The giving and receiving side of Christmas is all but over. Now, where do we put everything? A typical American answer: “Rent a storage unit!” Public storage units have popped up everywhere and nearly all have access to them. But what good does it do to store things we may never use?
The apostle Paul gives us a list of God-given gifts, but points out we dare not store them. Our life in Christ with all its accompanying gifts is not something we hang on a wall or place on a shelf only to be forgotten. These gifts are to be used. And our motivation is not to be self-centered but Christ-centered. Paul tells us, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).
What is our motive to perform this “spiritual act of worship?” It is God’s mercy. Our service is based in the pure joy and thankfulness of a heart recognizing by faith God’s mercy in Christ.
Let’s face it, if we were to receive what we deserved in the economy of God’s holy Law, we would deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment. Yet, in our Lord’s economy of grace and His undeserved love and mercy toward us, we receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus instead. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
This earth-born Son of God came in flesh, lived a perfect life, and was placed under the just wrath of God, all in our place. His death on the cross, the all-sufficient sacrifice, redeemed us. To believe that Jesus did all this for us is to know the mercy and love of God. St. Paul tells us that we respond and offer ourselves “in view of His mercy.” Our earthly gifts, especially our time and talents, are actually to be viewed as instruments of divine worship to be used in service to Him and His kingdom of grace. Even our earthly treasure of wealth can then be viewed differently and appreciatively. It can then be used cheerfully to worship Him who gives us all things.
The apostle goes on to elaborate when he states, We have different gifts, according to the grace given us (Romans 12:6). The gifts that Paul lists in this section are gifts God gives to each of us. As His living instruments, we are to use our gifts to help build up His Church.
Paul follows each gift with the basic exhortation to “use them.” This emphasis attached to each gift shows that we would be remiss to store them away. In other words, do not stick them away in some dark and remote storage unit, out of sight and out of mind. Use them to God’s glory.
As you plan your new year of Christ-living, please note that like the other gifts, the gift of generosity is to be used also. We have all benefited from those who have been generous before us. Those who came before us shared their gifts in service to Christ and others. Many gave of their earthly wealth to generously support the proclamation of the Gospel. Our very existence as believers points to the fact that they were generous.
The reality is that without the gift of generosity, the likelihood of keeping the lights on in our churches would soon fade. Without the gift of generosity, our pulpits and church offices could soon be vacant. Without generosity, the Great Commission itself would be in danger of not being fulfilled. So quite simply, as you recognize your God-given gifts and especially the gift of generosity—don’t just store them somewhere—for Jesus’ sake use your gifts, all to the glory of God.
As we exemplify generosity, we teach it to our children, and nurture it in our midst. Know that through this “spiritual act of worship” this prayer to God is fulfilled: “Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God, unto Your Church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom which comes down from above, that Your Word, as becomes it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and in the confession of Your name abide unto the end.” Amen. (ELH, p. 86)
ELS Giving Counselor