May 11, 2015
Sioux Falls Seminary students journey through life and learning with a team of mentors and professors. I am privileged to be a part of the Kairos Project teaching team. My role is to teach on the topic of biblical stewardship, a central theme in Scripture and theological education.
I like to summarize our responsibilities as stewards in God’s kingdom with three words: gifts, goods, and gospel. Every Christ-follower is a steward of spiritual gifts and material goods to make known the eternal gospel. This blog post focuses on our stewardship of spiritual gifts. Few NT passages provide more clear instructions on this topic than one profound statement of Peter that was directed to Christ-followers exiled throughout the Roman Empire.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). This statement helped early church Christians know how to live so that their lives (both individually and collectively) would glorify God. It also offers at least three insights for us today.
(1) God has spiritually gifted each and every follower of Christ.
The Greek word for “gift” used here (χάρισμα rather than δόμα) reveals that Peter believes these are spiritual gifts or reflections of God’s “grace” (χάρις). Matthew Henry notes in his commentary on this verse, “whatever ability we have of doing good we must own it to be the gift of God and ascribe it to His grace.”
What matters to Peter (and to us) is not what gift each person has received but that each and every follower of Christ has received a gift from God that reflects His grace. This is the basis for another NT theme: “participation in the gospel.” In other words, because each of us has a spiritual gift, we all have a role to play in God’s kingdom.
(2) Faithful stewards use their gifts to serve others.
Peter also emphasizes what to do with whatever gift we have received. We must use it to serve others. That’s our role. With this declaration Peter is merely echoing the instructions of Jesus to the twelve disciples. He desires that disciples follow His example and are known for their service (cf. Luke 22:24-27).
In parallel passages like 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:4-8, the Apostle Paul gives us lists of these gifts of grace. Why should we discern how God has gifted each of us? This helps us determine our respective roles in God’s kingdom. When we play the specific parts designed for each of us, we function together as the Body of Christ.
(3) God’s grace is revealed through our faithfulness.
This is perhaps the most motivating point. When we use our various spiritual gifts to serve others, God’s grace is illustrated in various ways. When we don’t use our gifts, which have been given to us for the common good (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7), God’s work is not thwarted, but rather, we miss out on the privilege of participating.
This may explain why Paul exhorts Timothy to “fan to flame” the gift he had received (2 Timothy 1:3-6). Just as Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, exhibited sincere faith, Paul wanted Timothy to be found faithful. I am writing this blog post today because the same desire Paul had for Timothy I share for each student and for you!
Let us celebrate the good news that God has given each of us a gift, a spiritual gift, that is rooted in His grace. Let us resolve to use the gifts we have received to serve others. Finally, let us be faithful with regard to the stewardship of our gifts so that God’s manifold grace will be made known to the world through us.
I share this exhortation today with Pauline enthusiasm not because of what I want from you but because of what I want for you. I want each of us—you, me and all of the stewards who read this post—to hear two words when we meet our Master: “Well done!”
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D. (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK) serves as an author, speaker, consultant, and member of the Kairos Project teaching team at Sioux Falls Seminary. He also served as a content reviewer for The NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Dr. Hoag has dedicated his life (as “the Generosity Monk”) to helping people understand biblical stewardship and exhibit Christian generosity. To freely subscribe to his daily “Meditations” visit: www.generositymonk.com.