It's easy to read the lists of spiritual gifts offered in places like 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 with an eye to discovering what it is the Lord has given each one of us. What is my gift? we ask as we read these verses to ourselves.
But we must also ask: what is my responsibility?
Here, we're not talking about what it means to exercise our gift responsibly, although that's certainly also a good question and one worth asking. Rather, we're asking what we are to do with the gifts that are not ours.
For example, I do not possess the gift of teaching. I just don't. It doesn't matter how hard I try, how much I plan, how much effort I put into it: it's not my gift. It's not something I enjoy. It's not something I think that I'm very good at. So it would be easy, and in fact, I've done this many times, to simply read past teaching on these lists and move on to gifts that seem more to suit my heart.
The problem with this, however, is that it completely ignores the unspoken truth: although I do not possess the gift of teaching, others do. And that means that my call, in regards to the gift of teaching, is to be a student.
Read that again: because I do not possess the gift of teaching, I have a responsibility to be a student.
This is what I think it's too easy to read right by, and we do it with all of the gifts. Maybe you don't have the gift of serving. Then you have the responsibility to be served. Maybe you don't have the gift of encouraging others. Then you have the responsibility to be encouraged. Maybe you don't have the gift of speaking the wisdom of God. Then you have the responsibility to listen. Maybe you don't have the gift of speaking the knowledge of God. Then you have the responsibility to hear. Maybe you don't have the gift of leadership. Then you have the responsibility to follow.
See, if you read these lists of spiritual gifts with your heart wide open, you discover that more than just your gift speaks to you. More than just the gift you have says something about you. The gifts you don't have say just as much. And I wonder what might happen if we spent just as much time learning to receive the gifts we don't have as we do trying to use the gifts that we do.
What if you spent just as much time learning to be a student? What if you spent your time learning to be served? What if you spent your time learning to be encouraged? What if you spent your time listening, learning to hear? What if you spent your time following?
And do you notice something here? Every one of these "not-my-gift" responsibilities...is humbling. It requires humility. It requires vulnerability. It requires admitting a need, embracing a need, approaching your community and your God, letting yourself receive something. As a student, you must say that you simply don't know. There's something someone else has to teach you. If someone serves you, you admit that you couldn't do it yourself. If someone encourages you, you embrace the weight of your own heart. If you listen, you are not speaking. If you hear, you are not listening to your own voice. If you follow, you are not leading. All these things you're not make you something else - something good.
Because it's good to be engaged in the things you can't do. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that when you choose to engage in your spiritual responsibility, you free the gifts you don't possess to truly be gifts to those who do. In other words, because I am intentionally a student, teaching is truly a gift.
What does that even mean? I'll tell you tomorrow.