Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth….

I’m sure most of you have heard this saying, but have you ever really been sure what it means? The source of this idiom is unsure, but the terminology refers to the fact that as horses age, their gum lines recede making the teeth appear longer. Therefore by inspecting their mouth one could tell if the horse they were receiving was of value. The expression “long in the tooth” comes from the same reference and refers to one who is aging.

So for us, this saying actually means that if you are given something, you should be grateful for it and not be critical of it by examining it too closely and question the value of it. You should be thankful for it!  The Apostle Paul could have used this term in his first letter to the Corinthians when addressing spiritual gifts.

While Paul’s letter addressed many issues in the Church of Corinth, I want to focus on a problem regarding spiritual gifts; namely how we tend to “look a gift horse in the mouth” and look for evidence of whether or not our gift is valuable…

In Chapter 11 Paul said:  1 Cor 11:17-18 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it…

It appears some were thinking of themselves as more important than others.  He also knew they were doing what they thought to be right.  After all, they truly loved God, but had been led astray. So before addressing this issue, Paul needs to convince them why they should listen to him instead.

So he says, 1 Cor 12:1-2 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Here Paul is basically saying: When you were heathens, you were taught to worship voiceless and mute idols who had no power to give you guidance or endow you with gifts… he says they were “led astray…however they were led”… they were led by their pagan priests! But Paul makes it clear to them that those priests were not speaking by the Spirit of God…and he can prove it:  “for no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is accursed”… (in other words “Jesus is an imposter”)… and that is exactly what the pagan priests were saying. So to ensure they knew his message is valid, he tells them “also no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit”, in other words, he’s saying “you can trust what I’m saying, because I call Jesus Lord and the fruit of my life has proven this. You can know this message is from the Spirit of God.”

Now that he’s established his credibility, Paul goes on to say: 1 Cor 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries {administrations, service}, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects {workings, operations}, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. In other words: the Spirit manifests in a variety of ways through various people to perform various service and accomplish various results.  And the gifts are for the benefit of the COMMON GOOD, not to promote themselves.

He then tells them the various gifts of the Spirit.  And afterward he clarifies: 1 Cor 12:11  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. God has given each of us gifts according to His good pleasure and we must stop thinking we are better than or less than others who have different gifts.  All the comparison was causing division and confusion. This is not what God intended.

This is why in Chapter 13, Paul lays the foundation. He indicates that regardless of all these great gifts any of them may possess, they will sound like clanging symbols if they have not love. He paints a beautiful picture of love and how to operate in it. He reminded them that while prophesying, tongues and knowledge will fail, love never will. He tells them to put their childish ways behind them and operate in love at all times. It is clear that their recent competitive behavior was not displaying love, but instead causing disorder and division.

Paul then opens Chapter 14 by joining the topics of Chapters 12 & 13: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts…” (Notice he states “pursue love” first.)  And a little further into this letter, in 1 Cor 14:26-27, he says: How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. It appears they were all trying to “one up” each other by trying to show whose gift was most valuable. Paul then goes on to explain that God is not the author of confusion and gives instruction on how to operate in their gifts in an orderly fashion.

We must stop comparing ourselves to each other and stop trying to promote our gifts to try and get recognition or position. Instead we need to recognize that our spiritual gifts were given to us specifically by God and they are not just intended to be used in an official capacity. They are, in fact, to be used in our day to day lives as we witness Christ to the world… on our jobs, in the grocery store, or to our neighbors.  They are bestowed for the salvation and sanctification of others! No gift is more important than another and we should not look a gift horse in the mouth by criticizing it and trying to estimate its value. The fact that it is a gift from God means that it is valuable BEYOND MEASURE!

There is one Spirit, but a diversity of gifts, a diversity of ministries/serving opportunities in which the Spirit operates, and a diversity of workings/operations/effects/results of our gifts. God distributes the gifts/endowments/enablements as He sees fit to accomplish His specific will.

God was intentional with the gifts He gave you. Be thankful and seek to be a good steward of those gifts by learning to operate in the effectively. Meanwhile, the word tells us that if there are other gifts we want that we don’t have… we should eagerly desire them! If God tells us to desire them, that indicates He will consider giving us more!

  • 1 Cor 12:31 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
  • 1 Cor 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts,
  • 1 Cor 14:12 Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

But regardless of what gifts you have, what gifts you desire and what gifts you get, be thankful. Know that God is aware of the plans He has for you and will be faithful to equip you for every good work.

