After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:22-26)
For some reason I think my toes are going to be stepped on today! Have you ever longingly looked at someone else’s spiritual gifts and their seemingly effortless ability to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God?
-Francis de Sales
You come away feeling, as my Momma used to say, like “a ne’re do well.” I just recently had this exact experience! Watching wide eyed (and with great appreciation) I watched a friend serve a a delicious “loaves and fishes” meal to more than anticipated–and without one drop of sweat or furrowed brow! The meal came off as smooth as crème brulee! From one that has a difficult time even boiling water, you certainly can imagine my awe! And then there were those who welcomed many visitors into their home with warm hospitality–opening their arms as wide their doors to embrace and encourage the weary. I have to admit, I felt a bit of jealousy–not that they practiced their gifts so superbly, but that I am so want of them! What wonderful ways to show forth God’s love to others!
I can’t help but believe that the same feeling of jealousy was occurring with John the Baptist’s disciples in our verses for today. People were turning to Jesus to be baptized instead of John–and it sounds as if John’s disciples were a bit jealous!
As disciples of Christ, our goal is to point those around us to Him! Our gifts are given to us in order for us to achieve this goal. We are not responsible for the results; we are responsible to be faithful with the gifts God has given us. God may use others to minister to thousands and use us to minister to only a few–but it is our faithfulness that matters in His eyes.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians regarding the importance of Christ being preached regardless of the motive behind the preaching:
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
Take It to Heart
Paul rejoiced over the fact that Christ was preached! Indeed, when the church in Corinth began disputing over following Paul or following Apollos–both servants of Jesus–Paul’s response gives us the attitude we are to seek:
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:3-9)
God gives His gifts to His people specifically for His tasks.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)