Comparing Spiritual Gifts

The following is the substance of a message given at Ohio Yearly Meeting last week.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend
themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves,
are not wise. 2 Cor 10:12

This passage can seem a little complicated, but the Light (through the Apostle) is making an important
observation for us here.

When we compare our gifts with those of others, we seem to do it in three general ways:

1) My gift is not good enough or is inferior. This type of comparison comes when
thou comparest thyself to someone who is quite spiritually advanced. My gift must
not be real because so-and-so is far better at doing this, so that person should do
it if God wants it done. I might make a mistake. I must not be a true minister
because I am not as successful as Billy Graham (or whoever). I am not a true Elder
or Overseer because Person A does X or has such a keen insight (or whatever) and I
don’t. This type of comparison can lead to sentiments such as hopelessness or lack
of interest.

Don’t allow this to paralyze thy gift. Not all trees in an orchard are peach trees
– there are apple trees, cherry trees, and pear trees. All bring glory to the
Creator. Also even the most gifted of ministers has had times of dryness and

2) My gift is superior. This is the type of comparison Paul dwells on in the
passage. This type of comparison dwells on the idea that the person feels so
spiritually advanced that whatever anyone else is doing is meaningless. The person
has set himself up as the yardstick for measuring the faithfulness of everyone
else. The mindset is that everyone must do what the speaker is doing or otherwise
they are not heeding the call of God. They, measuring themselves by themselves, are
not wise.

3) How can the gift of others inform and nurture my gift? The third type of
comparison is the one we need to use. Some Friends (and others) have well-developed
gifts. What qualities in the exercise of that person’s gift particularly call forth
inward hallelujahs in thee? Are there qualities that might foster a stronger
exercise of thy gift? In these considerations, be careful to be faithful to thy
calling. This is not about emulation but about sharpening thy spiritual skills.

In these evaluations, always keep in mind that the purpose of spiritual gifts is to
direct the recipient to Christ Jesus (the giver of the gift), not to the
practitioner. Always measure thy faithfulness against thy calling – never measure
thy faithfulness against that of another person. We all fall short of the glory of
God in the exercise of our gifts. It is fine to recognize this, but learn from it
and move on.

1 comment:

Robert L. Hopper said...

Dear Seth,

I was present for this vocal ministry, and I deeply appreciated it, and I appreciate thy posting this for us that we may return to it and reflect on it.

Thy friend in Christ Jesus the Word of God,