Spiritual Gifts vs. Natural Talents
This week we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics – spiritual gifts and natural talents. Both of which are gifted to us by our creator.
Do you recognize your spiritual gifts and your natural talents? Let me share briefly about my gifts and talents. My natural talents are writing, space planning, organization/coordination, and a deep sense of responsibility. Last week I shared my top three spiritual gifts, which are leadership, administration, and giving. I believe my natural talents, combined with my spiritual gifts, leads me to my passions: love for my family, serving others, and creating beautiful spaces.
Most importantly, we all have a variety of natural talents, but only believers have spiritual gifts.
So, let’s take some time this week to explore our spiritual gifts and our natural talents. We’ll take a look at the biblical idea of spiritual gifts and how we need to be careful not to carelessly exchange the two terms.
The Biblical Concept of Gifts vs. Talents
By and large, the Church has wrongly made the terms spiritual gifts and talents interchangeable. The body of believers as a whole has started to substitute the biblical idea of spiritual gifts for the subjective talents that each person claims to possess. We’ve made serving the church and living out our purpose more about our personal desires than serving others and fulfilling the great commission.
This is dangerous.
As soon as we start to make serving all about us, it stops being service. If all that we take into account in deciding how to spend our time is what makes us feel good, we are living for ourselves, selfishly meeting our own needs. And, when our decisions are filtered through our personal desires and needs, we are no longer meeting the needs of those who we are called to serve.
How do we learn to discern between the two and use them each appropriately? Each gift or talent has a purpose, but they are distinct. So, let’s explore the two terms and what Scripture has to say about both.
What are Talents?
Talents are legitimate and useful. They are abilities given to us by God in His wisdom.
One of the earliest examples of God using the talents of a human comes from the account of building the tabernacle. In the early days of the Jewish nation being established as God’s special people, He commanded them to build a tabernacle. The tabernacle would be used to offer sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people and as a place for God’s presence to dwell.
God gave specific instructions on how the tabernacle was to be built. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts'” (Exodus 31:1-5 NIV). The Lord had chosen this man, Bezalel, to do specific work for the tabernacle. God chose him because he had given Bezalel the special skills and abilities to carry out his plans.
As we can see from this passage, God gave Bezalel his talents, and He used Bezalel for His own purpose – building a place of worship for God’s people.
Clearly, talents are essential. Think through some of the talents you hold. What are you exceptionally good at and naturally talented? What do you love to do and do really well? Don’t shy away from admitting this—talents are gifted from God. We are encouraged to embrace our God-given talents and use them for His glory each and every day.
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
As mentioned in my previous blog post, spiritual gifts are the gifts placed within believers by the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Christ. There are a variety of gifts, but each one is used by the Lord to build up the body of believers.
The key difference between spiritual gifts and talents is that we each hold natural talents, but only followers of Christ hold spiritual gifts. Only those who have the Spirit of God can possess these gifts, so those who have rejected Christ—and don’t have His Spirit—do not have spiritual gifts. Every individual has talents, but only believers have spiritual gifts.Both spiritual gifts and natural talents, when combined, are powerful and life-changing when used for the glory of God. Click To Tweet
Gifts and Natural Talents for Good
Now that we’ve made the distinction, let’s figure out where both talents and spiritual gifts come into daily life.
To get some perspective, let’s read Romans 8:28 (NIV), Paul’s words: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In all things, God is working towards His purposes, turning all things for good—true, eternal good, which is not always the way we define it.
Let’s look over the writing of James: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). James makes it clear that every gift comes from God, both talents and spiritual gifts. God has bestowed each upon us entirely as a result of His grace, not of our own plans or works.
From these passages, it’s clear we are to use both talents and spiritual gifts for God’s glory, giving Him the credit. Similarly, we must be careful not to look down on anyone else’s gift or think less of our own in comparison with the gifts of others. The apostle Paul said, “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (1 Corinthians 7:7 NIV). Though Paul was referring to marriage in this context, his message stands: each one of us has been gifted differently and are each called to live out our own purpose without comparing ourselves to others.
Your Spiritual Gifts & Natural Talents
I hope you’ll take some time to recognize and reflect on your talents and spiritual gifts. Identify your gifts and abilities and ask God how He wants you to use them? And, where does He want you to serve?
Perhaps you are a college student, and you are being called to serve those in your dorm or apartment complex. Maybe you’re a mom, and God is calling you to reach out to busy moms and offer your help. Wherever you are placed, whatever season you are in, I pray you will serve. I pray you will take the time to identify your gifts and use your gifts to help those around you, and give God the glory!
“Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love.” Mother Teresa