What’s the difference between a Talent and a Spiritual Gift?
That’s an easy one right? A talent is something you’re good at; like sports, music, art, accounting, or (in my case) walking and chewing gum at the same time. In most cases, hopefully, your talent is something you built your profession around (TJ wrote a great article about this “What Should I Have Been?”) And what about a spiritual gift, that’s easy. It’s a Christmas present from God….no wait, it’s a blessing….no, it has to do with suffering, or fruits I think…isn’t there a parable about this? I asked a dozen people this week what they thought a spiritual gift is and I heard about a half dozen different responses.
A spiritual gift can have a lot of attributes similar to a talent, like they are both given to us from God and they are both meant to be shared with others. However, there’s one huge difference between them, you must have Faith to receive a spiritual gift. There’s several places in the Bible that discuss the different spiritual gifts, with three listed below:
Romans lists the spiritual gifts as:
Prophecy, serving others (in a general sense)
Exhorting – strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something
First Corinthians lists gifts as:
The word of wisdom (ability to communicate spiritual wisdom)
The word of knowledge (ability to communicate practical truth)
Faith (unusual reliance upon God)
The working of miracles
Discerning of spirits
Speaking in tongues
Interpretation of tongues
The third list is found in Ephesians, which speaks of God giving to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
Your Spiritual Gift?
So how about it, what’s your spiritual gift? If you had a hard time identifying your talent, this one may seem impossible to figure out. We all have a tendency to be hard on ourselves, which makes it hard to look in the mirror and say “I’m good at ____________.”
I’d like to try a different approach in determining which of the gifts listed above apply to you. Take some time and think about each of the apostles, any of the prophets, evangelists, saints, priests, other clergy members, or any other impactful person in the Church’s history and ask yourself one question; “Who am I most like and why?” Consider the huge differences between what we know of St. Peter vs. St. John the Apostle vs. St. Teresa of Calcutta vs. St. Therese of Lisieux. What we remember the most about them is not their height, weight, eye color, or even is some cases their talents. What we remember about them is their spiritual gifts. If you can connect with one of these people it may help you understand what spiritual gifts you have in common. Remember, it’s easier to recognize our spiritual gifts in others, than in ourselves.
To Bury or Not to Bury
There’s a parable in the Bible about three servants getting different amounts of money (5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent) from their master before the he goes on a long journey. (Fun Fact: A “talent” was a unit of measuring money. One talent was equal to about 20 years salary of an average laborer.) Anywho… two of the servants doubled his money and the third buried it in the ground out of fear. When the master returns from his journey he praises the first two for doubling his money and the third he “throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'” Matthew 25: 30 Ouch, right? Seems a little harsh, but I think the message is pretty clear.
What are you doing with your talents, and more importantly, your spiritual gifts? Are you burying them out of fear? And if so, fear of what? Since none of know when we get to meet God, whether it’s through the second coming or our own death, I feel a sense of urgency with this message. We need to find our gifts and our talents, embrace them, and we need to share them with others…right now!