THE COMMON GOOD
Lord, show me what gifts You have given to me.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 12:1–11
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
New International Version (NIV)
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All of us have to unlearn the quest for status. See the sound spiritual advice Paul gave to a church 200 miles northeast of Corinth (Phil. 2:3).
It would seem that Paul now turns to a new topic, that of spiritual gifts. However, underlying this discussion is exactly the same problem of status seekers which troubles the young church in Corinth. If some members of the church feel superior on account of their wealth and social prestige, others do so in the realm of spiritual gifts. Unlike people in the modern world, for whom the cosmos has become a vast, empty and silent space, Paul’s converts in Corinth have grown up believing that the heavens are crammed full of spiritual powers. Priests are claiming the ability to manipulate such powers for the benefit of clients. The message of the cross and the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit is utterly new to the Corinthians, so that what we witness in these chapters are new converts slowly realigning and reconfiguring their ingrained belief system to suit their newly found faith.
In an urban setting featuring cut-throat competition for status, Paul reminds these new believers that they now belong to a community in which the gifts of the Spirit have been bestowed not for personal glory but “for the common good” (7). This phrase provides the key to unlocking the vision which underpins all of Paul’s missionary work: across the Roman Empire alternative communities will emerge and grow in which selfishness, greed, and individual ambition will be replaced by mutual love, shared resources, and human solidarity. This vision is deeply rooted within the story of biblical Israel, but has now become a universal possibility through the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Reflect on the gifts the Spirit has given you. How can you use them for the common good?
Lord, help me to work for the good of the church and not my own little fiefdom within the church.