I want to share with you a concept of being a steward that I ran across this week. I think this is very important for us as we seek to glorify God in how we handle our time, talents, and treasure. If we grasp this concept in all three of these areas, we will definitely be living a lifestyle of stewardship. Here it is: A steward was one who served as a house manager; they had no wealth of their own, but distributed their master’s wealth according to their master’s will and direction. Did you catch that? So applying that to our “lifestyle of stewardship” discussion: If we begin to realize that everything we have, our time, talents, and treasure, is all God’s that He has given us to use for Him, then we will begin our journey of making the best use of our time, talents, and treasure, not for ourselves or our own glory, but for God and His glory!
1 Peter 4:10-11
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to the city of Genoa on the condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless except as a relic. This brings to mind collecting antiques. My mom loves to collect antiques, but I never understood it. I realize while watching some of these shows on television now that someone could have something worth a lot of money. They might buy an old car and restore it so that it is worth a lot of money, but they never drive it because they don’t want to mess up their investment. So a perfectly good car just sits in the garage. They might have some rare collectible, but it just sits on the shelf and collects dust. For me, I think that if you aren’t using it, you should get rid of it. What’s the point if you never use it?
In the same way, there are many people who God has given great talents and abilities, and they are either not using them at all or using them for their own glory, when they should be using them for God’s glory. God has given each one of us certain talents or gifts so that together we can faithfully serve others and glorify God.
I. Each One of Us Has a Gift (10a, 11a)
I want you to know that each one of us has specific gifts that God has blessed us with, but specifically if you are a Christian, God has given you what we call a spiritual gift. Notice with me in verse 10: “As each received a gift…” Notice that Peter does not say, “As those of you who received a gift…” That would imply that there were some who did not receive a gift. He wants everyone to know that each of them has been given a gift. So every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, which is a graciously given, supernaturally designed ability granted by the Holy Spirit.
It is important for us to take a moment to distinguish between talents and spiritual gifts. God’s Word tells us about these gifts in a few different places. But we see the main division here in our text. Look at verse 11: “…whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…” What we see here is that our spiritual gift or gifts fit into one of two categories. First, there are the speaking gifts. This is not the same as when someone says they have the “gift of gab.” That just means they like to speak. Speaking gifts would be things like preaching, teaching, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. Second, there are the serving gifts. Serving gifts would be things like administration, prayer, mercy, and meeting needs. Each one of us has been given a gift by God.
The question then comes: What am I supposed to do with my gift?
II. Our Gifts Need to Be Used to Serve Others (10b)
Notice with me verse 10 again: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” As a preacher friend of my used to say, that is a pregnant statement. There is a lot packed into that short phrase, so let’s try to break it down a little bit. Let’s start with the last phrase. What does “God’s varied grace” mean? Well, Romans 12:3-6 says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…” In other words, we are all individual parts of the body of Christ (i.e., uniquely gifted for the body part that we are supposed to be). Christ is the head, and we make up the rest of it.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives us an illustration that will help us a lot here. In essence he says, “What if one day that foot got mad because it wasn’t a hand, so it left the body? What if an ear got mad because it wasn’t an eye, so it left the body? This just would not work. If the ears left, how would the body hear? If the nose left, how would the body smell? All the parts are needed! In fact, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” So every part of the body of Christ is needed. You are needed! Then Paul continues and says, “What if one part of the body thinks that they can do without another part of the body? What if they think another part of the body is not needed? Well this cannot be true because the parts of the body that might seem to be weaker are indispensable.” In other words, we need everyone. The gist of what Paul is saying is this: You are needed! Whether you are a preacher or a janitor, a deacon or a child, a teacher or a behind the scenes worker, you are needed in the body of Christ!
Why is all of that important? It is because we can only accomplish the tasks that God has given to us, when we all work together, each one doing his/her part. As the church, we are called to do several things. For instance, we are to make disciples of all nations, encourage each other to grow in their relationship with the Lord, meet the needs of each other, and serve those around us. These things can only be done effectively when all the parts of the body are working together. So whatever your gift is, it is extremely important. Do not think that what you do is any less important that what anybody else does. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” The answer is no. Not everybody is a preacher or teacher. In fact, your gift might only be displayed privately (i.e., a prayer warrior). But that does not make you or your gift any less important. We are all on a level playing field and if one of us decides to jump ship, the whole thing is going down. So let’s work together to accomplish the work of the church.
We are each given a gift or gifts that when used together with others, we can accomplish what God has set before us.
III. Our Gifts Need to Be Used to Glorify God (11b)
It is important that we understand we each have a gift and that we need to use it within the church to help accomplish its mission, but the most important thing we need to understand is that our gift needs to be used to glorify God. Notice the second half of verse 11: “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” The main reason that we use our gifts is to glorify God. Remember that we said earlier that God is the one who gave us the gifts, so it makes sense that we should use them to honor the One who gave them to us.
But it is hard sometimes isn’t it? It is so easy to try to exalt ourselves in the use of our gifts, isn’t it? When we preach or teach or make an administrative decision, are we worried about God’s will and whether He will get the glory, or are we worried if people will praise us for the wonderful job we did? When we see trash lying on the floor or a spilled drink and we clean it up, is it okay that no one may ever know that we did it? When we pray for the pastor or the deacons or a specific need in the church, do we have to let everyone know that we are praying so that they can praise us for being so faithful, or are we okay with using our gift in secret so that God alone gets the glory? Whatever your gift is, please, I beg you, for the sake of the church, use it, but use it in a way and with the motivation that God alone will receive the glory!