In church we like to talk a lot about spiritual gifts. All kinds of spiritual gift inventories are available online, but I remember taking one with a paper booklet and answer sheet when I was in the youth group in the 90s. Pastors often encourage us to use these gifts for the good of the church and the kingdom of God, as we should. When we use our spiritual gifts we help to build up and strengthen the body of Christ, and we help fulfill our role in that body by doing the things that we are well-equipped to do.
But, God also gifts us with talents. Our talents can help us to carry out our spiritual gifts, but they are different from spiritual gifts in most cases. For instance, you may have a talent for golf. Golf isn’t a spiritual gift, but playing golf with a friend who is feeling down or lonely can help you use your gift of encouragement. Maybe you have a real talent for cooking, baking, or decorating. While none of these are spiritual gifts, they can help you exercise a gift of hospitality.
The question is: are you wasting your talent?
God gives us talent so that we can use it to bring glory to His name. There are a million different ways that this can be accomplished, but none of those ways will work if you neglect your talent. If you become lazy or apathetic about the abilities that God has gifted you with, then your talent, meant for His glory, is going to waste. Maybe you have a gift for writing, but writing is hard, so you don’t do it much anymore. Maybe you are a singer, but you don’t get as many solos as you would like so you would rather not sing. Maybe you are an organizer but someone criticized the way you did something once, so you quit trying to use your ability. Maybe you feel underappreciated or underachieving, so you mostly just leave your talent on the shelf. You are wasting what God has given you.
Maybe you don’t believe your talent is useful in bringing glory to Christ. Remember the story of a little seamstress in Joppa? (Acts 9) Tabitha was a widow who knew how to sew. It’s not like that was a rare talent in her day. Every woman knew how to sew. But, Tabitha used her ability to provide clothing for widows and orphans all over her town. She had a well-developed ministry that brought glory to the Lord just because she had a vision for how she could use what she was good at to minister to those in need. She was so influential in her community through her sewing ministry that when she died her mourning friends sent word to Peter, and he came and raised her from the dead. After that happened, the Bible says that many came to know Christ, all because a little widow chose to use her talent.
There is no such thing as an insufficient gift from God. Whatever your talent, there are ways to use it to bring glory to Christ. Just ask the jump rope champion that travels all over the world teaching kids about Christ while he does jump rope tricks. Ask the flower-arranging employee in the craft store who told me she creates beautiful things because beauty brings glory to God. Ask the nursery worker who has an amazing ability to calm down the fussiest babies so that their mamas can worship the Creator of the Universe.
Maybe you are using your talent, but you are using it in ways that don’t bring glory to Jesus. You may have the “gift of gab” and make friends easily, but if you are using your words to gossip or tear others down, you’re wasting your talent. If you are great at making and managing money but you are stingy with what you have, then you are wasting your talent. If you have a rare ability to think deeply and operate on a high intellectual plane, yet you never dwell on God’s word and who He really is, then you are wasting the brain power that God has given you.
We all have so much more to offer to the kingdom. Let’s not neglect the opportunity that we have to use what God has given us. We should be working to develop our talents, to improve and be even better equipped to use our abilities for His glory and for the church’s good. Erma Bombeck wrote: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” What if we all made this our goal? No more talent lying dormant in the Christian’s life–just a joyful exercising of the good gifts and abilities that God has blessed us with. Even a meager talent can have an eternal impact when Christ is involved. We have no way of knowing what He will do through us if only we have willing hearts and open hands, giving all that He has given us back to Him.