God's Gifts

Thursday: Encouraging and Contributing

Romans 12:6-8 In this week’s study, we see that God gives us different gifts, and along with them comes the responsibility to use them to serve the body of Christ.
Encouraging and Contributing

Today we’ll look at the gifts of encouraging and contributing to the needs of others. These gifts are important to the ministry of Christ’s body, as are the other gifts we’ve talked about this week. 

Encouraging. Encouragement has become a rather weak word for us, usually meaning little more than giving someone a slap on the back and saying, “Good job” or “Well done.” When we study the use of this work in the Bible, we find it is much more than this. The Greek word appears 107 times in the New Testament, and it is translated by such additional, powerful verbs as “beseech,” “comfort,” “desire,” “pray,” “entreat” and “console.” 

Perhaps the best way of understanding what this gift is, is to recognize that this is the same word that is used of the Holy Spirit and His ministry in John 14-16. The New International Version translates it as “Counselor” (in John 14:15, 25; 15:26; 16:7), but the Greek is parakletos which literally means “one who is called in alongside another to help out.” That is why it is translated “counselor,” of course. A counselor is one who comes alongside of us to advise us. Counselor is a synonym for “lawyer,” and it is worth noting that the precise Latin translation of parakletos is advocatus, which also means “one who is called alongside of,” and that advocate is also a synonym for lawyer. If we put this thought into our passage, we get something like: “Let the person who has the gift of getting alongside another person to help him or her, really do it. Let him stand by his friend and really help him.” 

What a tremendous need we have for those who are like that. Many people are hurting, but there are not many helping, because we are all so absorbed in ourselves and our own private affairs. 

Exhortation was the gift of Barnabas, who traveled with Paul. In Acts 4:36 we are told that his real name was Joseph but that he was named Barnabas because Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement,” and that is what he was. We may remember how he stood by John Mark to help him, when Paul refused to take Mark along on one of his missionary journeys because he had deserted them earlier. Barnabas got alongside Mark, lifted him up and reestablished him as a useful servant of Christ, which Paul acknowledged later (2 Tim. 4:11). 

Contributing to the needs of others. John Calvin and some of the older commentators thought this refers to an official church office, that is, to the diaconate which is particularly entrusted with this task. But there is no need to limit this to some official position, and most modern scholars do not. The deciding element seems to be Paul’s teaching that those who have this gift are to give “generously.” That is an appropriate thing to say if the person involved is giving out of his or her own funds. But the deacons administer the church’s funds, and if this refers to deacons, it would be more appropriate to tell them to give “carefully” or “judiciously” or “prayerfully,” realizing that it is other people’s money they are handling. 

Are you generous with what you have been given? Some people are so poor it is hard to imagine how they could give anything. But statistics tell us that it is the poor who are most generous in terms of proportionate giving. The very rich are least generous. Do you have enough to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, even money in the bank? Then think how you can best be generous with those who are needy or have nothing.

Study Questions
  1. What is the biblical meaning of encouragement?
  2. How does the name for the Holy Spirit in John 14-16 help to explain the gift of encouragement?
  3. How might the gift of encouragement be used?
  4. How did Barnabas use his gift of encouragement?
  5. How should those with the gift of giving exercise it?

Reflection: What memories do you have of others ministering to you with the gifts of encouragement and giving? How was their ministry useful to the body of Christ?

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “How to Identify and Use Your Spiritual Gifts.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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