Monday, August 12, 2013

1st Peter 4 - As household servants

"As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:10)
Recently, my wife and I have enjoyed watching replays of a British Television series about a large and noble English house set around the turn of the twentieth century. The house was named Downton Abby. The master of the house testifies that his life work, purpose, and meaning is the care and nurturing of this great house. All he has and does is for the sake of the house. However, the actual running of the house is in the hands of many household servants, each with their own assigned duties. There are butlers, footmen, valets, chamber maids, cooks, and many more. The house exists due to the care, love, and oversight of its master, but it functions because of the proper working of each individual servant. Each one know their job and their expected duties and, when each one performs their individual assigned duties, the house functions as a whole. This is the image that Peter is trying to draw for us in this verse. Each of us have a gifting and a part to play and the Church, the house of God. However, His house only functions as a whole when each of us plays our part and performs our assigned duties and responsibilities.

Peter highlights three specific key thoughts when considering our place in God's house. First, he teaches us that each and everyone of us have received something from the grace of God that we might use in serving one another. The word used here for "gift" is the Greek word "charisma" from which we get our Christian word "Charismata" or "Charismatic" and is differs from the word for "present" in that presents are given among equals while these gift are given out of favor or grace; gifts given from the greater to the lesser. It is a gift that is given without regard to the qualifications or abilities of the receiver; it is given, not because the receiver is worthy, but because the giver is gracious. The gift we have received does not testify of us but rather of the giver; it reflects Him and His graciousness, not us.

Secondly, we are to understand that these gifts we have received from God's favor and grace are not intended for our own befit or enrichment, but for the benefit and enrichment of others. It is as if God gives us a gift and then asks us to give it to another, and yet, in doing so, we are in no way made poorer but still posses gifts to be given away. We give away and yet are not made any poorer in gifts or favor with God. Sometimes our goal is for others to recognize us and the gifts we possess, rather than recognizing the need in others that our gift can fulfill. We want people to see us rather than us seeing where we can use our gift to fill a need in someone else's life. These gifts are not for show but are for serving.

Finally, we are reminded that we are only a part of a greater whole. We are only a part, meant to function with other parts, and so are our gifts and graces, they are only parts of a greater reality of what God wants to do, and is doing, in His house, which is His church. God gives us our gifts and then calls us to use them in concert with others who have received differing gifts that the manifold grace of God may be know in the church and, through the church, to the world. We cannot do it all, nor can we be all, our part only makes since in the context of a greater whole, in unison with other household servants who are also using their gifts to serve one another.
"Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)
The goal of the gifts and of our service is to reveal God and to bring Him glory and honor. It is so tempting to want to be seen; to want to be seen as being spiritual or of great strength in our service, but such desires only server to occlude the view of God who is the supplier and strengthener of all gifts and service. After we have served one another, people should leave remembering what Jesus did for them, not how great we are for what we have done for them; they should remember Christ rather than us. We should be like those silent household servants who perform their duty while hardly being noticed, that the glory might go to the master of the house rather than to the servants of the house. When we speak, we should seek to speak what God wants to say and to say it in the way that reflects the heart of God; that our speaking might reflect the words of God along with the nature of God. When we serve, we should be content to be weak ourselves that the strength might be seen to be God's not ours. We should serve in a way that people encounter the love and care of God even if they forget which servant it was that acted as the steward of that love and care. It is as John said,  "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) When we increase, people begin to desire us rather than Jesus, but when we decrease, our joy is in seeing others come to know, love, and desire our master. John understood this and testified to his disciples, "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full." (John 3:29)

David Robison

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