This was first published in Focus Magazine, Jan. 2009, in a valuable issue of that paper on Romans 12. I pulled it back up and remembered this rich illustration by Andy Cantrell.
Focus Magazine, Jan. 2009
Imagine the following scene. There are seven people sitting around a table enjoying a meal together. These seven people possess the seven gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12:6-8:
One has the gift of prophecy (for our purposes think of this gift as someone who is bold and desires to speak truth—rather than the miraculous gift of having special revelation or foretelling the future), one has the gift of service (ministry), one the gift of teaching, one is an exhorter, one is a giver, one the gifts of a leader, and one possesses the gift of mercy.
As they sit around chatting the waiter carries in a huge tray of food and accidentally dumps it everywhere making a huge mess. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation you know how you reacted and how you felt. Now, as we imagine what these seven people would say and why they would say it, see which of them you identify with.
The prophet speaks first (they usually do), “That’s what happens when you’re not careful.” Even though his reaction is critical and painfully truthful, his motivation is a noble one. He wants to correct the problem and keep it from happening again.
The minister (servant type) speaks up, “Don’t worry; I’ll help you clean it up.” This person is a person of action motivated by the desire to fulfill a need and help others.
The teacher observes, “It seems the reason it fell was that it was too heavy on one side.” Always motivated to discover the reason and educate others, this person is dedicated to detailed analysis.
The exhorter (encourager) offers, “next time I will help carry some of that.” Their motive is to correct the future by being a part of it.
The giver, who is gifted with greater resources, says, “I’d be happy to buy some more for everyone.” Her motive is to meet a need and use what she has for the good of others.
The leader commands, “You get the mop, I’ll pick this up, and you go get more from the kitchen.” Motivated by a desire to achieve an immediate goal, they can see what needs to be done and how everyone can help accomplish it.
Finally the person gifted with mercy looks the waiter in the eye and says softly, “please don’t feel bad, it could happen to anybody.” Their ability to empathize motivates them to relieve embarrassment and comfort the one hurting.
You saw yourself in that story, didn’t you? By observing how we live our lives in everyday circumstances we can begin to see how God has made us and what He has taught us over the years. I believe each of us is God’s workmanship, designed and blessed with gifts meant to give us an abundant life and to build up the body of Christ.
By Andy Cantrell
The Final Page
From Expository Files 18.11; November 2011