The Giver And The Gifts – Pentecost

May 31, 1998
by Harold McNabb

Ephesians 4:8 – When He ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.

Luke 11:11,13 – Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

One of our memorable Christmas pageants had the junior Sunday School playing the parts of the Biblical characters. Mary and Joseph, with their ceramic doll Jesus, sat quietly and almost beatifically until the arrival of the bathrobed magi.

Then as the three kings gave their gifts to the baby Jesus, a fight broke out. It may have been inadequate stage direction or lack of rehearsal, but whatever the reason, Mary and Joseph began wrestling over the gifts. Baby Jesus was unceremoniously dumped on the carpet and the magi gaped in wonder at it all.

At Pentecost we again celebrate the giving of gifts. This time it is God who gives them to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The early church even got into a fight over this, disagreeing over whether the Spirit came from the Father only, or from both the Father and Jesus the Son. It was enough of a disagreement to split the early church into its western, Roman Catholic, and eastern Orthodox segments. How His children do love to fight over His gifts!

Even now, a person could stir up a bit of ruckus in some churches by talking about those wonderful gifts of Pentecost. Some of us love to flaunt them, some claim them exclusively while others declare they can live very well without them, thank you very much, seeing as how we truly have love… unlike some others we know!

The other part of the passage from Ephesians that mentions the gifts, also says Jesus brought captives in His train. He made sin and death his captives upon dying and rising to conquer them both. I wonder who set them free again. I bet it was one of those other churches — they can be such trouble-makers.

I always wondered why God didn't make peace, love, forbearance, long-suffering and the other "fruits" of the spirit into the gifts of the spirit. The implication is that fruits need to be grown, while gifts are only received. Time for a little pruning methinks. Ouch!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your gifts of grace, and give us the further grace to grow the fruits to use them wisely. Amen.

About the author:

Harold McNabb
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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