And while the church in Corinth thought more highly of themselves regarding their gifts (and we certainly see that today as well with people vying for the pulpit and for position) I think often today there are many who don’t believe they are qualified to be used by God, even if they recognize their gifts. Perhaps they have “messed up” and no longer feel qualified.

So I want to encourage you by reminding you of Peter:

He walked on this earth with Jesus for three years. And Jesus said: Matt 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. NKJV

Yet Matt 26 tells us that in the 24 hours before Jesus was crucified:

Peter Dozed off (Matt 26:36-37, 40)  – He fell asleep after Jesus asked him to pray!

Peter Doubted (Matt 26:51) – When they tried to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the soldiers ear. This was God! He clearly doubted Jesus’ ability to defend Himself! Now on top of the first let down, Peter gets corrected by Jesus: Don’t you think that I can’t pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?!!! … Wow. I don’t know man. If I was Peter, I would have felt sort of stupid after this move. Think about it… HE’S GOD! And for some reason Peter thinks he has to come to His rescue????

Peter Distanced Himself from Jesus (Matt 26:57-58) After they arrested Jesus, Scripture says that he followed from a distance. Wouldn’t you if you had just let Jesus down TWICE!

Peter Denied Jesus (Matt 26:69-74) Three times! After saying earlier that he would die with him, now he’s denying even knowing him!

But yet we know that God did indeed use Peter to build His church. So how could he have possibly been qualified? In fact while Jesus was being crucified, Scripture gives no indication that Peter was anywhere around. He probably felt too unworthy to even be at the foot of the cross. He undoubtedly was off having his own personal crucifixion for having messed up and letting Jesus down.

We have to recall that after Jesus rose from the grave and the angel appeared to Mary at the tomb, he said: “… go tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” I believe Jesus had the angel say “and Peter” because He knew that Peter didn’t consider himself a disciple anymore! (and neither did the rest of the disciples I’m sure… you know how church folk are.)

BUT GOD…. yet if we look back just prior to Jesus telling Peter “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”, Jesus asked the disciples a question:

“Who do men say that I am?” So they said, “… John the Baptist, … Elijah, and others …Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”THIS IS WHEN JESUS SAID: I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock* I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

When Jesus said “On This Rock”, he was referring to the fact that Peter had just acknowledged Jesus as the Christ!

The Only Qualification:  Genuine Salvation By Grace

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you my friend are qualified to be used by God.  No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, repent and receive forgiveness… and then forgive yourself. Begin to seek out your giftings and learn how to operate in them and let the Lord use you to further His Kingdom on earth!

If you have not received Christ as your Lord and Savior but would like to know more about this, please click on this link:




I want to close with two testimonies of using your gifts in the middle of your day to day life.  While both of these stories involve the gift of prophecy, it doesn’t matter what gift you have. You can encouage people, serve people, pray healing over people, teach people, give to people, lead people or use any gift God has given you RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR EVERY DAY LIFE!

A friend posted this on Facebook recently:  She was at the hairdresser getting her hair done when the Lord gave her a word for her hairdresser. She prophesied to her and the Spirit of God fell heavy upon the entire salon…. all the women in the salon were laid out on the flood under the power of God and she was able to minister and pray with each one. They worshipped and prayed together, PLUS she got her hair done! God is good! You never know where God may want to use your gifts!

The second testimony can be found here in a previous blog entry of mine:

May you no longer compare your gifts to anyone else…

May you no longer think more highly of your gifts than you ought…

May you eagerly desire the greater gifts…

May you be thankful for whatever the Lord choose to bestow upon you. ♥

May you no longer believe that you are not qualified to be used by God…

May you be tuned-in to God daily and be aware of opportunities to use YOUR gift in the midst of your busy day!

God bless you all!

About Mary L'Esperance Held

5 Responses to Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth….

  1. Nancy says:

    Thank you so much, Mary, for this very timely, helpful teaching. I really, really, really needed to hear it. Thank you for your obedience in sharing it with others. I pray now that I would be able to receive this word and that the Holy Spirit will be allowed to do its intended work in my life and all the others who read it. Blessings upon blessings to you!

  2. Aziza Bailey says:

    Mary, great blog post!

  3. Pingback: Gift of Mercy « Living in the Light of God

  4. Pingback: The Ultimate Measure of a Man… « Live~Learn~Teach~Repeat…

  5. thank you Mary for sharing this with us. Truly encouraging and a blessing to those who feel unqualified (and we all do at times).

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