Ours is an era of suspicion.
Don’t take my word for it; read this Nov 30, 2013 article from the Associated Press about their poll of Americans, asking how much they trust their fellow citizens. The results tempt me to fear for the Republic. Now, nearly 2/3 of the American public says they really can’t trust other people.
Need we recite a summary list of public betrayals of trust in the past decade? Is there any institution that has remained unsullied? George Orwell’s Animal Farm continues to be relevant. In this little parable for the paranoid, a farm is taken over by all the animals, under the slogan “All animals are equal.” The pigs quickly take over the administration of the farm. They ask all the animals to keep working for the common good, while they administer all the shared resources. Dear reliable old Boxer, the horse, responds to the pigs calls for more work by saying, “I will work harder.” The pigs take advantage of all of Boxer’s work for the common good, and when he is worn out and exhausted, they sell him to the glue factory – for the common good. The tale ends with the pigs posting a new slogan: “All animals are equal. Some are more equal than others.”
So perhaps, when you read a phrase like “for the common good,” your caution might be a wee bit aroused.
And yet, here it is, nestled in Paul’s instructions about the spiritual gifts: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:7)
God gives us spiritual gifts so that we can give ourselves away.
Put another way, we find our deepest satisfaction when we give of ourselves for the benefit of others.
To illustrate this, Paul gives us the analogy of the body (verses 14-27). There are many different parts to the body, and all the parts need each other. Then he makes the interesting point: “and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable, we bestow the greater honor.” Give honor to those who are less honorable in the eyes of the world. This little admonition is the inoculation against the Animal Farm scenario. We exercise our gifts for the common good by serving the weak, the frail, the marginalized, the powerless. We exercise our gifts to lift burdens off shoulders, to encourage the fainthearted, and to comfort the distressed.
Where do we find these people?
Open your eyes and you will see them everywhere: in your neighborhood, at work, in church, in your community organizations, at the barber shop, at the gym. Each person’s struggle is particular, and you can only give to them from what gifts you have. But if this hurting person is in your life, in your sphere of influence, then you may very well be God’s instrument of blessing.
So take the risk. Use your gifts for this individual, and then you will certainly be using them for the common good.
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