The word for the day is “with.” As long as the job is done, does it matter how we do it? Does our attitude make a difference? If we give to someone hungry but do it with condescension, doesn’t the person still get fed? And if we provide an offering grudgingly, doesn’t the church still use the money for good?
In today’s reading of Romans 12:6-14, Paul lists the “grace-gifts” the Holy Spirit distributes among church members. He states, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6). Today we will discover that the apostle does not only urge that the faithful put the Holy Spirit’s gifts to work for ministry. But he is concerned that they do it with virtuous attitudes. Today we will review the qualities that should accompany our service to the Lord and His people.
Not Only What We Do But the Spirit In Which It Is Done
In our reading of Romans 12:6-14 today, St. Paul lists the “grace-gifts” of the Holy Spirit for ministry in the Body of Christ. The apostles go to a list of actions that the faithful should perform. But St. John Chrysostom points out something in this passage that we might otherwise overlook. Chrysostom writes: “See how in every instance he aims after higher degrees; for he does not say “give” only, but “with largeness…” (NfPf1: 11, 503).
The great preacher’s comment alerts us to how often the apostle uses the word “with” in his list of “grace-gifts.” For example, the apostle says that we are to give with liberality; lead with diligence; show mercy with cheerfulness, and love without hypocrisy.
Paul’s Recommendations of Attitudes, Virtues, and Qualities of Spirit
You see, St. Paul not only wants us to do what he advises. He is concerned about the spirit in which we do it. The manner is just as important as the doing. And when he goes on to speak of the virtues that are proper to believers, he also modifies them. In each case, he speaks of the quality of the personal trait. For instance, he mentions diligence that is not lazy, spirit that is fervent, hope that rejoices, endurance that is patient, and praying that is steadfast.
Thus, if we sort out the words about the actions that Paul recommends, we can list: giving, leading, showing mercy, and loving. Similarly, the kind of attitudes that we should have as we do these things are liberality, diligence, cheerfulness, and genuineness. Moreover, if we sort out the virtues that St. Paul adds to these attitudes, we find diligence, spirit, hope, endurance, and prayerfulness. And if we sort out the qualities of these traits of character, we have industriousness, fervor, joyfulness, patience, steadfastness.
In conclusion, we should keep in mind that results are not the only thing that matters when we minister to others. The spirit in which we carry out our service also counts. Chrysostom says that when we add the appropriate attitude to what we do, we “draw the Spirit” to ourselves (NfPf1:11, 503). Then the Spirit will abide in us and make our labors in the Lord “easy” (NfPf1:11, 503). Moreover, we will “glow with the Spirit” (NfPf1:11, 503) as we serve. Many non-believers love, express affection, and give to the needy, etc. It is the attitude of the spirit that distinguishes those who follow the way of Christ from others.