What a great question—and one that caused me to think about things I a) had never really given much thought and b) hadn’t thought about in a long time. But rather than give you a simple cut-and-dried answer to the question, I am going to give you:
- The definitions of a spiritual gift and a talent
- Examples of both
- Scriptures pertaining to both
- Reasons why it is important to know the difference between the two
- A list of ways to discern between a talent and a spiritual gift
- A “call to arms” encouraging you to use them both for the LORD
Are you ready? Then let’s get started…
The definitions of a spiritual gift and a talent
A spiritual gift is a God-given capability (skill, proficiency) to Christians upon receipt of the Holy Spirit into their lives for the purpose of carrying out their function in the body of Christ, which is the Church.
A talent is the inherited and self-developed ability to do something well.
A gift is given at re-birth. A talent is something you are born with and/or worked for.
Examples of talents and gifts
Spiritual gifts: Leadership, prophecy, healing, apostleship, teaching, service, giving, mercy, hospitality, exhortation, evangelism, faith, administration, pastor, intercession/prayer, discernment, encouragement, wisdom, and knowledge of the Word, etc.
Talent: Athleticism, music, art, an eye for photography, a green thumb, public speaking, cooking, fishing, optimism, money management, acting, storytelling, woodworking, and sewing, etc.
Scriptures pertaining to talents and gifts
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
~1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
~1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NIV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
~Acts 1:8 ESV
Then 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…
~Exodus 31:1-3 NIV
Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
~Ephesians 2:10 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
~Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
~1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
Why is it important to know the difference?
In doing some research for this article, I found several opinions and reasons given for why it is important to know the difference between spiritual gifts and talents. But at the end of the day I think the most important reason Christians need to know the difference is for their spiritual health and well-being and for the health and well-being of the Church. Let me explain…
As Christians we tend to go one of two directions when it comes to ministry involvement and service in the Church. One: We sit back and let everyone else do the work because we have a ‘feed me’ mentality or because we don’t know how or where we should minister and serve. Two: We throw ourselves into the work of the Church doing whatever needs to be done, whether we are spiritually gifted for the task or not.
We may be talented in an area, but that doesn’t mean that particular talent is how God wants to manifest his purpose for you in maintaining and growing the Church. We should always use our talents for his glory, but again, they aren’t necessarily the ministry God is calling us to. And if this is the case, then doing these things will leave us feeling burned out and spiritually unfulfilled.
Those who do nothing are simply stagnant and again, left feeling spiritually longing and unfulfilled.
Knowing what your spiritual gifts are will allow you to minister in ways that will best benefit the local church, the Church as a whole, and your own spiritual, emotional, and even physical wellbeing.
Not taking the time to learn and discern between the two will result in you:
- Failing to live up to your God-given potential
- Failing to live up to your responsibilities as a Christian
- Failing to enjoy the deep and intimate connection God wants to have with you through the Holy Spirit
A list of ways to discern between a talent and a spiritual gift
Talents are something you are born with or develop on your own. Spiritual gifts are God-given.
Only Christians have spiritual gifts.
Talents can be used for personal gain and even in worldly (sinful) ways. Spiritual gifts are used only to serve God’s purposes.
Spiritual gifts grow the kingdom of God. Talents simply meet needs.
Spiritual gifts help you discern God’s specific will for your life. Talents, when used right, are an act of worship commanded by God for all Christians.
A “call to arms” encouraging you to use them both for the LORD.
Take another look at the scriptures listed a few paragraphs back. Just as God gave us the gift of salvation with the condition of faithful obedience to him, he gives us spiritual gifts expecting us to use them for their intended purpose… for the growth and health of the Church.
Next make a list of your talents. How do they differ?
NOTE: There will usually be some cross-over. That’s to be expected since God wants us to enjoy using our gifts.
Now pray, asking God to turn the Holy Spirit loose in your heart and mind with the desire and drive to share your gifts in the way(s) God intends you to. Then do it!
~ By Darla Noble
- Understanding the Importance of Spiritual Gifts
- Your Gift Will Make Room for You – Proverbs 18:16 Explained
- How I Discovered I Had a Gift at the Age of 40