It is a staggering thought when you think about it. Christians have gifts to share with their neighbors. Much like the old nativity hymn of the three orient kings, who came from the far east with rich gifts for the newborn king Jesus, Christians have gifts to share with the people they come in contact with every day. In a word, we have a calling. It is greater than Toys for Tots, it is greater than Secret Santa, it is greater than the presents carefully wrapped and laid under the Christmas tree. The gifts Christians have are those which come from God, they are packaged by him and must be shared.
When the apostle Peter wrote to the beleaguered Christians in the northeastern Roman provinces of Asia (1 Peter 1:1), he wrote to encourage them to embrace the slander and the social persecution with the reminder that they walk in the footsteps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21). For example, should they suffer unjustly —as did Jesus— the suffering will bring about the opportunity to extend grace to the world. Furthermore, the Christian must not focus on the momentary suffering but instead upon God’s validation and vindication. As God vindicated the suffering servant Jesus, so will He vindicate his suffering people (4:1).
As You Have Received God’s Gift
As an extension of this moral encouragement, the apostle goes on to address very practical aspects of Christian living in chapter 4. Here is an excellent moment to pause and reflect upon the truth that doctrinal purity is important, but these Christians are called to practice godliness in the face of persecution. In one of the summarizing passages of this exhortation, Peter writes the following:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 4:10-11 ESV)
A point that is not readily notable from the English version is the connection between gift (charisma) and grace (charitos) in verse 10. They are built on the same word root, which was interconnected at the social level. It portrays God as a benefactor —a gift giver— for his people, and asks of them (us) to also be gift givers (benefactors) as well.
This makes the term “good stewards” (oikonomoi) equally enlightening. It is a word that has domestic and political usage, and this usage is seen in the New Testament documents. In the ESV, the word is translated “manager” of domestic affairs (Luke 12:42, 16:1, 3, 8; Gal 4:2), and once as “treasurer” which would have been a political office in Rome (Rom 16:23). As here in 1 Peter 4:10, “steward” in passages that emphasizes a conservatorship over a given responsibility (1 Cor 4:1-2, Tit 1:7). It was a well known Greco-Roman phenomenon that members of a benefactor’s household were also “brokers” of the gifts of the head of their household. The imagery of Peter’s message is parallel to this type of behavior.
Christians as members of God’s house are blessed by their Father’s gifts so that they may be brokers of God’s grace. We are in a very real way representatives of God’s house and what we offer in a variety ways is the very gift of God — Jesus Christ and the gospel message. We are to teach it, we are to proclaim it, but most importantly we are to live it. Below, we will consider the points left behind in this section by the Spirit through Peter in verse 11.
One of the overarching themes of the film, Waiting for Superman, a 2010 documentary on the American education system, is that many within the system are waiting for someone to fix it, to do the hard work to shore up its failures. Instead, such systemic problems will only be fixed by teachers and educational leaders working together and initiating helpful and creative programs. There is no one person who can fix the educational system of America, all resources must come together. The same is true with sharing the gift of Jesus and His gospel.
Every Christian (woman and man) must remember that our gift is a gift of words. Not just any words, but words of God. For this reason, when a Christian shares the gospel it truly is God’s gift of grace we are sharing. We must not speak our words. We must not speak from our own anger. We must not speak our theories of the word. We must not speak our pet religious opinions. We must not speak from any other basis other than from the depository of God’s word — found only in the Scriptures. Our words must be as if it were God talking. God’s word is the only true gift (1 These 2:13).
Christian activity is always dramatically presented as services rendered as one who waits on tables, doing as told by their superior (Acts 6:2; John 2:5). Every Christian (woman and man) must remember that our gift is also a gift of action — of service. Christians broker God’s grace with others with the service we render to other people. Edgar Guest was spot on with this passage when he penned the opening lines of his poem, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way” (“I’d Rather See a Sermon Than Hear One Any Day”). Indeed, there no greater opportunity in life than to serve as an example of God’s grace to others.
Words can be misunderstood. Actions, however, are less so. But, serving others often comes with a tall price. Service is not convenient emotionally, nor physically. It is perhaps for this reason that Peter says that Christians who serve others to do so empowered by the strength supplied by God. We do not serve others based upon our own merits. It is a hard lesson for so many of us, but we need to trust in God for Him to be God when we are serving others. Whether it is food, clothing, shelter that we offer as expressions of God’s varied graces, we do so, trusting that God will make our service His gift and that alone should empower us to serve.
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, Christians can make a mark in the world and in the times in which they live. My prayer for all of us is to be the Christians we are called to be. Be the best gift you can be to your family and friends in word and service. Let it be the kind that brings glory to God and not to self. Remember, to say, “it’s not about me… it’s about Him.” “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (4:11).