Tools of the Trade

Screwdriver

A screwdriver presented itself in my path the other day.  I picked it up, checked it out and discovered that even though it was found on the side of the road, it was in good shape.  It was a perfectly capable tall and skinny flat headed screwdriver.  I wrapped my hand around it and continued to jog home.

Tools, all of us use tools.  If we drive a car, ride a bike, mix a batter or assemble a toy we use tools.  I’m using a tool right now and so are you: the computer.  Tools are means to an end, they help accomplish whatever is desired, they have a purpose.  By themselves, though, they are useless.  Without a somebody to stroke their keys, turn their crank or plug them in they lose their tool-ness–they become obsolete antiquities at best, junk at worst.

Every worker has his/her tools of trade.  Carpenters have hammers, saws and screwdrivers; office workers have  computers, telephones and copiers; students have pens and notebooks, calculators and rulers; homemakers have washers, vacuums and ovens; pilots have planes, drivers have vehicles, farmers have harvesters.  Even a simple toothbrush is a tool.

The ‘new’ screwdriver graced our counter top for a day or two before I found a home for it.  God had a message for me in it that I needed to hear before I tucked it away.  Here is what I think He said: as Christians He has given us “tools of the Trade”.  We’ve been given spiritual gifts…

Spiritual gifts are tools some get ruffled about, for they aren’t always rationally based.  In 1 Corinthians 12 they are listed: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues.  Yeah, some are way “out there”, spiritual powers and all…

I wonder if, as Christians, we nod to this list?  Do we agree that such gifts are given, that such gifts are real?  Being rational 21st century animals, do we disregard what cannot be explained?  Is 1 Corinthians 12 all hocus pocus superstition from the first century?

Some would say “yes” unequivocally.  Others know better.  Others say “yes” to the gifts: they open the tool box God has given them and the tools therein become the means through which God’s Will is done. The gift receivers become useful Christians…they are laborers in the Kingdom, they keep their tools handy so they become integral to how they do life.  After awhile, like all workers, they become comfortable with their tools.  They get to know the contours of what they practice regularly: living by faith becomes normal, discerning the spirits is all in a day’s work, healing and miracles are common occurrences.

I think there is another level of tool-ness though…one we may have a hard time seeing: those who are surrendered to God, lovers of Jesus, and gift receivers are tools of God’s.  We become instruments that God uses, for we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior and have opened the tool box and received His gifts, all is in place for Kingdom work.  As tools in His hand the tools He gives us become tools of a tool.  Hmmm…this sounds confusing, doesn’t it?  Well, how about the analogy of a car: God is the driver, we’re the car (a tool to get from here to there) and the steering wheel is a tool we’ve been given.  We have it, but He activates it.  If we refuse to believe that steering wheels exist, or that we have one, then the car cannot be driven.  We become an obsolete antiquity at best, a junker at worst.

Some would say God is like the boss at a work site, always calling the shots, just telling us what to do next.  I have to agree, but I think He is more than that, for spiritual gifts come wrapped in the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 12:11 it says: All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is that rather nebulous “dude” of God.  Like the wind we cannot see Him, but we know when He comes for He breezes through in power and love and awakens us from spiritual sleep.  He opens eyes and ears so we can see God and hear God.  He indwells those who make room for Him.  He hands us gifts/tools to be used for His glory and then comes and uses them, as we allow.   He even shows us how to become accustomed to those tools, how to grow into those gifts.  He sticks close, like a good tutor or mentor and reminds us of the things of God.  Without the Holy Spirit, spiritual power is just spiritual power–misguided at best, dangerous at worst…

1 Corinthians 13 follows that passage about gifts and goes on to say that without love, the gifts are useless.  Listen to it: 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love all our tool usage leaves us as “nothing”, gaining “nothing”.  We may make noise, but it remains eternally silent.  I’m thinking the same holds true for God…if He doesn’t use us as a manifestation of His love, then it is all for naught.  It seems to me that since He is love (1 John 4:8), then we can rest assured that because of His very nature all that He does is bathed in love.  Love makes the difference, love makes all the difference…

(Contemplative prayer update: ok, I’m back on the band wagon: prayer today at chapel was kinda jumbled, much going through my head.  Some moments of peace, though.  Love those moments of peace…)

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