“Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…” 1 Timothy 4:14
Neglect is an ugly word. It means to “fail to care for properly.” Neglect is a form of abuse. Child neglect is a crime. It is a major accusation in malpractice suits. It is unacceptable behavior in our daily relationships. And yet it is a common issue, perhaps an epidemic, among followers of Jesus when it comes to our spiritual gifts.
When I read 1 Timothy 4:14 today, I thought about how often I neglect my own spiritual gifts. And then I wondered what it looks like to really invest in those gifts. It’s easy to go through life without giving much thought, or any thought, to the the gifts God bestows upon us. We get caught up in the daily grind and the anxieties of life. We then think we deserve to relax, do nothing but what gives us pleasure. And in the process, we can go weeks, months, years, and perhaps an entire lifetime without giving serious thought to our spiritual gifts. In fact, it’s pretty easy, even common, to neglect God’s gifts to us altogether.
Jesus told a story about 3 servants who were given bags of silver, or “talents” by a man going away on a long trip. He gave 5 bags to one, 2 bags to another, and 1 bag to the last servant. The first two servants invested their money while the last servant hid it in the ground. When the man returned, he was not happy with the last guy. Jesus applied this story to the final judgment when those who neglect their gift from God will not be living in His kingdom. This is a sobering thought, especially when we don’t seem to take this issue very seriously in the church.
And so I ask myself the question, How do I invest in my spiritual gifts? Well, I can’t invest in them if I don’t know what they are. But once I know my gifts, which for me include leadership, knowledge, and discernment, I now have the responsibility to invest in them. About nine years ago I was introduced to the concept that investing in my spiritual gifts includes more than simply using them. It was an “ah ha” moment for me. I realized that I needed to read leadership books, study God’s Word for leadership principles, and discuss leadership ideas with other leaders if I were going to invest in my gift of leadership. I realized that I needed to study God’s Word, participate in small groups, talk with people about God, spend time in prayer with God, and serve other people if I were going to invest in my gift of knowledge. I also discovered that I needed a rich devotional life when I spend time not only reading God’s Word, but listening to His voice if I were going to invest in my gift of discernment.
Do you know your spiritual gifts? Are you neglecting them? What would it look like for you to invest in the gifts God has given to you?