If you’ve sat in church for any amount of time, you’ve very likely heard a sermon about each person’s individual talents. Typically, it consists of the 1 Corinthians passage about the body of Christ and how all members are different for specific reasons. Each member serves the body as a whole and contributes to the larger function of the body. Something gets left out of this though.
In Romans 12, Paul says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Because the passage in 1 Corinthians follows Paul’s explanation of spiritual gifts, we often look at the whole “one body, many members” through the lens of spiritual gifts. Taking a look at Romans, however, we can see that it goes beyond spiritual gifts. If you look at the list that Paul gives at the end of his statement, you may notice that only one of those is what would be considered a spiritual gift: prophecy. Everything else—service, teaching, encouraging, generosity, leadership, and mercy—are all things that are not inherently “spiritual” gifts. The are God-given talents that we are all born with. They are natural abilities. Things that you don’t have to be a believer to have. They aren’t limited to spiritual leaders. They aren’t limited to those with a strong connection to God. They apply to everyone.
What does that mean for us?
It means everything.
Take a look at two guys from the Old Testament you probably have never heard of, Bezalel and Oholiab. They show up in Exodus 31 and 35. In these chapters, God is telling Moses to build all of the worship items that will go with them as they make their journey of freedom from Egypt: the tent of meeting, the ark of the Covenant, tables, utensils, lamp stands. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be made, and God tells Moses to find this guy Bezalel. God describes Bezalel as one who he has filled with the Spirit of God along with a list of other talents. Ability, intelligence, craftsmanship, artistic design, metalworking, masonry, carpentry, weaving, embroidery. That is quite a list of skills, and they’re all basic, everyday, natural skills. What sets Bezalel apart, however, is that first phrase “filled with the Spirit of God”.
It’s not about the inherent “holiness” of a talent or skill, but how it is used that matters. In this case, it’s a spiritual thing because Bezalel is building the tabernacle to be used for worship, but it doesn’t always have to be something church specific. Bezalel could have just as easily gone out and made a living and a fortune by being the best craftsman in the area and price-gouging his way to the top, but he didn’t. He knew where his skill came from, and he used those skills to glorify God in the best ways he could. He gave back. He didn’t horde it all for himself.
The problem is natural skill is that we don’t often realize that we have been gifted in a certain area. Because these things come easy to us, and often have our entire life, we don’t think of them as anything special. We may assume that everyone else can do something just as easily as we can. This is how I was with writing for a long time.
Writing construction was never a problem for me growing up. I remember taking a composition class when I was a junior in high school, and it was incredibly easy. For me, grammar and syntax was like a puzzle, and all I had to do was fit all the pieces together. I love diagramming sentences (yeah, I said that) because I could see how all the elements of language fit together to work as a single, cohesive unit. This continued into college when I learned style from one of the best English professors ever. Writing papers was never an issue for me, so of course I procrastinated on them. I could sit down and knock out a 10-page paper in a few hours the night before it was due and still make a good grade on it. I didn’t realize until one my friends informed me during a freak out session on a paper he had procrastinated on that not anyone could spit out a 10-page paper in a span of hours. I had always assumed grammar and writing made the same sense to everyone else as it did to me.
The same is true in so many other realms that are not “spiritual”. Computers, mechanics, finances, science, music, dance, athletics. These are all areas of giftedness and talent that people have. These are some of the more obvious talents. Others are not as obvious, but still every bit as much of a talents as the others. Things like encouragement, being outgoing, thoughtfulness, being organized, attention to detail, planning, not stressing. These are talents. If you’re asking something like, “How is being outgoing a talent? All you is go up to someone and talk to them?” Well, my friend, that’s a skill that you have because I surely don’t have it.
We are all good at something. Don’t waste what you have. Find it. Develop it. Use it. Give back in any way you can. Find a way to spend time doing what you’re good at, especially if it’s not your career. It makes the rough times more bearable. I’ve noticed a huge difference in days I get up and write before I do anything else. There’s a feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing that I’ve accomplished something I love.