I have a friend who is disgustingly talented. His artistic skills are amazing (he is a professional illustrator), he can generate in a matter of minutes drawings that make anything I could strive for look like something a 2-year-old would scribble on a wall. Beyond his art skills he is widely read, extremely thoughtful, capable enough with his hands to rebuild a classic car or refinish a cabinet, and athletic enough to hit a golf ball two hundred and fifty yards. If he wasn’t such a nice guy he would be easy to hate.
My favorite aspect of his person is not his talent. It is how he views it. In his mind it is something that was hardwired into him, something that is God given. He has worked hard to develop his gifts and to be the best he can be in his field, but he understands where his talent comes from. While he freely shares his drawings with others I have never, ever, heard him boast about his work.
There is only one thing about which I have heard him regularly boast, and that is his wife. All who know him know that he truly believes that nothing he has ever drawn with his hands compares to the woman God has given him. He brags about her beauty, her cooking, and her parenting. Her only flaw it seems is her taste in men, as he frequently reminds others that he married way over his head.
He embodies what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that love “does not boast, it is not proud.”
When we love others, we focus on the good in them, on their giftedness. When we love others, they matter more than we do. We see the innate value in who they are and what they contribute. We also are less impressed with ourselves, as we are aware of how imperfect we are. Love changes our perspective and turns us outward and not inward.
This type of love is not meant to be limited to our marriages and family relationships. Paul was writing to a church. He wrote these instructions immediately after a lengthy discourse on giftedness in the church. He understood the danger that those who had been uniquely blessed by God with “greater” gifts (those that are upfront and visible in a church setting) could get puffed up and feel as if they were special. Paul reminds us that the person faithfully changing diapers in the church nursery is as valued as the person in the pulpit.
Paul and my friend remind me that my gifts and talents are from God. I did not make myself intelligent. The innate skills that have allowed me to succeed in my profession were given, not earned. They remind me that if I am to love others as God intends, it will include focusing on their value and not my own.