This is from an illustration in a sermon heard a long time ago.
Here’s what he taught us that our spiritual gifts look like when they’re being used correctly in our churches.
Say there’s a potluck at church. Everyone’s bringing in their favorite dishes and anticipating a great time of food and fellowship.
Then one young lady walks in carrying a heavy load. She’s got a full casserole dish, a big stack of paper plates, and a platter piled high with dinner rolls. Plus she’s got her purse hanging off one shoulder, and a toddler clinging to her skirts.
This woman is overburdened.
Immediately upon her entrance, ‘Mr. Helps’ sees her and begins to rush to her aid. He doesn’t make it in time though, and the woman fumbles her dishes. Her entire burden comes crashing to the floor – food smeared all over the carpet, dinner rolls scattering hither and yon, broken glass littering the entryway.
Now the other gifts are all activated at once.
“Helps” picks up the screaming toddler and walks away so the child doesn’t get hurt on the glass.
“Mr. Prophet” and “Ms. Teacher” walk over together. “Prophet” tells the woman on the floor that she tried to take on too much herself and should have asked for help.
“Teacher” begins to show her how she could have balanced them more efficiently, or taken two trips to bring it all in.
“Administrations” goes to get the janitor to clean up the mess.
“Mercy” and “Encouragements” kneel at the woman’s side and consoles her, saying everyone understands, it could have happened to any of the rest of us, and perhaps offers a humorous anecdote to take her mind off the embarrassment and help her relax.
“Giver”, without saying a word, has already left for the store to buy more food and replace the broken dishes.
“Leader” helps her stand back up again and dust herself off, then leads her to a table where she can help in a different area.
None of these responses are wrong.
Can you see yourself in any of these? I know I can. And I can pick out people in my church who would react in these different ways, too.
Do you see how all the needs of that situation were met? Spiritual, physical, and emotional.
Where we get in trouble is when we fail to recognize the spiritual gifts of those around us, and begin to be envious or critical of each other.
If the response turns carnal though….
“Mercy” can easily become upset with “Prophet” for being blunt and not caring how the woman felt, while “Prophet” gets annoyed and disdainful of “Mercy” for catering to the woman’s feelings.
“Teacher” is annoyed with “Administrations” for going to find the janitor and not teaching the woman how to clean up her own mess.
“Helps” is annoyed with everyone for standing around talking when there’s a mess to clean up, and “Giver” is frustrated that they’re the only one who thought to replace all that ruined food and lost dishes.
But See? If we just realize that the other person has a role to fulfill, and it’s vital to having all the needs met, then we wind up working as a team…each person doing what they need to do, and respecting the role that the others are fulfilling as well.
The woman will learn where she was wrong, and be taught what to do better next time. She will be soothed and comforted so she can receive the message and instruction in the proper spirit, and the actual mess will get cleaned up while the broken things are fixed and the lost items replaced.
Amazing when you think about it. God created us to be a team, to work together and solve situations in the world as a team. Not to be at each other’s throats.