1 Corinthians 12:7-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

A few years ago I was playing golf with an old friend of mine, Tim Anderson, pastor of St. John’s/San Juan Lutheran Church in Austin, TX, when he told me that he was working on a book. He said that it wasn’t a book about religion or spirituality, it was about economics. I was impressed.

“Just A Little Bit More”, written under the name T. Carlos Anderson, is now available on Amazon in print or via Kindle. It is an absolute must read. Read it yourself or get a group and read it together. It will open your eyes to how the power of the shifting sands of commerce, materialism, and consumerism have come to define our lives.

I thought of that book immediately when reading the opening sentence in our text for today: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Central to Anderson’s concern is the idea of “the common good.” At one point he says something I have never heard nor thought of before. Reflecting on his own work as a pastor, he says that “I don’t work as a pastor to ‘save souls’ and help populate heaven. That type of thinking hit its high water mark (within recent context) for American Christianity in the 1950’s and is no longer persuasive in the twenty-first century. The reason I work as a pastor is to promote the common good…”

Paul tells the Corinthians that they have been given gifts of the Spirit for the sake of the common good. What does he mean by that? Is he just locating the “common good” in that particular community, among that small group of people alone, or does his call to the common good reach far beyond that little group to the world at large?

Given God’s love for the whole world, I think a more expansive view is more appropriate. Selfishness asks “What’s in it for me?” Group identity asks “What’s in it for us?” Christianity asks, “What’s in it for the world?”

How often do we think of our lives, our daily work, our own gifts, not only as gifts to us from the Spirit of God, but also as a means to promote the common good? Doesn’t such a perspective bring much more purpose and meaning into our lives than just working for a paycheck in order to buy a new flatscreen for the guest bedroom?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you have gifted us with all we need to make a positive difference in the world today. You have placed us within communities, occupations, and relationships which hold the potential for either good or evil, for fulfillment or futility. May we use your gifts this day to work toward the common good. May we see the implications of our lives far beyond what we can see. May we do our part. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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