The Dark Side

When your good spiritual gifts go bad

A few years ago, my husband and I took part in a Discovery Workshop at our church to discover our spiritual gifts. That I turned out to be a "giver" was no surprise.

I love to give. I'm quick with the checkbook, I get excited when giving opportunities arise, and I've even said that when I die, I don't want to leave any money to my children. If I haven't given it all away, I envision the Caryn Rivadeneira Foundation as a means to distribute the rest.

"Wow," my husband said after I spouted off my "me-fest" on our drive home from the workshop. "You're sure proud to be a giver. Didn't realize spiritual gifts were meant to show how great you are."

Him and his fancy gift of discernment.

I'm always amazed by how easily we can take these wonderful gifts of the Spirit—meant to build up others and glorify God—and head straight for the dark pit of "all about me." It doesn't take much for pride, jealousy, and plain old laziness to get in the way of us using our gifts as God intended.

Not convinced?

Pride Goes …

Clearly, the pride thing was the root of my issue—and it took only a car-ride home to fire it up. And although I've never had the funds to land me any sort of public admiration (no buildings bear my name or anything), for many people this isn't the case. People with gifts like leadership, teaching, or even creative ability receive a lot of accolades too. Mostly because these gifts tend to put people "out there," we find ourselves admiring the people who have those characteristics—especially when it's ourselves—not the God who gave them.

I know a woman who has the perfect gift of hospitality to complement her perfect house filled with perfect furniture topped with perfect plates. All of this garners plenty of oohs and aahs whenever she throws open her perfect door (seriously, you should see it).

Now, I'm not saying this woman has pride issues, but I can tell you, she gets frustrated that not everyone is as enthused about entertaining as she is. But she's missing the point: Your gift—no matter how well you live it and how important everyone else thinks it is—isn't the gift.

In her book Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly, Janet Denison writes, "No one is particularly impressed when a person uses his feet to walk, and no one should be impressed when you minister through your gift. Why? Because that's what you were made to do. God made our feet to walk and run; it's his creative ability that is most impressive. God made you to function in your gift. When you do, you too will be one of those quiet servants who understand that there is no glory for you in your gift; you're simply doing what you were made to do. You'll experience great blessing, because you have been the presence of Jesus to others."

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