What are the Spiritual Gifts? Part 2: Gifts of Service

What are the spiritual gifts? How does a person get one or more spiritual gifts? How do spiritual gifts work? Over the next few weeks we’re going to look closer at some of these spiritual gifts. Remember, many spiritual gifts are things that God wants all Christians (Christ-followers) to do. Those with a spiritual gift in that area just find it much easier and natural to do. If you want to know how to be better in one of these areas, look for someone who does it easily and learn from them.

What are spiritual gifts?

When one turns away from sin and trusts Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior (learn more here), the Holy Spirit gives that person at least one spiritual gift. This gift (or these gifts) are to be used to work with other Christ-followers (committed Christians) to continue God’s work here on earth (1 Corinthians 12:1-7). Scripture (the Bible) lists quite a few spiritual gifts. Lists of gifts may be found in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11., 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, possibly Acts 13:1-4, possibly James 5:14-16., and possibly Acts 8:5-8. There are a lot of gifts. In order to look closer at these gifts, we are going to break them into three categories and three blog posts.
  1. Gifts of Teaching (read more here)
  2. Gifts of Service (today's post)
  3. Miraculous Gifts (coming soon)

Gifts of Service

The gifts which we’ll categorize as “serving gifts” include the gifts which are used behind the scenes to serve others. People with these gifts do not want or need to be recognized publicly so everyone knows what they have done. They take joy from simply serving others with their gifts. Let’s look a little closer at each of these serving gifts. Please note that we’re saving healing, miracles, and the casting out of spirits for our discussion of miraculous gifts.

Serving, Helps, and Mercy

These three gifts are similar in that they all look for ways they can help. The difference is where these people look for ways to help. People with the gift of "helps" want to contribute to doing God's work. Their goal is to help other people. They want to make sure other people can use their spiritual gifts to do God's work. Those with the gift of helps want to do little things to help others so those people in turn will have more time to use their spiritual gifts. For example, a person with the gift of helps might volunteer to fill the children's activity bags so that the person in charge of the children's ministry can work on planning and getting ready for Vacation Bible School. Here are some Scriptures about the gift of helps: Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:2-3; Acts 9:36; Romans 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Timothy 1:16-18. People with the gift of "service" just want to fill in the gaps and do whatever needs to be done. These people really like things like filing, making copies, counting offering money, and stuff like that. Here are some Scriptures about the gift of service: John 12:26; Acts 6:1-7; Romans 12:6-7; Galatians 6:2, 9-10; 2 Timothy 1:16-18; Titus 3:14. People with the gift of "mercy" want to help people in need. They hurt when other people hurt and want to do something about it. These are the people who collect old coats and give them to homeless people. These are the people who go on a mission trip and provide free medical care to those who need it the most. These are the people who share their lunch with someone who doesn't have one. What other ways might you see someone showing "mercy"? Here are some Scriptures about the gift of mercy: Matthew 20:29-34; 25:24-40; Mark 9:41; Luke 10:33-35; Acts 11:28-30; 16:33-34; Romans 12:8; Jude 22-23. So, to review, here is what Andrew K. Pulp from BuildingChurch.com (which is where we got most of the additional Scriptures to read for each gifts) says is the difference between the gifts of helps, service, and mercy: "The gifts of Helps, Mercy, and Service are often confused. Helps focuses on Christian works and freeing others to accomplish their God-given ministries. Mercy focuses on people in distress and reflects God’s love and compassion. Service focuses on accomplishing little tasks that may otherwise go undone in order to move the greater goal of the ministry or church toward completion."


If you want to get a project done quickly, effectively, and in an organized manner, look for someone with the gift of administration to help you. These people find it very easy to take big projects and break them into do-able steps. They make sure nothing slips through the cracks and is forgotten. They know how to set goals, make plans, and get things done. Luke 14:28-30 describes this job very well:
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’" Luke 14:28-30 (NIV)
Here are some more Scriptures about the gift of administration: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Titus 1:5.

