I have numerous bowls in my home too. Most of them are rather plain compared to the ones I saw in Greece, but in some ways their simplicity has a beauty of its own. I have glass bowls, ceramic bowls and even a set of classic Tupperware bowls that were a gift I got at a bridal shower! My bowls range in sizes too. I have a HUGE bowl I use for one particular coleslaw recipe that is always a hit at picnics and I have some tiny ones too that I played with in my dollhouse when I was a little girl. One bowl, a gift from my daughter-in-law when she was dating my son, sits on the dining room table and is usually holding fruit; another bowl sits on the book shelf holding a collection of coins from all around the world. Some bowls are used in the kitchen for cooking and food storage; others are merely decorative. In summary, there are a lot of bowls in my house and they have many uses and each serves its own purpose.
Paul addresses the issue of spiritual gifts in a similar manner in Romans 12:3-8. He begins by encouraging the believers there to live in humility towards one another (v.3). He then likens the fellowship of believers to a human body. Paul says a body has many members, but they do not all have the same function (v. 4). He illustrates this in his letter to the Corinthians as well (1 Cor. 12:12-31) stating that though the body has different members with different functions, each part is necessary for the body to function properly. Paul encourages the Roman believers to use their gifts “accordingly”. In other words, use them for the purpose they are best suited for.
What exactly is a “spiritual gift”? There are several well-known lists in the New Testament that describe them (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:7-12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11) as special abilities the Lord places in the believer to serve others in the community of faith and to send forth the Gospel. These abilities are more than just a knack or talent a person has. They are placed in the believer at the moment of salvation when the Holy Spirit takes us residence in us (Eph. 1:13-14). Spiritual gifts are found in the Old Testament as well, but they were only given for a time and a specific task (Ex. 31:3; Jud. 3:10; 14:6). Just as the Lord endowed the faithful in Old Testament times with a specific gift for a specific task, the spiritual gifts now present in the church are also specific in that each has a particular function in building up the body of believers (Rom. 12:6-8). Lawrence Richards observed, “It is important to note that each NT passage on spiritual gifts focuses our attention on the Christian community. Gifts are exercised within the context of a caring, loving fellowship with the purpose of building individuals and congregations to spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:12-16)”.
How does a person discover his or her spiritual gift/gifts? Several people have developed “tests” which help to determine one’s spiritual gift through a series of questions and while they are beneficial, not everyone has access to them. While a test can be helpful, the best way to discover a spiritual gift is in the context of serving others and building close personal relationships with other believers. Just as a toddler discovers the muscles in his legs that help him to walk instead of crawl, we learn of our spiritual gifts when we see how God uses them to minister to others and when others see and acknowledge them at work in us. Muscles do not get stronger when we do not use them. The same is true of our spiritual gifts. In order to know what they are, we must use them. This means we must become involved in some sort of ministry or service in our congregation or fellowship. There may be a bit of trial and error that takes place as we discover the gifts God has given us, but the more we serve, the more evident those gifts will become.
It is also important to note that in each of the aforementioned lists, no hierarchy of value is mentioned. Simply put, all the gifts are important, although not all of them may be as obvious, and some certainly carry more responsibility/accountability than others. Using the body as an illustration is a good lesson (see 1 Cor. 12 again!). Like the assorted bowls in my home, the spiritual gifts have different functions, but all are necessary and useful. When it comes to spiritual gifts, each one of us is a bowl. Which kind are you?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre