If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
I Corinthians 7:7
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.
I Corinthians 12: 4-5
Many parents of young children who believe in Santa Claus will tell them that Santa keeps a list of who is naughty and who is nice, and that if they are naughty, they will get a lump of coal in their stocking instead of any presents. Which will leave young children worried if they’ve been good enough to receive anything.
God doesn’t work like this when it comes to giving people gifts. He does have a list of who has used the gifts they have and who hasn’t, but you don’t have to be on a “nice” list in order to receive gifts from God. He gives something to everyone.
There are three Scriptures we quote today on this subject. In I Corinthians 7:7, we read “But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Which is supported by I Corinthians 12:4-5: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord.”
Both verses support the fact that every gift is from God. Each of us is unique, we have a unique set of talents. I’m called to be a priest. There are lots of people, however, who are priests, so I am not unique in that. I enjoy working in the yard. I know I’m not the only one who does that. I’m sure I’m not the only priest who likes working in the yard. On top of that, I enjoy writing, and each summer for the past twenty years, I’ve been part of co-directing a summer camp. I also live in Florida, in a large parish that has mostly an American (as opposed to Greek) demographic. Any of those things by itself isn’t unique. But put all of those together, I really have a unique life, and a unique path through life.
I’m not saying that to brag. If you take a moment and look at your combined set of skills and circumstances, I think you’ll find that you are pretty unique as well. So, each of us has a special gift from God. And a unique path on which to use that gift.
We need these varieties of gifts. Thank God we don’t all have the same gifts. We don’t need everyone to be a priest, or a writer, or a yard enthusiast. Thankfully the world isn’t filled with people with my skills. We need a large variety of skills to make the world work. Even though the gifts are in variety in society, the source of those gifts unites us all to “the same Spirit.” Because the source of all gifts is the Lord.
Ideally, we use our gifts to serve the Lord. And we see our jobs as ministries (opportunities to serve) rather than just vocations which earn us a paycheck. There are a variety of ways to “serve.” For instance, one can serve as a horticulturist (an expert in garden cultivation and management) with just as much importance as one who serves as a doctor. Because the operative word here is “serve.” Doctors might get paid more than horticulturists. Perhaps there is more prestige in saying “my kid is a doctor” rather than “my kid is a horticulturist.” Because what your kid “is” probably defines their status among their peers, as well as their paycheck. However, even more important is being able to say “my child serves” and then whatever comes after “serves” is almost immaterial. Because the one who has a servant heart leads with the desire to help others, not to just enrich themselves. And that goes for those who serve as doctors and those who serve as horticulturists.
Which leads us to Matthew 7:11, regarding gifts that are from God: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Asking God to enrich our wallets is not necessarily a request He is going to answer. (As an aside, I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my ministry that I’ve been asked to bless a lottery ticket, and so far, anyone who has asked for that blessing has not won the lottery). However, asking God to endow us with gifts to serve and opportunities to serve, I believe, is a prayer that God will always answer. He wants us to be servants, to have the heart of a servant, and to have the eyes of one who seeks to serve those around us. If we know how to give gifts to our children, and we are far from perfect, then how much more is God able to give gifts to us, His children. The greatest gift is to love. And we demonstrate love through service. Asking God to help us develop our gifts so that we can serve others is a gift that I believe will always give to those who ask for it.
Lord, thank You for the gifts and circumstances that are unique to me and to my life (mention some of them). Help me to use these gifts not only for vocation but for ministry, not only for material gain but to serve others. Help me to serve others with joy. Help me to trust that You will provide the things I truly need. Help me to understand how I can best use my gifts, and give me the eyes to see the people and the opportunities there are to serve. Bring a person or a circumstance into my life today and every day, so that I may serve You through service to others. May my service be pleasing to You and helpful to others, today and always. Amen.
Remember, you have a special and unique set of gifts from God. And you have a unique and special path provided by God that has unique opportunities to serve others with the unique gifts He has given to you! God gives something to everyone. And God gives distinctive opportunities to use what He has given us.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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