The Difference Between "Natural Talents" and "Spiritual Gifts"
- Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Now some Christians look at these verses and wonder if the “gift list” described here is exhaustive. Are these the only abilities that are actually “spiritual gifts”? Are there any more? Well, considering the fact Paul wrote these three letters to three different groups of believers and did not routinely repeat the same list of gifts, it’s probably safe to assume there are additional spiritual gifts unlisted here. So the question is: “What are the differences between natural talents and spiritual gifts, and how might we recognize a spiritual gift when we see one?” Theologians might disagree with each other when talking about talents and gifts, but there are a number of seemingly obvious differences:
Talents Are Inherited / Gifts Are Received
This is perhaps the biggest and most important difference. Natural talents are those abilities inherited from one’s parents and nurtured in the context of one’s family. We all know people who are talented and come from a long line of family members who share the same talent (consider, for example, the Matthews family in the NFL). If one member of such a family does not possess this shared talent, they typically will say something like, “I didn’t get the (insert talent here) gene”. Natural talents are just that: “natural”! They can be attributed to the natural genetic material existing within all of us, passed down from generation to generation. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, come directly from the Spirit of God; that’s why they are called “gifts” in the first place! The “Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Natural talents are imparted at our natural birth; spiritual gifts are given when we are born again.
Talents Are Possessed by the Saved and Unsaved / Gifts Are Possessed by the Saved
Everyone, whether they are a believer or a non-believer, has some sort of talent, but only believers have spiritual gifts. The Spirit of God resides in each and every believer, and “God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” and an ability transcending our natural talents. Because the Spirit of God is the source for spiritual gifts, we shouldn’t be surprised those who have God’s Spirit residing in them (those who are saved), would have more than natural talent; believers also have gifts of the Spirit:
The word of wisdom
The word of knowledge
Faith (extraordinary trust and surrender)
Gifts of healing
The effecting of miracles
The distinguishing of spirits
The interpretation of tongues
A number of spiritual gifts listed here sound a lot like natural talents. After all, don’t you know a non-Christian who is a talented leader or teacher? Non-believers can be very talented in some of these areas without having been given a gift of the Spirit. But in addition to the gifts that sound like talents possessed by non-believers, there are others on the list that seem specific to the lives of believers. Believers have many natural talents, but in addition to these talents, they are also gifted by God.
Talents Are Developed and Expected / Gifts Are Matured and Surprising
Let’s say you are a talented leader and you then become a Christian. If God decides to use you in some role of leadership, you just may find your talent is greatly multiplied when God also gives you the spiritual gift of leadership. You may now discover your leadership skills are above and beyond anything you were capable of doing prior to being saved. God has a tendency to surprise us in this way. We can all develop our natural talents with hard work and perseverance; we practice and train and along the way we can achieve the expected results. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are increased as we mature in our relationship with God:
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