We live in a culture obsessed with achievement. Climbing the corporate ladder. Being the player that scores the game winning goal on the buzzer. Earning that master’s degree.
We love to accomplish things.
The American dream has been built upon the concept that opportunity added to a tremendous deal of hard work produces positive results. And there is some truth to that. But too often, these accomplishments become a cycle of selfishness that bend and turn upon the individual.
It is a small wonder that this mindset comes into the American church in relation to spiritual gifts. We love the concept of being individually gifted for a purpose in the church. However, much like our dreams and aspirations, our gifts become centered and twisted around us. Our gifts often become avenues for us to elevate ourselves for others to see just how spiritual we actually are.
God’s intention with giving us spiritual gifts was not to give us an avenue for our lust for attention. God rather gave us spiritual gifts to be instruments of love to strengthen the church and build others up.
Too often, our churches are filled with people exalting themselves. Paul calls those who use their gifts to satisfy themselves a clanging cymbal. Cymbals become pretty overwhelming when someone hits them repeatedly (I bet every parent identifies with this when their child received their first drum set from their “loving” grandparents). Many of our churches today are full of noisy cymbals. Paul is quite explicit. It does not matter if you could speak the language of angels, have all of the faith required to throw Mt. Everest into Lake Michigan, be so intelligent that you can comprehend the consubstantiality of Son with the Father (yes, that is really a thing), if you are not acting out of love, then it is worthless.
When I was in high school, my buddy and I would meet once a week and check up on one another’s spiritual walk. We spent some time together in 1 Corinthians 13. We were overcome by the radical explanation of love. How patient it was. How kind it was. How it looked to the best interest of others even at the extreme expense of ourselves. And here is Paul calling believers to live like this.We started changing the passage a little. We inserted our name wherever the word “love” was present. It became quite a humbling exercise. For example: “Davis is patient and kind; Davis does not envy or boast; Davis is not arrogant or rude, Davis does not insist on his own way; Davis is not irritable or resentful” (1Cor. 13:4-5). Once we filled our names in the blanks, we realized how much we actually fell short. Because the truth is that I am not always patient or kind. Sometimes I am really arrogant and there are other times when I do not get my own way that I get quite irritated (just ask my fiancé). My friend and I saw just how much we needed Christ and His work in our lives.
Deep down we were, in many ways, just clanging cymbals.
What would happen if you were to put your name in each place “love” is mentioned? Would your name fit with the characteristics given, or would you be a clanging cymbal? Use your gifts in the church; that is why God gave them to you. But do not use them as a springboard to satisfy your own lusts.
Use your gifts to serve and benefit those around you.