By Matt Dawson
One question that emerges when doing a spiritual gifts study is the difference between a GIFT and a TALENT. There are other resources you can use to dive deep into the world that aligns and separates these two characteristics, but I will give you the baseline apologetic that I used in the Gifted book.
Talents are given to us by God and strengthened by our willingness to exercise and perfect them. There are no shortages on the list of talents that God has given us as a human species.
One of my favorite YouTube guilty pleasures is to watch Dude Perfect videos. These are the young men who throw tennis balls and footballs off skyscrapers, through a maze of hula hoops, all to land perfectly through a basketball net set up so far away they can barely see it. I know that it’s not impossible, but every trick they do is so improbable that I end up losing 2 hours in a black hole of endless videos. This is a TALENT.
I’m sure you’ve seen many people do what seems impossible to most of us, but they make it look so easy. Some have a talent for math while some have a talent to connect strangers over a business lunch meeting. Some are physical talents like a sport (Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth) and some are intellectual (Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein). Some are artistic (Jimmy Hendrix, Whitney Houston) and some are seen as more entertaining (Stephen King, Julia Roberts).
No matter the talent, the path is almost always the same. People are born with a bent and aptitude that is discovered early in life. They spend time exercising this talent, developing it, and some even perfect it.
The primary distinction that makes a talent different from a spiritual gift is that although both are given to us by our Creator, a talent does not require the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Many people granted talents by God do not recognize God, serve God, or even want to know God. That does not remove their talents or hinder them from growing. Talents are inherent abilities provided by the Creator of life (Psalms 139:14 NLT) “Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it.”
Spiritual Gifts are given to us by God. Jesus told Nicodemus that the process of being “born again” was not a physical rebirth but a spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8). Paul tells us that when we receive Christ as our Savior, we die to this life and our real life becomes hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). That new life in us is guided by the Holy Spirit that lives in us and produces “fruit” in us (Galatians 5:22-23).
Spiritual gifts are supernaturally given when we receive our NEW LIFE through Jesus Christ.
That is what distinguishes our GIFTEDNESS.
I wish that because of my salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I could suddenly become a professional basketball player! That’s not going to happen. That’s not the purpose of our spiritual gifts. Talents can be fueled and encouraged by our spiritual gifts, but they do not arrive in our lives because of a spiritual rebirth.
Spiritual Gifts are given to us for purpose, transformation, and to have an impact for the kingdom of God. They are not a list of things we can achieve based on how much faith we have, or how hard we work for Christ. These gifts are given in variety, and God alone decides who is granted which gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:11 NLT “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”