In an previous post I told you about a forthcoming book by Larry Osborne called Accidental Pharisees. In that post I mentioned the fourth section of the book which is on “gift projection.” This portion of the book was very good and I think is manifest all through evangelicalism. The paragraph that follows hit me right between the eyes.
“From my earliest days as a Christ follower, I had an insatiable appetite for Scripture. I’d stay up late into the night reading, looking up cross-references, and jotting down notes in the margin. I could close my eyes and remember where a particular verse was on a page.
I thought everyone could.
I saw my hunger for God’s Word as a sign of my superior dedication to Jesus. I couldn’t understand how someone could be saved and not have a deep craving to comprehend all that the Bible has to say. I considered people who failed to study it in depth spiritually tepid and lazy.
It never dawned on my that my growing hunger for God’s Word might be connected to my spiritual gifts and God’s future calling on my life. As I look back, it only makes sense that God would give me a passion for the book he wanted me to teach. But in my immaturity, I didn’t see my hunger as a God-given desire for a God-given assignment. I saw it as a sign of my superior spiritual zeal.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a bad case of gift projection, the chocalate-covered arrogance that assumes that everyone is just like me–or will be when they grow up–and whatever God has gifted and called me to do, everyone else should do as well.” (161-62)
I’m ashamed to admit it but this could have been a page out of my diary (that is, if I kept one). Osborne distinguishes between “low-level” gift projection which most of us have since we “tend to interpret life through the lens of our own experiences” and “full-blown” gift projection which is “nasty” and is “nothing but sinful pride and arrogance.” (162-63) He makes the further observation that you only find full-blown gift projection in the spiritually passionate. “You won’t find it among the apathetic or lukewarm. It’s found only among the zealous and highly committed, people who most want to please the Lord.” (163) The worse the gift projection becomes “the more likely we are to think that God is especially pleased with us and ticked off at everyone else, when nothing could be farther from the truth.” (163) Eventually, he says “we begin to castigate and write off people with gifts and callings that don’t match ours.” (164)
Finally, Osborne notes that each era has its own “flavor of the day” with regard to which gifts and callings are put on the pedestal. For example, “in the era of colonialism, people who were called to the foreign mission field were considered to be the quintessential example of spiritual commitment.” In the 1980s and 1990s we were enamored with strong and successful leaders. “Gifted leaders write books and tell packed-out conferences that anyone can become a great leader if they’re willing to work hard, gain some leadership wisdom, and give themselves completely to the Lord.” (166)
What is the flavor of the day today? Osborne’s words contain a sting. Now he says,
“This time, we’ve fallen in love with causes. Everyone sports a wristband, has a favorite charity, and if you don’t, they wonder why. Even large corporations have jumped on the bandwagon. They all want to be seen as socially responsible. It’s no surprise that people who’ve been called to serve on the front lines of mercy and justice ministries are the new darlings of the day. Their willingness to make financial sacrifices, go overseas, or move into the inner city fits perfectly with the social awareness of our culture. So they’ve become the latest mold into which everyone must fit in order to be classified as a committed Christ follower.” (166)
There is so much more to this book. I can’t wait till it comes out. It is insightful, relevant and chuck full of pastoral wisdom.