It was two weeks before Christmas. I stood in our local Dollar Store, watching my six-year-old son out of the corner of my eye, trying my hardest to make it seem like I wasn’t looking. Per his request, he strolled alone, craning his neck to see over the plastic cart he pushed, doing his best to act grown up. In his left palm was pressed his only dollar bill, “plus six cents for tax, Mom.”
He slowly and deliberately weaved up and down each aisle, calculating and considering every option.
He was on a mission. A secret mission.
“Don’t watch me, Mom,” he had pleaded. “I’m gonna do it all by myself.”
He lingered in the kitchen utensil aisle, but I turned my back as he approached the checkout and proudly gave the correct change to the cashier.
I kept my promise, and had absolutely no idea what he had purchased with his only savings.
A week later, he convinced a babysitter to help him wrap his mystery buy, void of any other witnesses.
The countdown continued.
At last, Christmas morning arrived.
After a riveting scavenger game of “Hot or Cold” in which I had to traipse through the house in my pajamas and baggy eyes, I finally found the treasure.
With a gleam in his almond eyes, my antsy bundle overlooked as I unwrapped the gift.
A flour sifter!
How did he know?!
I don’t think I’ve ever owned a flour sifter in my life.
“Well, I looked in the kitchen to see what you had, then I looked at the store to see what you didn’t have, and that’s what I picked!” he exclaimed. So, so precious.
Fast forward five or six weeks.
“Mom, I haven’t seen you using your flour sifter!” my boy observed aloud. “Why haven’t you been using it?”
“Well …” I floundered. “I haven’t really made many recipes that needed it.” Then, trying to make up for it, “Your sister used it the other day when she made waffles.”
The disappointment was scrawled across his face in bold font.
“… I’ll try to come up with something soon that I could bake,” I added hastily.
He shuffled away, hunched shoulders unsatisfied.
God used this deflated, pint-size picture to remind me what it feels like to give someone a really special gift, only to have the gift left in the drawer, unused. He helped me to see that I’ve done the very same thing to Him.
If you are a child of God, you have been given gifts. Meaningful gifts. Significant gifts. Gifts that were hand-selected just for you.
Whether we choose to leave them tucked in the back of a dusty cupboard, or display them prominently through the fingerprinted glass of the china cabinet, if they remain unused, they are useless. They’re not benefiting anyone.
We may neglect our gifts for any number of reasons.
Maybe we’re afraid of coming across as prideful. “Hey, look what I can do. Look at my gift.”
Or maybe the pendulum swings to the other extreme: “I’m not really good at that. So many other people can do the same thing so much better than I can.”
I would argue that both heart attitudes are off-kilter.
God hasn’t given us gifts to flaunt or parade for our own glory. Neither has He given them so we can sit on them as we warm the pews. He has given each individual specific gifts to be used and exercised for His glory, and to build up and edify the church.
In his book, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, Andrew Davis uses Ephesians 4:12-13 to illustrate that “the ministry of the word of God primes the pump for all the other ministries of the Church, and all of them working together produce the spiritual maturity that is the goal of sanctification” (p. 103).
The goal of the gifts God has given us is for the Church to be sanctified. To encourage others toward maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28). Of course He doesn’t need us to help Him. Unlike my son, who needed help wrapping the gift even after it was purchased, God can accomplish His task “all by Himself.” We may think our gifts are not important. We may think all we have to offer is a pinch of salt, or a flour sifter. But to choose not to sift the flour will alter the end result, namely the goal of complete maturity in Christ. As the body of Christ, we all serve as different ingredients to be used in the recipe for God’s Master Plan. When we choose not to use the gifts we’ve been given, the whole recipe is affected, and the entire body suffers.
As the Apostle Paul explained in his first letter to the Corinthians,
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-26, ESV)
When we’re tempted to grumble about the gifts we may or may not have, may we be reminded of the importance and intention behind each one. They all matter.
Not only did God buy gifts for you and me, He purchased you. He purchased me. Through the blood of His only Son, He paid for us. He redeemed us. He gave us gifts on purpose. Let’s show Him our gratitude by pulling those gifts out of the drawer, and sifting some flour.
Kate Motaung is the wife of a South African pastor and homeschooling mom of three. She has contributed to Ungrind, Radiant Magazine, (in)Courage, StartMarriageRight.com, Thriving Family, MOPS and Young Disciple magazine. You can read more from Kate at her blog, Heading Home or on Twitter @k8motaung.