I’ve had the opportunity to attend a six-week overview of Romans through my church. That’s a pretty aggressive thing to try to do in six-weeks. Romans takes time. It’s truly a condensed version of the whole of the Gospels, written by Paul. Martin Luther read it and it literally caused the Reformation (the founding of the Lutheran church). It’s not a book to be taken lightly.
We didn’t get through all of Romans, but focused on the first 12’ish chapters. Yesterday was the last class. We started with chapter 13 and worked backwards a bit. So many good discussions were had over the six weeks, so many thoughts, emotions, understandings, and realizations hit me during the time, but the thing that stuck out from yesterday comes from Chapter 12, and really, a note I placed in my bible when I worked through Romans last (about two years ago).
Chapter 12 speaks to our giftings.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.
If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.Romans 12: 6-8
That part is pretty easy to understand, I think. For instance, my mother had the gift of compassion. People could just sense it when they were around her. She never met a stranger. We’d be at the grocery, in the check out line, and next thing I know, the clerk checking my mother out would be pouring out an intimate, detailed story of their life, and my mother would know just what to say to bring a sort of peace to the person speaking. It was amazing to see in action. She used her gifting to serve others well.
There is another verse in Romans that I think we misuse.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.Romans 12:3
This verse is two-fold. It speaks to pride. Sometimes we might get uppity about our gifts. I know I have been at fault for this.
I believe one of my gifts is writing. Writing tends to come easy to me. Meaning: I don’t often struggle with writer’s block. I’ve certainly had to practice the craft over the years, expand my vocabulary, learn to express my thoughts in a way that might be engaging to others, but overall, writing flows from deep within me. But knowing this about me has from time to time caused me to struggle with pride. Paul’s warning here speaks to this.
But it also speaks to something perhaps not as obvious.
Paul implores us to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves, measuring ourselves by the faith God has given us.
Another way of saying that might be that we are to see ourselves through God’s eyes. How He sees us.
The note in my bible that I wrote in conjunction with this verse says:
Remember, it is prideful to think less of yourself than God does.
Some may think it humble to think less of our gifts, but in truth, it is false humility to down play what God has given us.
If someone compliments my writing and shares how it moved them and I dismiss what they say by starting the shpeel about how, “it wasn’t that good, really.” who does that serve? Instead, I’ve tried to take a note from my mother. I will take a moment and respond by asking them to explain how so. What about the piece touched them?
I have come to believe that God gifted me with writing as a way to connect with others. To give voice to our mutual experiences for those who might not be able to express those experiences themselves. When I look at it that way, I have to ask, “Who am I not to use the gifts I’ve been given?” How does not using, or embracing my gifts, serve God? It doesn’t.
The image it always brings up for me is the one I posted above. A person sitting in a giant chair, barely taking up any space.
We’ve all been given a chair. We’re called to fill the chair, fully. Not to spill over into someone else’s chair (pride), not to leave a ton of space on our chair (also pride), but to fill it fully by using our gifts on behalf of ourselves, and on the behalf of others.
I hope next time someone compliments the thing, or things, you were gifted, you pause to enjoy the moment, the connection it has brought you with another person. That you are able to acknowledge your part in the body. Without your gift in the world, the body is incomplete.
Go ahead, take up all the space in your chair so that through your example, someone else learns to take up the space they’ve been given as well.