Spiritual Gifts vs. Talents

This past Sunday in worship we explored the difference between “talents” and “gifts.” Sometimes we focus on our talents (what I’m good at) or passions (what we enjoy), and we forget to see how God has specially gifted us as members of the Body of Christ.

For Christians, talents are great—for example, I love listening to Nicole Aldrich’s musical talent! And talents are merely the pipes through which a Holy Spirit gift flows. For example, Nicole’s spiritual gift is exhortation, meaning that she encourages others to bring out their best selves. This is why she primarily understands herself as a conductor and teacher, rather than a soloist.

If you are interested in discovering your spiritual gifts, see more and find a spiritual gifts inventory at UUMC's Spiritual Gifts page.  (Paper copies of the inventories are available in the sanctuary, or you can contact me.)

1. Talents are Commodified and Measured. Gifts show the irrelevance of the scale.

Our Spiritual Gifts are free—that’s the definition of a gift! And while we tend to think what we can get for free is worthless—it’s “cheap” and has “no value”—gifts of God are never worthless, even as they are free and abundant.

2. Scarcity vs. Enough

“Talent” depends on scarcity. A talent scout looks at what is already there, claiming it for one company or program. The scarcity mindset results in competition, anxiety, and dejection ("Oh, I don't have that talent. Oh, I'm not good enough for that”).

What would happen if we were all giftedness scouts – calling out the possibility in others, proclaiming it all through God's eyes? A focus on giftedness asks, "What is God doing and how can we participate? How can we together use our gifts to point to God’s mercy, love and grace?”

God has given us everything we need—everything our communities need.

3. While some talents can serve no purpose, gifts remind us what really matters.

God's spiritual gifts are always about the community.

4. Individuals vs. Community

John McKnight claims: “Community …is about creating ways for people to give their gifts… I've hardly ever found anybody who if they think they have a gift isn't willing to give it. But they don't… [And] why not? …[We must set] out the circle within which giving becomes expected, joyful, hopeful, useful."  Watch this video on Diversity of Gifts to see more.

Spiritual gifts move us from (talent-based) competition to Holy Spirit collaboration.

I hope that each one of us can discover our spiritual gifts in the coming weeks. We all have them—they are abundant and valued and for a purpose!

Rev. Diane

You can listen to Rev. Diane's full sermon on this topic and the first sermon in this Spiritual Gifts series at our Sermon Podcasts page.