Ephesians 4:7 | 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 | Romans 11:29

If this doesn’t say what you hoped, will you be disappointed?

A young boy had a favorite uncle who consistently gave him great Christmas gifts. Or so it seemed until one December when, at nine years old, the boy opened his uncle’s package to find an odd-looking plastic bird. It had flimsy looking cellophane wings that made it look like a small, stringless kite. He had never seen anything like it, and his uncle was not available to show him how to use it. 

The boy wound the bird up, and the flimsy wings flapped awkwardly. “Lame!” the boy declared, and remanded the bird–in its box–to a dark, seldom-seen corner under his bed.

Sometime near the end of summer, the boy saw a television commercial for a new toy. His pulse quickened as he watched TV kids happily taking turns playing with…a wind-up, flapping plastic bird. The bird actually flew. “I want that!” he shouted. But the toy was expensive. Like months-of-allowance expensive.

Suddenly the boy realized: he already had one of those flapping, flying birds! He raced to his bedroom and crawled on his belly under his bed…only to be reminded that the unappreciated fowl had been ‘set free’ during spring cleaning. 

What the boy did not know was that, earlier that year, his favorite uncle had been on a trip overseas, had seen the flying bird toy and bought it for his nephew months before it became available back home. The uncle had been thinking fondly of the nephew when he made the purchase. He knew the boy would like the gift if he saw what it could do.

Did you know that God has given each Christian a special gift?

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

Ephesisans 4:7 NLT

We can safely say that the gift God gives to believers is neither a sweater, nor a plastic bird. In fact, it is different for each person.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 

1 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT

And don’t worry, God’s gifts never get sent to the thrift store. He knows exactly what you need and when you need it–even when you don’t. So even if you do not appreciate or use your spiritual gift right away, it will be there for when you finally come around.

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

Romans 11:29 NLT

This Christmas, when you unwrap whatever gifts you get, try to look beyond the gifts themselves and appreciate the spirit in which they were given. Then think of the spiritual gifts which God gives to his followers. Finally, rejoice in knowing how blessed you are.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • When have you received an unappreciated gift like the plastic flying bird or  Malachi’s aunt’s hand-knitted sweater? We’re not talking about an unwanted gift–like a pet orangutan or something smelly. We’re talking about something nice or pleasant that somehow just doesn’t excite you.
  • Have you ever had an experience like the boy’s flapping bird toy, in which you don’t see the full value of a gift until much later? When you finally realized what a great thing you had, did you still have it? Or was it a “don’t want what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” scenario?
  • If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, have you thought much about what your spiritual gift might be?

Challenge: Knowing What You Got

This one is going to take some leg work. And if you are shy, it might not work. That being said, if you decide to try it…have fun!

First, you will need to gather some stories of awful gifts. Ask your family and friends to describe the worst gift they ever received. Be sure to learn the following about each one:

  • Why was the gift awful?
  • Who gave it?
  • What did they think was the motivation behind the gift?
  • What were the gift’s redeeming qualities, if any?

Next, you will need to determine whether the gift was unwanted or merely unappreciated, using the following criteria:

  • An unwanted gift is something that under reasonable circumstances would not make a good gift: chicken gizzards, giant ugly sculptures, smashed insects.
  • An unappreciated gift is something that may be nice or pleasant, but just doesn’t “work” for the recipient.

Once you have determined whether the gift was unappreciated or unwanted, deal only with the unappreciated ones. Then talk with the person who received each gift and see if you can figure out some way to redeem the gift. Consider the following:

  • Does the gift show that the giver was thinking of the recipient fondly?
  • Was effort or sacrifice (on the part of the giver) put into acquiring the gift?
  • Could the gift have some value which is unknown to the recipient?
  • What does the gift “say” in the eyes of the giver?