Giving and Voluntary Poverty

Those with the gift of giving love to give money and buy gifts for others, especially when it helps God's work to get done. Here are some Scripture verses about giving: Matthew 6:2-4; Mark 12:41-44; Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:2-8; Philippians 4:14-19. PARENTS, if your child shows the gift of giving, be sure to start early teaching this child how to budget. It can be easy for those with the gift of giving to give so much away that there is not enough to make ends meet. As you teach, be careful not to squash your child's giving spirit. Simply explain that they can budget money to give away. (Click here for tips on teaching budgeting for kids.)
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)
Those with the gift of voluntary poverty decide to live on hardly any money so they can give as much as possible to do God's work. These people usually choose to live among a group of poor people so they can better relate to them and tell them about Jesus and the Bible. Here are some Scripture verses about voluntary poverty: Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-27; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:9. Notice the difference between the gifts of giving and voluntary poverty. Those with the gift of giving want to give as much money and things as they can to do God's work. Those with the gift of voluntary poverty give up comfortable living because they want to reach the people who live in poverty.

Faith, Intercession

Those with the gift of faith seem to know and be extremely confident about what God's will and purpose is.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Look at what Andrew K. Pulp from BuildingChurch.com says about this gift: "Those with this gift often scare other people with their confidence. People with this gift are often very irritated by criticism, as they consider it to be criticism against God and His will. Probably the biggest danger for those with this gift is that they often try to project their gift onto other people." Here are some Scripture verses about faith: Acts 11:22-24; 27:21-25; Romans 4:18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 11. Intercession means praying for other people. Those with the gift of intersession see a lot of their prayers for other people answered. They do not get tired of praying for things, but keep asking God to work in other people's lives. Sometimes these people are called "prayer warriors." These are people to go to if you want to learn how to pray better. Here are some Bible verses about intercession, praying for other people: Luke 22:41-44; Acts 12:12; Romans 8:26-27; Colossians 1:9-12; 4:12-13; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 5:14-16. (Sign up for our E-Team to receive a free copy of How to Pray with P.O.W.E.R.)

Distinguishing Between the Spirits

"Distinguishing between the spirits" is a fancy way to say that people with this gift know whether something is really biblical or not. It's not a matter of how much they've studied the Bible. They just know whether someone is lying, twisting what God said, or just plain mistaken. They also seem to always know someone's true motives. For example, let's say two people got up and sang a solo in church. A person who could distinguish between the spirits would know that the first one sang to worship and give glory to God, but the second just wanted to show off their impressive musical skills. Here are some Bible verses about distinguishing between the spirits: Matthew 16:21-23; Acts 5:1-11; 16:16-18; 17:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 5:14; 1 John 4:1-6.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (NIV)

Marriage and Living the Single Life

Does it surprise you that marriage and living life as a single adult are in the list of spiritual gifts? It surprised me when I first saw it in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Still, look at how the Bible talks about marriage and living as a single adult. In 1 Corinthians 7, God is speaking through Paul about things only husbands and wives should do together. Then there are a few strange verses.
I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 (NIV)
Did you catch it? In the middle of talking about people who are married and people who are single, God says through Paul, "But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another that." In the context of this chapter, it looks like marriage and living single are spiritual gifts. The difference between the two seems to be this: If you can live single in a way that pleases God, don't be in a hurry to marry. If you really struggle with that, get married to a fellow Christian (Christ-follower) and work to stay married (1 Corinthians 7:10-16). On a side note, do you wonder why God encourages believers through Paul to not worry so much about getting married?
I don’t want you to have anything to worry about. A single man is concerned about the Lord’s matters. He wants to know how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the matters of this world. He wants to know how he can please his wife. His concerns pull him in two directions... I’m saying those things for your own good. I’m not trying to hold you back. I want you to be free to live in a way that is right. I want you to give yourselves completely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NIRV)

What about you?

Do you think you might have one of these gifts of service? If so, how are you using it? Spiritual gifts are given to be used. Be sure to pray and ask God how you can begin using your spiritual gift(s). (Click here for 5 Steps to Discovering Your Spiritual Gift.) In what areas of service do you need to improve? Ask God to help you with that as well.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)
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