1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”
Service is something we like, critique, and complain about. If you go out to eat, you probably rate the experience on more than the quality of the food. You also evaluate the service. Did they get your order right? Did they bring it to your table promptly? Did they check on your table throughout the meal? You may adjust your tip at the end of the evening depending on what you thought of the service.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with wanting and appreciating good service. But can we fall victim to becoming too comfortable, too accustomed, to receiving the service of others? Do we begin to see others, to see our world, as existing only to serve my desires? Dave Barry quips that the person who is nice to you, but is not nice to the waiter, is not a nice person. The problem lies as much with how we begin to see ourselves as it does with how we look at those who serve us.
Aren’t we servants, too? Especially as we live as God’s children, who live and work in God’s kingdom, service is something we offer as much as we receive. Yes, the church is someplace where my needs are being served. Yes, God wants my fellow Christians to serve the needs of my soul, too. But can we treat the church like a restaurant, someplace we come, and receive, and then just get up and leave after we get what we want? The Apostle Peter has a different idea. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”
The key to serving is understanding “the gifts we have received.” It isn’t necessary for us to venture into areas where we have no gift. That is why he has given us each other. But if those who have received the gift aren’t using it, that causes a problem for the rest of us. Some need goes unfilled. Some work goes undone. In some way or another, that hurts my neighbor.
Think about the big gift God has given you. Someone was once impressed that my father gave me a car. I have to admit that is a pretty big gift. I know people whose parents have given them an entire house! If your family is super wealthy, that might not seem like such a big deal.
I don’t know any human who offered to give away their only Son the way that God did. He didn’t give his Son up for adoption to a nice family that was going to care for him in a better way than he could care for him himself. He gave his Son to a world he knew was going to abuse and torture his Son. He knew that this was the only way he could rescue that world. Jesus gave the world the purest, sincerest life of love ever lived. He traced every detail of God’s law in his ministry of mercy. It is a privilege that people got to see it, and we get to read about it in action. But God did more. He gave the credit for that life to you, as though you were the one who lived it, as though it were your very own.
God did still more. After three years of uninterrupted, selfless love, Jesus gave over control of his life to his enemies. They beat and whipped him mercilessly. They pinned him to a cross with iron spikes. They hung his body up until he died. Jesus died so that we could live. He died in our place. He wasn’t so much like the soldier who jumps on the grenade to spare his friends. He was like a soldier who jumps on the grenade to save his enemies. Paul says in Romans 5, “…when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…” Jesus’ death satisfies God’s justice. It gives us complete forgiveness. It restores peace with God.
God’s grace, as Peter points out, has various forms. Our talents and abilities are not just skills we have developed. These, too, are gifts–gifts of the God who does all this to serve us. We are the special objects of God’s grace. He has heaped on each of us one gift after another. He made himself our servant in time and in eternity. Can we, then, come to any other conclusion than the one Peter makes for us here? “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” How could we do anything else?