By Michael Kelley
My kids love getting gifts. (I guess that whole “blessed is the giver” thing hasn’t caught on yet.) My son likes Legos®, light sabers, and baseball bats. He could care less about getting clothes. In a big stack of presents, he’ll open a package of socks, nod politely, and then quickly throw them aside in search of a new action figure.
But my little girl? Well, clothes are an entirely different story with her. She’ll open her socks and squeal with glee. She doesn’t see clothes as a necessary evil that has to be dealt with every morning; she sees them as something to be used and enjoyed. In fact, after she opens up her socks, it’s only a matter of time before she’s walking awkwardly around having grown by about four inches because she’s put them all on at the same time. The value of a gift has everything to do with the perspective of the one receiving it, as my kids’ very different responses to clothing gifts demonstrates.
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
Accepting the gifts God gives us is the easy part. Who doesn’t love getting gifts? But if we’re going to be the beneficiaries of spiritual gifts, it would profit us to ask the question of why. Why does the Holy Spirit give us these gifts?
To answer that, let’s look at this passage regarding spiritual gifts:
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Paul just spent the first 11 glorious chapters of Romans talking about the depravity of mankind—how we were all hopelessly lost. But then God stepped into our lives, taking His enemies and making them His children. Definitely plural. The mercies of God are innumerable. From the drawing of another breath each morning to our glorious homecoming in heaven, the mercies of God abound.
Let’s keep going. In light of God’s mercies (plural), we should offer our bodies (plural) as a living sacrifice (singular). Sacrifice, not sacrifices. Many bodies, one sacrifice. And the absence of that “s,” that one little letter, makes all the difference in the world.
Every morning you and I choose whose agenda we will follow that day. We stand at the fork in the road of obedience or disobedience, and we choose whether we will live for ourselves—our pleasure, our satisfaction, our bank accounts, and our comfort—or for God. The idea of a daily, living, individual sacrifice is certainly in the Bible.2 It came straight from the mouth of the Lord Jesus. But that’s not the exact idea present in Romans 12. If it were, Paul would have challenged us to daily make ourselves “living sacrifices.” Plural. Each one of us. Every day. Lots of sacrifices.
But there’s no “s.” Romans 12 isn’t about individuals; it describes a group project. We are to corporately come together in the church with everything we have—all our talents, gifts, and resources—and offer one sacrifice. God’s will is that we become participants in the wonderful group project of the church.
That’s why the Holy Spirit has gifted us as individuals. Not so that we might profit financially or build our own reputation in any way, but to give ourselves for the good of others and the building up of the body of Christ.
Regardless of what you see when you look in the mirror, be convinced of this: The Holy Spirit has gone to great lengths to find the perfect gifts for you. And He’s given it to you with the expectation that you would learn to use it in conjunction with your personality for the good of others, the building up of the church, and ultimately the glory of Jesus.
1. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 650.
2. See Luke 9:23 for an example of this daily individual sacrifice.
Excerpted from Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith (Lifeway Press, 2010), written by Michael Kelley.