Our Gifts (part 1)
- For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 1Jn. 2:16
We detect the pride of life in how we view our time, our money, our abilities and our opportunities. When the Holy Spirit asked the Corinthians “For who makes you differ from another, And what do you have that you did not receive?” (1Cor. 4:6), He touched on the very essence of the pride of life. How would we answer His question? What do we have that we did not receive? Any answer but nothing manifests the danger and stealth of the pride of life.
Nothing is ours! The entire material creation and everything within it was a gift. It was designed and created by God and then given to us to use. When we accept this and live, understanding that nothing is truly ours, we can rise above the realm where the pride of life dwells. When we hear “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created,” (Rev. 4:11) and our heart truly makes a full melody we are safe.
Our body and all it can do, along with the eternal soul living within it, are also gifts. They are ours only because God gave them to us: “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Ps. 139:14). Every blessing we have known and enjoyed from our birth until now was only made possible by God’s power and wisdom. Even the abilities we worked so hard to cultivate and that we prize so much are only possible because “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion.”’ (Gen. 1:25). The intelligence of our minds, might of our body, facial features that create beauty, personality that creates popularity, and all other abilities and possessions are gifts from our faithful Creator. We could add a small portion, but did not do anything to make them possible.
Peace, prosperity, health, and success are only possible because of God’s will. God warned Israel of the seduction of the pride of life in thinking they were responsible for such things. When “you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth,’ you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.” (Deut 8:17-18). Our greatest shield against the pride of life is to remember that God made it all possible. Without God, there would be nothing and we would not exist. Those who cultivate this truth will be like David who said: “Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.” (1Chr. 29:12). If the man after God’s own heart, who served the counsel of God in his generation knew this, we need to learn it.
The steps to identify, manage and remove the pride of life are revealed by the Holy Spirit. First, “you present your bodies as a living sacrifice … which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1-8). Understanding why it is reasonable is actually the most important step in the process. Once we see the logic behind it, everything else falls into place. As stewards of all God’s gifts, it is perfectly reasonable to bring our bodies to Him and use all that we have for Him. In addition, it is also logical because of our redemption. Since we have been “purchased with His own blood,” “you are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1Cor. 6:19-20). Everything is God’s! Both by creation and by redemption it is only His. This is the foundation that makes “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” possible. Only when we clearly see the logic and fairness will our minds be prepared to transform in these things.
Yet the pride of life still lurks within, seeking to bring us back under its power. The antidote is to fulfill the Spirit’s wisdom to “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one.” Any time we start thinking that some of our abilities make us special, we crush it by remembering that it was because God dealt and allotted it to us that it is ours. A song leader’s voice, the teacher’s ability to reveal wisdom or the preacher’s eloquence are only reasons for gratitude, not to create selfish pride and folly. Knowing “the heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9), we must be on guard. Think of King Nebuchadnezzar who though warned said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” The moment he thought this, God punished him. (Dan. 4:30). If these become our thoughts, we must repent and confess.
One of the tools the Holy Spirit gave is the parable of our own body. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ.” (Rom. 12:4-5). Science now tells us the average human body has 30 trillion cells. Each of these cells was placed exactly where it needed to be and given the exact abilities God created it to have. The cells in the eye were designed by God to create a member to bring sight. The cells of the brain give us the member that gives us the ability to think, feel, plan and remember. We did nothing to make this possible, but have simply been greatly blessed by God.
Every system in our body has specific abilities that nothing else can do. For a body to have all its amazing abilities it requires each of these individual cells all working together in each individual member. Every member of our body has unique cells created and placed there by God and when they all work together, they do something unique and amazing. Based on God’s placement of each cell, our own unique and special abilities were formed. This is an important and humbling truth we must never forget. When “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1Cor. 12:13), and “gave our body as a living sacrifice,” we became one of the members of the body of Christ. We assessed our gifts and become a unique part of Christ’s body, doing things no one else can do.
As long as we think soberly and remember our logical and reasonable service, “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16). Those who allow their gifts and abilities to make them feel special are under the influence of the pride of life and the church will be hobbled by it. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it,” (1Cor. 12:26), will not happen for those under the influence of this pride.
All of this brings us to the final consideration regarding our gifts: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.” (Rom. 12:6). Our unique and special abilities only exist through the grace of God. Like our own body, our importance is based on integrating and working together with other members. The difference in function doesn’t make one more special, it only enhances what Christ’s body can do. When gifts bring self-importance, it is the pride of life for we are obviously “thinking more highly than he ought to think.” When gifts bring humble gratitude to God and the desire to use our unique abilities to strengthen the church, we are thinking “soberly.” Our attitude toward our gifts and special abilities and/or possessions is where the pride of life lurks.
Our attitude toward our gifts can also be seen in how we use them. Regardless of our ability to rationalize and justify, we can’t get past this final critical indicator. Those who see what their gifts have earned them, using them for their own ends are in the grip of the pride of life. Once baptized into the one body, “we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Rom. 12:5). We must learn to see our gifts as given to benefit the church. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1Pet. 4:10). Only then will we truly know that the pride of life is being crushed and removed.
Conclusion. The greatest insulation we can create to protect ourselves from the pride of life is our gratitude to God for every good and perfect gift in our possession. Gratitude leads to humility and service. Armed with these truths, we can assess every aspect of our life to detect pride. At any moment we follow Nebuchadnezzar into feeling self-made and self-important, we are under its influence. To avoid this our new attitude must become: “For who makes you differ from another, And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1Cor. 4:6).