1 Peter 4:10
As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
If we may venture to connect these words with the preceding injunction as well as with the following, the power of rendering simple hospitality is as truly a gift of God's grace for the use of which a man is responsible as is the loftiest endowment of eloquent speech or eminent service. The large principles embodied in these simple words would revolutionize the Church, and go far to regenerate the world, if they were honestly carried out. All powers are gifts. All gifts are trusts. What simplicity, what power, what unselfishness, what diligence, what regard for others' work, what humility as to one's own, would fill the life which was wholly molded by these convictions.
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GIFT. "Every man hath received," says Peter, and builds upon it as a well-recognized fact. All these poor ignorant Asiatics, picked from the filth of idolatry, slaves and outcasts as some of them had been, rude and uncultured and lowly of station and imperfectly Christianized as many of them were, - they each had some Divine gift which needed only to be burnished and shown to shine afar with heavenly brightness. Every Christian man today, in like manner, is endowed with some gift; for every Christian has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and that Spirit never comes empty-handed. Whatever subordination there may be in the Church, as in all organized communities, its very life depends on the fact that all its members possess the Divine Spirit, and no claim of authority to rule nor prerogative of teaching, which does not recognize that fact, can stand for a moment. The aspiration of Moses has been fulfilled (Numbers 11:29), "All the Lord's people" are "prophets," and "the Lord" has "put his Spirit upon them." Miraculous powers were widely diffused in the early Church, and, with the gift of tongues, constituted the most conspicuous tokens of the gift of the Pentecostal Spirit. But even then these were not "the best gifts." The graces of faith, hope, and charity, those fruits of the Spirit which consist of a holy character and a heart transparent for the heavenly light which burns within it, as a light fed by perfumed oil in an alabaster lamp, - these are better gifts of an indwelling Spirit than all supernatural endowments. The natural faculties, of course, are gifts. To each man the question may be addressed concerning these, "What hast thou which thou hast not received?" But the natural faculties of the Christian, reinforced, quickened, directed by the indwelling Spirit, are still more emphatically gifts. The power of brain or tongue, the spirit of counsel or of might, which he received from the creative breath of God, is intensified by the Spirit, which brings the breath of a new Divine life, as a lamp burns brighter when plunged into a jar of oxygen. And besides the new graces and heightened action of native power, all ability or opportunity dependent on outward circumstances is gift. Health, any skill of hand or eye, wealth, position, - everything must come into this category. All which we have is gift. In that sense the gift is universal. And we all have the gift. In that sense, too, it is universal.
II. THE VARIETY OF GIFTS. The apostle speaks here of the "manifold" - literally, the "variegated" or "many-colored" grace; and exhorts to variety of service based upon dissimilarity of gifts. It cannot but be that the fullness of God passing into the limits of created minds should manifest itself in an infinite variety. The light flashed at different angles from a million dewdrops twinkles and glitters from their tiny spheres in all differing tints of green and purple and gold. The unlimited variety of innumerable recipients growing in the measure of their possessions through eternity is the only adequate manifestation of the infinite God. Such variety is essential, too, to the existence of a community. "If the whole were an eye, where were the body?" The homely proverb says, "It takes all sorts to make a world." With diversity comes room for mutual help and mutual tolerance. Every man has some gift; no man has all. Therefore they are bound together by reciprocal wants and supplies, and convexities here and concavities there fit in to one another and make a solid whole. The same life works, but variously, in the different organs of the one body, so that there should be no schism in the body. This variety constitutes an imperative call to service. Each man has something which some of his brethren want.
The least flower with a brimming cup may stand,
And share its dewdrop with another near." The concert will not be complete, though the roll of the great ocean of praise that surges round the throne be as the noise of many waters, without the tinkle of the little rill of my praise. And some poor soul, which God meant to go shares with me, will have to starve if I do not part my portion among the needy. It constitutes, too, an authoritative prescription of the manner of service. "As every one hath received, so minister the same. I)o net minister anything else, but that very thing which you have received. God shows you what he intends you to do by what he gives you. Do not copy other people; do not try to be anybody else. Be true to yourself. If your gifts impel you to a special mode of service, follow them. Find out what you are fit for, and do it in your own fashion. Take your directions at first hand from God, and don't spoil your own little gift by trying to bend it into the shape of somebody else's. Flutes cannot be made to sound like drums. Be content to give out your own note, and leave the care of the harmony to God. And, on the other hand, beware of interfering with your brother's equal liberty. Do not hastily condemn modes of action because they are not yours. A Salvation Army captain and a philosophical theologian may not understand each other's dialect; but there is room for them both, and they should not hinder each other. There are many vessels of different materials and shapes for different uses in Christ's great house. The widest tolerance of the diversities of operation is the truest recognition of the one Spirit which worketh all in all.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GIFTS. As good stewards." Peter is probably here repeating the thought which he had learned from his Master's parables. The thought of stewardship is no doubt a natural one, even apart from the reminiscence of our Lord's teaching; but we can scarcely suppose that Christ's words did not suggest it here. All gifts are trusts, Peter thinks; that is to say, no Christian gets his natural endowments, nor his material possessions, and still less his spiritual graces, for himself alone. We all admit that in theory about the two former, and in some degree about the latter. But Christian men do not sufficiently consider that God gives them even salvation for the sake of others as well as for their own. No creature is so small but that its well-being is a worthy end for God's gifts and care. No being is so great that its well-being is worthy to be an exclusive end of God's gifts and care. We are saved "that we may show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." The joy of forgiveness, the peace of conscience, the blessed assurance of the Father's love, the hopes of an immortal heaven, - these are not given us for self-absorbed and solitary enjoyment, but that, saved, we may glorify and proclaim the Savior, and bring to others the unspeakable gift. So with all the lesser gifts which flow from that greatest - all spiritual endowments, natural capacities heightened by the Spirit's indwelling, or outward endowments and possessions - they are our Lord's goods put into our hands to administer for him. They were his before they became ours. They are his while they are called ours. They are ours that we may have the joy of bringing him somewhat, and may not only know the blessedness of receiving, but the greater blessedness of giving, even though we have to say, while we bring our gifts, "Of thine own have we given thee." If Christian men really believed what they say they do, that they are stewards, not owners, trustees and not possessors, the whole face of Christianity would be altered. There would be men and money for all noble service, and the world would be bright with unselfish and various ministries, worthily representing "the manifold grace of God." - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.