Spiritual Gift? Or Talent?

I watched my first ever international harp competition recently. Wow, impressive! The instrument has unmatched presence and incomparable sound, making it both beautiful to look at and to hear. Viewing the harpists perform left me in awe. Such talent, such skill, such giftedness!

We often mistake a talent for a spiritual gift. Both our talents and spiritual gifts are given to us by God, but our spiritual gifts are not the same as our talents. Here’s a look at the difference:

Our Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are special abilities given to us at our spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us when we receive Christ Jesus as our Savior and make him the Lord over our life. At that time, we are given the spiritual gift(s) that the Holy Spirit has specifically chosen for us. Why do we receive spiritual gifts? They are God’s graces at work within us, empowering us to effectively function as we build up and strengthen the local church and to serve the needs beyond our faith community. Combining our gifts, together we can achieve so much!

Our Talents

According to our contemporary English language, talents are innate abilities—potential we are endowed with at our physical birth—and abilities that we can develop naturally, apart from a commitment to Christ. Talents may be used for any purpose—to accomplish God’s will or for personal gain. Skills are learned routines that we develop as we practice to improve our ability of some subject. We often say people are gifted when they possess both talent and skill in music, art, writing, athletics and more. If people become skilled at using the talents they possess, they have great potential for success in the endeavors in which they invest their time and energy. Some writings on the topic of spiritual gifts include musical ability, writing and other talents as spiritual gifts. I think not. Most biblical scholars point out that these are not listed as spiritual gifts in the bible. Musical ability, for example, results from genetics and/or training. What say you?

Our Spiritual Gifts and Talents Work Together

In the bible, the word talent is used to refer to all the endowments that God bestows upon people—the whole of our inborn and spirit-born abilities. Our spiritual gifts often complement the abilities we’re born with. In his infinite wisdom, God knows which spiritual gifts might best suit our talents. He gives us roles that he judges us as able to fill. He takes into consideration our ability to improve our talents and gifts. If God has given us some good ability, he has also given us the ability to improve it. He has expectation for us. It’s our privilege to employ (think: labor of love) our talents and gifts to build up the body of Christ and to extend the blessing to the world to promote God’s glory.

To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. Matthew 25:15