Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Holy Spirit does not follow the laws of supply and demand

A while back, I wrote about 17 kinds of spiritual gifts discussed in the Bible. For example, I mentioned that I feel I have been gifted with the gifts of teaching and leadership (hence my position as an Elder, a preacher, and a blogger); however we all have some combination of the gifts of the Spirit.

Periodically after preaching, someone will saying something to me like, "I wish I had the gift of public speaking/preaching/etc!" And invariably I point out their gifts--the gift of encouragement, or of administration, or of compassion for children, etc.

Invariably, the answer is always the same--we brush those off. "Well sure, but lots of people have my gifts."

The more I have thought about this, the more I think that a fundamentally flawed cultural issue is at work here.

Capitalism, and Supply and Demand

We live in a society where the tenants of capitalism are deeply ingrained, and the law of Supply and Demand is innate to the way we think about the world. Even my children, before they knew anything about money, understood -- seemingly intuitively -- the idea of supply and demand: "Dad, look! This Pokemon is super-rare! I'm never trading it!"

The idea of supply and demand is quite simple:  the value (price) of a product or service is directly related to (a) the desire people have for it, and (b) the rarity of its availability.

In order for something to be highly valued (priced) on the market, it must have one of those two features. A fiancee pays a lot for diamonds not because they are rare but because the desire is extremely high. On the other hand, someone will pay a lot for birth photography not because it is that in-demand (no one else cares), but because it is rare (the only chance to do it).

I think that because of our inherent supply-and-demand view of the world, we tend to view gifts of the Spirit the same way.

Lots of people go to see preaching--it is "in demand", therefore it is highly valuable. Very few people have the ability to preach well, therefore again it is highly valuable. (Even more so, some denominations give excessive priority to one or two gifts such as miraculous healing or speaking in tongues--again based on their lack of widespread evidence.)

Whereas on the other hand, many mothers have the gift of compassion for their children, and many people give generously, and many people are good administrators.

Since those are more "normal/common"gifts, then they must not be as valuable, right? The lack of rarity makes them less special?

The Holy Spirit has differing goals

The Law of Supply and Demand works based on an underlying principle:  all things being equal, people will act in their own self-interest. As a result, when many people acting in their own self-interest are doing business in a market place, Supply & Demand is the result--rare items become highly valued, common items less valued.

This is the underlying foundation upon which Supply & Demand is built.

But is that the same foundation in which the Holy Spirit operates?

No, not at all!

There are two major differences:

(1) The Holy Spirit is operating for the healing of the world, not for maximizing His own personal best interest. As a result, the very foundational principle is missing. Supply & Demand applies in a free market of self-interest; this is not a free market of self-interest, this is God graciously giving (the very definition of 'grace' is that He isn't getting anything out of the transaction!).

(2) This is not a marketplace. We aren't "buying" the spiritual gifts, nor are there other gods in competition.

So...ask yourself then...how do we value a spiritual gift? We must change our thinking, if we are to value gifts differently.

Of course the most correct answer is...all are equally valid. All are required to heal God's Kingdom.

But if we assume one is MORE valid than the other...would it not be the case that in the Holy Spirit's case, the more important a gift is, the more it would be widely given?

I think that has quite a bit of internal logic.

So - administration (bringing order to chaos), compassion (such as a mother for her children), wisdom, faith generosity...these things are more common precisely because they are more important.

To a capitalistic world, my gifts of leadership and teaching might indeed seem more "valuable" than my wife's gifts that allow her to raise our two boys.

But that is based on the fallen thinking of OUR world.

In God's Kingdom, I would argue that precisely because more mothers have been given these gifts, that is a sign of how much more important they are.

1 comment:

  1. True. And something else: We are conditioned to enjoy things that look spectacular and go Bang, such as fireworks and Niagara Falls; but we are all called to have faith and compassion, the "quiet" gifts that silently build the Kingdom. (I like Paul's phrase "bowels of mercy".) So, are they gifts, or developed abilities? I think they are both. Nor should any of us devalue these quiet, universal gifts since they are indeed rare outside the Kingdom of God.