not even a small group or Bible study leader. But, there was someone who needed teaching. It was obvious this person needed teaching, and I was a teacher. So I jumped in and pointed out where this person was wrong, and I set them straight. I was teaching. It was so exciting. (That person didn’t talk to me much after that though…)

Sure, the examples above are hyperbolic, and exaggerated, and fiction (sort of). But, they demonstrate the way that I typically hear people explain spiritual gifts. When someone has a certain spiritual gift, they then have a license to function in that way, and an excuse not to function in any other ways.

But, when I read Scripture, that’s not the distinction that I read. Yes, people have one or more spiritual gifts. And, of course, people who are gifted in a certain way should function in that way – in love, for the purpose of building up others, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But, guess what? According to the authors of Scripture, that same person should also function in other ways as well.

I mean, we know this about the “lesser” spiritual gifts like service, helps, encouragement, giving, etc. We may even add evangelism to that list of spiritual gifts that all followers of Jesus are responsible (and privileged) to do.

But, what about teaching? No. Leave that for the teachers. Prophecy? That’s just for the prophets. Pastoring? Of course, only the pastors are supposed to pastor (shepherd).

But, what if we actually thought that God could use us to do any of those things… even if we are not specifically “gifted” in that way?

I think we would see a different church… one that’s closer to what we read about in Scripture… a church that would be more focused on what God could do through us for the sake of others instead of focused on what we can do.


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  1. 3-8-2012

    Those tests are terrible. Of course you are going to answer them to what YOU like.

    That goes along the lines of church shopping. You find the church that fits YOU, and forget about the others.

    I cannot stand those tests.

  2. 3-8-2012

    I Pet 4 speaks so well to this issue:

    I Pet 4:8 The context is “fervent” love, and a love that isn’t easily offended or focused on looking for problems in others.

    “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

    I Pet 4:9 The position is foremost one of servanthood. Some list this as a gift, but I think it speaks to each of us being glad servants of one another, servants who don’t “keep score.”

    “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”

    I Pet 4:10-11 In the context of fervent love that sees the best in each other, and becoming servants of one another who don’t keep score, then our gifts will sort themselves out without us dismissing any opportunity to serve others.

    “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

  3. 3-8-2012

    When functioning outside of the “church” environment with it’s religious charged atmosphere. Natural ministry can take place in a natural way. My wife and I (non church attenders) minster, and are ministered to in countless organic ways every day. The confirmation is from the Holy Spirit. The faces that light up, as the light bulb goes off in another persons heart. The financial need that is met, the love shared, the sickness healed, the burden lifted. These thing can happen in “church”, but it is because of God’s sheer loving grace that it is so. Jesus did not do many miracles in His home town because of their unbelief.

  4. 3-9-2012

    I second Swanny’s comment and the personality profile tests don’t fit my personality either. Do you all think there is a certain personality that doesn’t fit well with these tests? Does that personality also not play well with institutionalism and categorizations? Just wondering?

    I always wondered if they’re gifts from the Spirit why do we need to test them? If we know what they are, our we able to function by the Spirit better? Maybe it’s better to just be who we are in Christ and allow the Spirit to move through us as he chooses. I have a hard time fitting myself into a mold whatever that mold might be. I desire for the internals(Christ in you the hope of glory)to express themselves in the externals, and not the externals to try and shape the internals.

  5. 3-10-2012


    I agree about the tests.


    That’s my favorite “spiritual gifts” passage.


    Yes, the confirmation and the gift is from the Holy Spirit. I like to ask it this way: “If I speak, and one person is taught, another person is evangelized, and another person is encouraged, which ‘spiritual gift’ did I exercise?”


    I wrote a series a few years ago about all of those spiritual gifts lists in Scripture. Interestingly, none of the lists were written for the purpose of explaining what the individuals “gifts” are. But, that’s what people often spend their time on. For example, I once read a commentary that had 8 pages explaining the “gifts” listed in Ephesians 4:11. Wanna guess how much of the 8 pages actually came from Ephesians 4:11 (or even the near context)? Not much, because that wasn’t Paul’s reason for listing those gifts or gifted individuals.