What are the gifts of giving, serving, and helping?
I say, “predominantly non-verbal,” recognizing that such gifts are not exclusively non-verbal as they might be accompanied by words that enhance the gifting.
You might be thinking, aren’t the descriptions of these three gifts self-evident, and shouldn’t all Christians be giving, serving, and helping? On the surface, this is true and yet we will learn that these can also be specific gifts of the Spirit. So, what more can we learn about them?
Let’s begin by examining what we mean by the gift of giving.
If a person’s gift is “contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously” or “he who gives, with liberality” (Romans 12:8).
It is the Greek word metadidōmi that is translated as “gives” or “contributing to the needs of others.” It might also be rendered as “share with” others (see Luke 3:11; Ephesians 4:28).
At one point, Paul writes to Christians in Corinth about collecting funds for relieving the great poverty among Christians in Judea. I encourage you to take the time to read 2 Corinthians 8-9. There you will learn not only of the heart of Paul but also of the heart of God for generous and sacrificial giving. Here are a couple of excerpts from those chapters:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (8:9)
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (9:15)
It should come as no surprise that this gift of giving is a manifestation of the Spirit, a bestowal of God’s grace.
An example of a person with the gift of giving might be “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), [who] sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).
Two more recent examples of people with the gift of giving are R. G. LeTourneau (read Mover of Men, Mover of Mountains) who regularly gave 90% of his income, and Stanley Tam (read God Owns My Business).
These examples suggest that a person with the gift of giving is not only impelled to give generously but also enabled to acquire large amounts of resources for giving to the legitimate needs of others.
And remember, even if you determine that you do not have the gift of giving, God still calls you to give generously and sacrificially.
As usual, we begin by identifying the Greek word translated here as serving, service, or ministry. It is diakonia, a noun in the diakon* family of words meaning serving or service in a broad sense. Let’s look at a few instances that will help us understand this gift.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the Lord makes this accusation:
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help [diakon*: serve, care for, minister to] you?”
He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
There are at least two significant lessons Jesus teaches us here.
First, serving others is viewed as serving Jesus Christ Himself. This concept puts serving on a high plane, to say the least.
Second, serving others includes providing others with the necessities of life: food for the hungry; drink for the thirsty; clothing and shelter; visiting and looking after the sick and the imprisoned.
Here are a few helpful instances in which the diakon* family of words is used:
One outstanding illustration of a person gifted in serving was Tabitha (also called Dorcas) “who was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36-39).
The Greek word rendered “helps” or “helping others” is antilēpsis (1 Corinthians 12:28). It is linked with the antilamban* family of words. Vine’s Expository Dictionary provides a graphic description of this word, stating that it:
signifies ‘a laying hold of, an exchange’ (anti, ‘in exchange,’ or, in its local sense, ‘in front,’ and lambanō, ‘to take, lay hold of,’ so as to support.
Imagine a person who is trying to carry an awkward and heavy load alone. The activity of antilēpsis is when someone works with that person taking up one side of the burden to help carry it. The person who ‘helped’ enabled the other person to accomplish their mission.
In the first instance, God is the One who lays hold of our burden and helps us. In his distress, the psalmist cries (22:19 LXX):
But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help [antilēpsis] me.
In Romans 8:26, we learn that “the Spirit helps [*antilamban*] us in our weakness.”
Paul also shows himself an example of helping when he says,
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help [antilamban*] the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Act 20:35).
A person with this gift of helping identifies a person in need and does what is required to help the other person successfully complete their project.
Giving, serving, and helping are qualities that should mark the lives of every follower of Jesus Christ. And yet, the grace of God (charismata) and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (pneumatika) are somehow amplified through the activities of those distinctly gifted for giving, serving, and helping.
As an example, how might we illustrate these gifts working together for, say, those who are hungry?
Giving provides the food and other resources needed for feeding the hungry; serving prepares and distributes that food and other resources to those in legitimate need; and helping enables others to ensure the food and other resources are delivered, prepared, and distributed to feed those who are hungry.
Click here to let me know your questions and further insights on these gifts.
Image credit: John B. MacDonald © 2022
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!