Lesser Known Spiritual Gifts

Posted on July 12, 2015


The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts.

1 Cor. 12: 4-11: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Paul’s intent was not to create an exhaustive list of the spiritual gifts in his letter.  Many find it helpful to examine one’s own spiritual giftedness for the purposes of determining where best to serve in ministry and career.  If you do an internet search, you can find a number of tools to help you figure out your spiritual giftedness.

There are a few that are generally not on the list, but seem to bring people into therapy.  I thought I would try to correct this omission here.  Many of the gifts that people I meet have claimed to possess could fall into the broad category of The Spiritual Gift of Poor Boundaries.  This can manifest in a number of ways.

First, there is the subset of this gift which is the spiritual gift of spousal neglect.  How can I tell if this is part of my giftedness?  I am glad you asked.  Whether you are laity or clergy, if your partner is routinely protesting that your ministry is becoming a detriment to your marriage and family, you may have this gift.  If you feel called to a particular ministry and your spouse thinks it is a problem, it is probably a problem.  After all, God gave you that spouse, right?  I don’t believe that God calls us to ministry to the detriment of our marriages.  After all, marriage was the first relationship He created.  He seems to think it is rather important.  A dictionary definition of infidelity is “marital disloyalty.”  I would submit that neglecting your spouse while “serving God” is a form of infidelity.

Second, the next subset can come under many names, but for our purposes, let’s call it the spiritual gift of intimacy with people you shouldn’t be intimate with.  I know that is a mouthful.  This is where you develop emotional intimacy with people to whom (or with whom) you are ministering.  We often hear about Christian leaders who are caught in affairs.  For the most part, I don’t believe they set out to have affairs.  Most of these were probably genuine in their commitment to Christ and his church.

So what happens to pull them into affairs?  One of the ways is when one allows the common bond of your passion for the ministry to start forming an emotional bond with someone from the opposite sex.  Your spouse is focused on the house, the bills, the kids, etc.  This other person has a passion for God’s work.  Also your spouse starts to protest that you are not around enough and makes you feel like you are never good enough.  This other person sees your great works and thinks you are wonderful.  It’s a powerful drug.  When asked about the relationship, you assure your partner (and everyone else) that you are just friends doing God’s work together.  But part of you looks forward more and more to that time you can spend together.  At this point, you truly have no intention of the relationship going any further though at times you allow yourself the thought of what would it be like to be with this person rather than the partner you have.  From there, week by week, month by month, boundaries get a little squishier.  One day they collapse.

Another way this happens is through the spiritual gift of rescuing.  This happens when you are ministering to someone and you have a heart to help them.  That’s a good thing, right?  Well it is as long as you have good boundaries.  While serving in ministry, you meet a person who feels alone in the world.  You want to show him or her the love of Christ.  The needs keep growing, but you want to be a good witness so you keep helping.  Additionally, this person thinks you are the most wonderful person she has ever met.  You get pulled in deeper and deeper into helping her.  You become the person they call or text when in crisis in the middle of the night.

In calling these spiritual gifts, I am, of course, being facetious.  I often see Christians for whom their ministries have become a problem in their marriage in one way or another.  The perception frequently is that your partner just doesn’t get it or isn’t as spiritual or discerning.  In session, I can’t call [adult male bovine excrement] without taking sides and alienating one of my clients.  But this is my blog so I get a little more latitude to weigh in with an opinion.

Here’s what I think.  Before you become an elder, a deacon, decide to go on a mission trip, or contribute a large sum of money to a worthy ministry, your spouse needs to be on board with the commitment.  If your spouse isn’t, the two of you need to talk about it some more.  This isn’t about giving up your voice in the relationship; but rather it is about making your partner’s needs a priority.  If your partner is concerned about an outside relationship, you should pay attention.  I find that wives are particularly discerning in this area.  When your partner raises a concern, it should not be “we’re just friends, you’re being paranoid.”  It needs to be boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  By all means, if you find yourself hiding things from your partner (e.g. email, text, or the fact you had lunch together with this other person) because your partner would not approve, that should be a big red flag for you.  I can say with confidence that the Holy Spirit is not encouraging you to hide things from your spouse.  The Holy Spirit is certainly not encouraging you to neglect or leave your marriage for ministry.

Jesus told his disciples, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matt. 26:11).  Don’t make your spouse say that to you.