Romans 12: 1-8 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Reflection “Know Thyself” was the first maxim inscribed at the Temple at Delphi; it was quoted by many Greek and Roman philosophers and writers and so will have been well known to Paul.
Having expounded theology in the first part of this letter, Paul now addresses ways in which Christians can show their faith and use their gifts in their lives. This section with its list of gifts is in many ways similar to 1 Corinthians 12 and here Paul makes it clear that our gifts are to be used within and for the benefit of the whole body of Christ, the Church, “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” with none thinking more highly of themselves than of others.
And how hard that can be. So many of us have a quite unrealistic assessment of our own abilities and importance – some think too highly of themselves while others claim that they lack gifts needed to serve Christ’s Church. So often it is right to aim high but as CH Dodd wrote, “It is those who take themselves most seriously, and fix their ideal highest, who are most exposed to (the) danger (of over-estimating their qualities).” Robert Burns put it so well, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, and foolish notion.”
Even as we say “Amen” to this passage from Romans – well, we could hardly not do so – let us all review not only our own abilities and the way we use them, but also the way we respond to and encourage those who seem to us to be less able: they are equally loved by God and their gifts should also be recognised and honoured.
Prayer Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart and a discerning mind; give, as I play the Christian’s part, the strength to finish what I start and act on what I find. When, in the rush of days, my will is habit-bound and slow help me to keep in vision still what love and power and peace can fill a life that trusts in you. (Caryl Micklem, R&S 497)
The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC