Spiritual Gifts: East Meets West
Written by Tony Boghdadi
4 November, 2022
Tony is an OCCM member studying at the University of Florida
We read in the book of Numbers that Moses was a very humble man (Numbers 12:3). Growing up in the Egyptian culture, we would agree that our understanding of the humble person is the one who slightly tilts their head downward and gently taps his chest two to three times which equally relates to the person's level of spiritual piety.
In Western culture — encompassing consumerism and the age of individualism — self-worth is confounded upon insignificant letters that either follow or precede your name, which usually takes a fourth of your lifetime to achieve. Growing up in a Coptic household in Western society, all questions of life, self-worth, and well-being oftentimes are based upon what you do and how much you make, but simultaneously they must be masked and not seen by anyone to remain pious. Kind of difficult to reconcile!
Putting spiritual satire aside, I would like to take a moment to understand what the bible says
about our talents/accomplishments/spiritual gifts. By the end of high school and throughout college, we begin to shape and mold who we are. We dream of who we want to become and begin to form who we desire to be while refining our preexisting values and finding what is important to us. We discover what we are good at and what we are not good at. Understanding our spiritual gifts is crucial to who we are and how we fit into the community and the church that we are a part of. So then, what does the Church say about our spiritual gifts? Should we listen to the Eastern culture and hide them, or do we listen to the Western culture and allow them to fill us with pride because "I earned it and it's my right." Before we can answer this, we have to answer some questions that I encourage you to sit with. What are gifts? What is the purpose of these gifts? Is there a difference between gifts and fruits? Do gifts assure us that we are pious? Is it based on my worthiness that I have gifts? What is my mindset when viewing my gifts?
Gifts are tools that God gave us to reap spiritual profit. Some gifts, listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, are those such as administration, prophecy, teaching, and speaking in tongues. Others pertaining to our time can be intelligence, ability to comfort, leadership, humor, athleticism, etc. Gifts are to be used to glorify God and to serve each other as seen in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Corinthians 14. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are different from the Fruit of the Spirit that is seen in Galatians 5: gifts are the tools that God gave us, and the fruit is the house we build from them. We are stewards (1), and God is looking for us to make profit such as seen in the parable of the Talents. Gifts do not prove that we are pious and must be separated from sainthood or godliness, but having the fruit of the spirit shows that we live in holiness. Matthew 7:22 shows that we can work miracles yet God won’t know us, while in contrast, John 10:41 tells us that John the Baptist performed no signs even though he was the greatest born of women (Matthew 11:11). Gifts are not based on our worthiness, “but to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7). “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
So then after this, what is the mindset to have? Well, gifts are not my right - as God graciously gives each one - and I shouldn’t hide my gifts fearing being prideful because I did nothing to receive them. They are to be used to glorify God and for other people’s edification. This then makes sense with the famous line that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Humility isn’t hiding your gifts. That’s pride because you think you achieved your gifts on your own and it’s something worth hiding. If we see our gifts as they truly are then there is no room for pride because we have achieved nothing of ourselves. As prayed by the celebrant priest in the Divine Liturgy, “We offer unto You what is Yours” (Divine Liturgy of St Basil). We also read, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'” (Luke 17:10). Fake humility is pride hidden, and pride is lies we tell ourselves thinking we did something on our own account.
We are God's stewards and when He comes, He is looking for the fruits we have produced with the gifts that were given to us. To those given many gifts, He will ask for many fruits in return. To those given a few, He will ask for a few. Therefore, to answer the question we posed at the beginning - no, we are not to hide our gifts and tap our chests, and our gifts do not equate to our worthiness. Our self-worth comes from us being sons and daughters of the King of Kings, “who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). So, what do we do now? We search for the gifts that God has put in us and we use them to glorify His name and to serve His people. “But these are the ones sown on
good ground. Those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:20).
(1) one who supervises or takes care of another's property