1 Corinthians 12:4-6 “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”
Paul looks at our spiritual gifts in three different ways to help us understand why God doesn’t give us all exactly the same thing. First, “There are different kinds of gifts.” The word gifts here is a Greek word, charismata, from which we get our word “charismatic.” It emphasizes that the gift is something God gives us for free. Maybe that seems a little simple. Any gift that is truly a gift is free. But that reminds me that I really have nothing to complain about if my gift is different than someone else’s, or if their gift somehow seems more appealing. Also I have nothing to brag about if my gift seems better. They’re gifts, right? None of us earned them. We didn’t have them coming. We all have the big gift, which is Jesus. Anything beyond that is shear generosity and goodness on God’s part, and better than nothing at all. Would we really want to complain because God gave us something more?
All of his gifts serve a purpose. They accomplish a task. They get something done. So Paul continues, “There are different kinds of service.” The Lord set up his world, and his church, to need many different things to get done. It makes sense then, doesn’t it, that he would distribute many different abilities to many different people? We can’t all be doing the same one thing all the time. Imagine a world with no garbage collectors. Imagine a church with no cleaners. Eew! Who would want to be a part of that? So the Lord gives gifts that line up with all these many tasks that have to get done. Maybe like the Corinthians we would like to have some of the showier ones, the ones that seem more powerful or supernatural. But Paul tells them later that the Spirit’s power is just as much involved in making some people good teachers, administrators or simple helpers as he is involved in the miraculous ability to heal.
Finally, the Lord himself is active in all these gifts. “There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” The word behind “working” and “works” is the word from which we get “energy.” Paul is saying that the Lord himself energizes his people to do all these different things. He is the one moving hearts and minds, and hands and mouths and feet. If God himself enters people, and then uses them to perform all these different functions, what is left for us but to accept that our gifts are different as the Lord himself sees fit to give them.
In doing it this way, perhaps we could say that God is giving us another gift: the gift to be individuals, the gift to be me. He hasn’t created an army of clones that came rolling off an assembly line and all look and think and function the same. I am unique, and so are you. He redeemed us from our sins all the same. He loves us as his children all the same. But because he loves us, we aren’t all the same. Our gifts are different. That’s important for us to know if we are going to properly appreciate spiritual gifts.