1 Corinthians 12
The luxury automotive company, Lexus, advertises the “December to Remember” event every year. The commercials show someone waking up on Christmas morning and looking out in the driveway to see a brand new car with a huge bow on top. What a gift that would be! I don’t personally know anyone in the tax bracket that could afford to buy a brand new car and surprise their spouse with it for Christmas. It would certainly be a December to remember. Ironically, I had to google which car company did the “December to Remember” campaign because I couldn’t remember.
My birthday is in January, it is less than 30 days after Christmas. Growing up, the majority of the gifts I received for the year tended to be within a month of each other. During the winter of 1988-1989 a lot was going on in my world (that’s the topic for another time). It was in many ways a winter to remember. I distinctly remember some of the gifts I received that year. My dad made me a really neat wooden puppet stage with real working stage curtains and lights I could turn on with a switch. I received a magic set, an Alphie the robot toy and I received a savings bond. Yeah, a savings bond.
I can still perform some of the tricks from the magic set. The puppet stage went through a couple “revamps” as my dad called them over the years, but I still have it. I think my kids might still play with that Alphie robot when we are over at my parents’ house sometimes. Who knows what happened to that savings bond? I’m probably a millionaire and don’t even know it. If I ever find that thing, it will certainly be a December to remember when Hannah finds that new Lexus in the Driveway.
I started “dating” Hannah when I was 16 and she was 15. On her 16th birthday she told me that her grandparents, in Arizona, bought her a new, blue, Volkswagen Beetle. I kinda believed her. She kept adding details to the story over the next few days. The more she went on about it, the more I actually believed she had received a real car for her birthday. I was more than a little disappointed when the truth came out, the car she had received was a toy the size of a matchbox car.
My brother, Evan, is 13 years younger than me. When I was in college in Atlanta and came home for Christmas I had the opportunity to be a really cool big brother. I went to a hobby shop and bought an “Air Hogs” brand remote controlled airplane. I thought he would love it. If not, I kinda wanted it myself. In an attempt to be funny, I also bought him several boxes of candy canes at the dollar store and wrapped them up for him as a gag gift. I also wrapped up the airplane but hid it. It was just the 20 boxes or so of candy canes under the tree. When it was Evan’s turn to open presents he was excited to see what he got from me. He tore into the paper and saw the candy canes. He started crying. Through his tears he loudly asked “What am I going to do with 100 candy canes?!” That’s the part we all remember at family get togethers now. Nobody even remembers the airplane.
Around Valentine’s Day, when my son Carter was 5 years old he asked me to help him make a heart out of Crayola Model Magic (a substance similar to play dough, except it drys into a soft foam rubber kind of material). Knowing full well that he was talking about the simple geometric heart shape like chocolates come in, I carefully sculpted my best replica of an anatomically correct heart and handed it to him. I took a picture of his disapproving scowl. When I showed my wife, she reminded me that the Bible teaches fathers should not exasperate their children.
The first part of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 talks about “gifts of the Spirit”. Paul writes:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
I have known some people that have said they had the gift of speaking in tongues but I certainly couldn’t understand or appreciate what they were saying. I have known people who desperately wanted or maybe even thought they would receive the gift of healing when someone they loved was very sick, but despite fervent prayers the healing did not come. It would be awesome to have “miraculous powers”. I would love to be able to raise the dead or cause the sun to stand still in the sky. (I do have questions about the physics about how all that worked.). So far I don’t think I have been given those gifts. Even my ability to deliver a message of wisdom or knowledge are iffy at best. There are certainly far better preachers and teachers than me. So where does that leave me? Do I even have any spiritual gifts? Is have a “gift of the spirit” as important as exhibiting the fruit of the spirit? Is this the complete list of gifts?
Paul addresses some of those questions in the second part of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. He compares the church to a human body. He says “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”
1. What is the first gift you remember receiving?
2. How about the most unusual gift you have ever received?
3. Was there ever a gift you had on your wish list that you asked for or hoped to receive, maybe even thought you would get but did not?
4. Have you ever received a gift that the giver thought you would like but you totally did not have any desire to use?
5. Have you ever received a gift without knowing its value till much later in life?
6. What gift(s) of the spirit have you been given.
7. When thinking of Paul’s imagery of us all being parts of the body, what body part do you think you are? An eye? An ear? Maybe an appendix or a tonsil?