In our Sunday meetings, we’re talking about gifts of the Spirit—-ways that people express God’s nature. Spiritual gifts are more than personality traits or talents. They are basic ways we are empowered to do God’s work. They are signs of being regenerated through Jesus. When we exercise them we reveal God’s nature and ours. We strengthen others and expand God’s influence in the world.
The Bible mentions three gifts that embrace emptiness in order to be filled by God: poverty, celibacy, and martyrdom. The early church got a lot of juice out of these gifts. They are given with the understanding that ALL is gift, and Jesus will satisfy us in due time. They express true spiritual freedom beyond a transactional relating with God and others.
Americans are taught to start with fullness and strive to get fuller. We are even entitled to it. The growing national deficit and perpetual war indicate the striving to fill up on more stuff and the fear around not having enough. Entitlement breeds animalistic behavior—the desperation to do anything it takes to fill the emptiness. We get into addictions and violence when the expectations aren’t met. Rick Grimes starts off the first season of the Walking Dead with great moralistic intention to not kill any of the living and by the third season he’s doing whatever it takes to protect his turf.
Jesus exposes the limitations of moralistic and animalistic law by offering a way of living that is even more potent. Instead of working harder, faster, and stronger, he goes out into the desert—a place of lack and limitation and emptiness—to be empty and receive the strength of the Spirit to fulfill his mission. After 40 days without food, he is tempted to relieve himself with physical comfort, ego recognition, and a shortcut to the suffering he will face. He chooses hunger over satisfaction, obscurity over glory, and costly obedience over the shortcut. He chooses love for God and others. He chooses the unexpected, hidden way of trust and relationship. His victory is not just some moralistic lesson for how we can win our battles with temptation; he is literally doing it for us. He is conquering death and slavery to animalistic law so that we might live in the fullness of the Spirit. In him we are more than animal urges for sex, power, and survival.
Most of us will probably be spared the honor of dying for our faith, the married among us didn’t choose the gift of celibacy, and many of us have a lot of stuff to give away before we claim poverty. But all of us can practice the emptiness that makes fertile ground for relating to God. Louis CK alludes to the emptiness in this clip but doesn’t get to the fullness and power of meeting God in that emptiness and allowing God to fill us. When Jesus emerged from the desert in the power of the Spirit it was enough to save the whole world. His Spirit filling our emptiness enables us to do that, too.