Updated: Apr 20, 2022
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 NIV
I recently subscribed to Wesleyan pastor J.D. Walt’s “Daily Text”—not a message on a phone, which is what I first thought when our pastor recommended it, but a reflection each day on a passage from the Bible. His reflection on 1 Peter 4:10 introduced me to the words for “gift” in Greek, which I had somehow never heard before. In their letters, the apostles Peter and Paul use two different words that are both translated as “spiritual gifts.”
One is pneumatikos, which means “spiritual.” This word is used in several of the best-known passages regarding spiritual gifts, including 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1, where in fact the word gifts is only implied. In English, another language that occasionally turns an adjective into a noun, Paul is literally saying, “concerning the spiritual” and “earnestly desire the spiritual,” respectively. The word emphasizes that the gifts are divine rather than physical.
The other word is charisma, which comes from the root word charis, meaning “grace, good will, loving-kindness.” Used in 1 Peter 4:10, Romans 12:6, and elsewhere, it emphasizes that whatever talent or ability you have is freely, lovingly given by God. Walt calls these “grace-gifts,” and I love the term.
I have often felt ambivalent about my spiritual gifts, but thinking about them as grace-gifts makes me consider what I naturally and easily do that are in line with the will of God. I’m definitely not bragging here, as I am well aware of many areas where I need to grow (and I probably have more of which I’m not aware!), but I do want to recognize what God has given me so that I can acknowledge that they are given, not earned.
Writing is one that you are (hopefully) enjoying right now. I love doing it, and it’s never been hard for me, although I constantly work to improve. That could fall under Paul’s “teaching.”
Another is treating all people equally (James 2:1-9). I can practically count on one hand the number of people I’ve ever met whom I actively dislike. While I obviously still have bias and prejudice to overcome (especially in the context of James’s example), I usually find it easy to be friendly toward everyone and make sure that everyone in a group is treated equally and gets the same chance to speak up. I didn’t have to work hard to do that, it’s just something that comes easily.
Finally, I used to think I didn’t have the gift of generosity. I grew up in a household that had to pinch every penny, so I was overly conscious of trying not to waste anything, but I’ve been surprised how honestly cheerful I am when I can support God’s work. Of course God values sacrificial giving (Luke 21:1-4), but when he gives us more money than we need, I believe he wants us to share it. I want so badly to fix everything in the world (another God-given trait), but naturally, I’m limited in how much I can personally do. In supporting other ministries, however, I can take part in many causes that matter to me, much more than I could do myself, and that brings me true joy.
You probably don’t have the same gifts that I do, but Peter and Paul both assure us that every Christian has received gifts from God. I hope that seeing this insight into mine will help you better recognize, appreciate, and cultivate the gifts you have. I will leave you with the NASB translation of 1 Peter 4:10, which I love, because God’s grace is as beautiful as a jewel, shining its light for the world:
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.