Paul says the following to the Roman church(es):
“I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you, among you—each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” (1:11-12).
I found two things striking here. First, Paul wants to give to them “some spiritual gift” for their blessing.
Second, Paul further clarifies that exercising his giftedness involves a serious mutuality, not a top-down dynamic. His rhetoric situates him as a sibling of the Roman Christians, not a parent or patron.
Spiritual gift talk among evangelicals has been hijacked by the Disney ideology—what’s important is that my giftedness be put to use, that I find fulfillment by exercising my gift, that I actualize my spiritual potential. If the community is an obstacle to personal fulfillment, I’ll go elsewhere.
I remember taking a “spiritual gift test” when I was in college. It was fascinating in the same way that personality tests were fascinating. It told me more about myself and only fostered my already exalted self-image. It did little to foster service to others. Wow, I have the gift of helps! Cool!
Personal fulfillment is not the issue for Paul. And he isn’t very specific about what sort of gift he’ll impart to them. I don’t know if we can push the text that far, but it seems that Paul is open to having his contribution to the community shaped by their needs.
The contingent thing is Paul’s giftedness—he doesn’t specify. The non-negotiables are that they be blessed and that he be an equal with them by receiving blessing and refreshment from them.
Our thinking about spiritual gifts is in serious need of transformation.