In church we were talking about Spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of healing. It got me to thinking. The bible talks a bit about Spiritual gifts ... quite a few different ones, at least 20, if I remember correctly. However, usually when people talk about Spiritual gifts they talk about healing, speaking in tongues, or prophecy of some sort.
St. Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit and compares the Church (full of people with various gifts) to the human body. He compares some to eyes and others to feet.
I figure that healing has to be one of those "eye" gifts. Everyone wants that one. Not only do we all see the importance of the eye, but we also hold it to be very precious. Wouldn't want one poked out. As a matter of fact, that is one of the fears our mothers pile on us ... "if you do that, you'll poke your eye out!" No one worries that much about toes. Mothers never say, "watch out or you'll cut off your toe."
There is another gift that, unless you've heard sermons about or done studies on gifts, you have probably heard seldom about ... the gift of helps, or helping. Those are the people who joyfully set up tables, lock up after church services, trim the church grounds, etc. Mostly a lot of work that nobody ever notices. You're never going to see Benny Hinn or Oral Roberts on TV Sunday morning sweeping the stage or fixing the podium. I've heard a lot of people praying for the gift of speaking in tongues or healing. I can't remember ever hearing someone praying for the gift of helping.
It must be one of those "toe" gifts. But, you know what? You have 10 fingers and 10 toes, but only 2 eyes. So the necessity of people with "mundane" gifts must be 10:1 for those with "flashy" gifts. Not that things like healing aren't important, but I don't think that it was arbitrary that God prompted St. Paul to use that illustration.
Think about another thing. If you lost both eyes you could fall back on your ears. If you lost both eyes and ears, you could still even read in Braille and you could get around with a cane. However, if you lost your hands and feet, even if you kept your eyes and ears, you would have a seriously difficult time just taking care of yourself.
Another thing about Spiritual gifts. I have heard it said that if someone prays for me and I am not healed that it is my lack of faith which prevented the healing. I have trouble seeing how that holds up when you compare it to the gift of helps. If I need help painting the church, and no one shows up to help me, or if when they do show up, they stand around and drink coffee rather than paint, it is obviously not my lack of faith that prevented the church from being painted.
I know what you are thinking ... St. Matt 13:53-58 says that, in his home town even Jesus could not do many miracles because of their lack of faith. If that lack of faith prevented Jesus from doing miracles, then how can Benny, Oral, or whomever be expected to do any more?
Well, I have another thought on that. Jesus said that he did nothing on his own (St. John 8:28-29), but only spoke (and did) what the Father (God) taught him. Isn't it at least a little bit plausible that when it says that Jesus "couldn't" do miracles where there was no faith had less to do with his inability and more to do with his mission. After all, if you believe that Jesus was Almighty God in human form, then not only could he have done miracles in the face of a lack of faith, he could have done miracles if the only thing around him were the demons of hell opposing his works. However, if the Father told him, "don't waste your limited time in this place, they will not believe you even if you raise people from the dead," then in order to be obedient to God the Father, he "couldn't" do much there.
[Next time I hear some preacher say that the lack of healing was due to the other person's lack of faith, I would love to say, "gee, preacher, I have the gift of giving, but due to your lack of faith, you ain't getting anything this week!"]
When St. Paul talks about the use of Spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of speaking in tongues, he states that the gift is subject to the giver. What does that mean? It means that the giver has control over the use of the gift. If someone has the gift of tongues, then he has the choice of whether to speak in tongues in the church service. God does not put him into a trance and take over his voice so that he cannot stop. God has the choice not to give that person the words to speak or not, but once God has done that, the person still has the choice whether to speak them or not. The same goes for every other gift. If God does not give me the money, I cannot use the gift of giving to pass it on to others; if God does give me the money to help others, I still have the choice of whether to give it to them or not. If God does not empower me physically (i.e. if I am flat on my back in the hospital), then I cannot help others with the gift of helps; if he does give me the health, I can still refuse to help someone else. Finally, if God does not chose to heal someone, then I cannot, in my own power, use the gift of healing to heal that person; again, if God does give me the ability to heal someone, I still have the choice to say no. However, notice that in these instances, it is God not providing the power through his chosen instrument that prevents the gift from being used, or the instrument refusing to carry out his wishes. It has little to do with the recipient.
An illustration that I heard long ago was that Spiritual gifts are like water flowing through a pipe into a bucket. God is the source of the water and I am the pipe. If the source stops (i.e. if it is not God's will in this instance) or if the pipe is clogged (i.e. if there is some sin in my life that prevents God's power from flowing through me) then the water does not come through the pipe. But, the condition of the bucket will not prevent the water from coming through. The bucket may not be able to handle the water, but the bucket cannot stop the water.