We make a lot out of spiritual gifts. Every generation has some proponent and push for the next generation to discover those “giftings.” It goes along the lines that God “gifted” us to be a blessing to the church and the world and we must discover and refine that gift in order to fulfill our spiritual destiny. Unfortunately, more often than not, disciples get caught up in “charismata” rather than the work of the Kingdom.
The weekly scripture reading for Jews this week was about Joseph. Obviously this is a story with which we are doubtlessly familiar. We learned it as children, how God gave Joseph dreams and gave him the ability to interpret dreams. As you may recall it was this “gift” from God to interpret dreams that would bring him before the very king of Egypt. Joseph correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dream that there would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. After sharing the interpretation of the dreams, Joseph seizes the moment to lay out a plan to survive the famine: take one fifth of the grain for seven years, and then, when the famine comes, the grain could be distributed to the people.
Recognizing Joseph’s talent and ability to lead this initiative, Pharaoh appoints Joseph to the second highest position in the Egyptian governed to lead the grain storage project. It would be this new position that would empower Joseph to save his own family from the crippling famine. It wasn’t Joseph’s “gift” to interpret dreams, but rather his keen business sense that would save ALL of Egypt and the nations around him! It was not his “gift”, but his leadership ability that was proved and tested in Potiphar’s house that would elevate him to his great legendary status.
Such an inordinate amount of emphasis is placed on gifts within religious circles, as if somehow the magical fairy dust can make us fly. I grew up believing that my natural propensity to play instruments was my “gift.” The pressure to perform was so great that I wasted nearly three years failing through college as a music major. And while I still have an affinity for music, and have even made significant money in the music industry, I am not known for my musical ability. I am known for my labor, my ability to get a job done. I don’t think I would want it any other way.
Despite being known for his Psalms, King David was a valiant warrior. So often, I waffle in my mind between a meek and mild harpist, word-smithing his next poem, to gritty, rugged, and war-hardened warrior. David is a complex human. It is clear from 1 Samuel that his ability to play harp is what got the attention of King Saul. Like Joseph, David’s “gift” got him noticed. Plagued with evil spirits that would torment him, Saul sought a harpist who could play, for in the playing of a harp, the evil spirits left him. It was noted by his servants:
“Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man ; and the LORD is with him.”
It is hard to determine what David’s “gift” was. He seemed to have it all! And while it is so easy to take one’s place behind the harp, and sing for the crowd, David knew his real destiny. The day would soon come when David would step out from behind the harp and emerge from his tent amid the field of battle. Dressed not in regal regalia, but tightly fitted with heavy armor, he would mount his horse, sheath his sword, and strap his bow to his shoulder. Then taking his spear in hand and the reins of his horse in the other, he will look down across the valley, teeming with soldiers all wanting to take his life. Saddled beside his cousins and lifelong allies, Joab and Abashai, He utters a prayer under the braying of the horses: “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, Adonai; deliver me.”
|1 Corinthians 12