As a Christian, we receive different kinds of spiritual gifts and also talents. For example, we may have a good athletic ability to play basketball like what Michael Jordan has or act like Natalie Portman or maybe sing like Michael Jackson, which are talents that God has given them.
Sometimes, we may have extraordinary wisdom that we impart to other people about God and sometimes we have good leadership in the Church, which are spiritual gifts God has given to us after receiving His salvation.
But what is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift? It sounds very much alike, but actually they are very different. Let us compare both blessings from God and contrast to see the difference between “natural talent” and “spiritual gifts.” We shall look into Bible readings to define what a spiritual gift is to further support the comparison.
1. Spiritual Gifts Are Received While Talents Are Inherited
One of the differences between a spiritual gift and a talent is that spiritual gifts are received while natural talents are inherited. This means that a person inherits a talent from their mother or father, therefore having a genetic component.
For example, a man inherits his father’s talent in mathematics and that is why he also becomes a good mathematician. Another example is when a woman inherits her mother’s singing voice and that is why she is good at singing. These are natural talents that are passed down from generation to generation in the family.
Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are received by a person once they have received salvation. It is given from the hands of the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father. We are reminded by this in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11,
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gift of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kind of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
2. Spiritual Gifts Are Acquired by Only the Saved While Talents Are Acquired by Both the Saved and Unsaved
The second difference of a spiritual gift and a natural talent is that natural talents are acquired by both the saved and the unsaved while spiritual talents are acquired only by those who receive salvation. Anyone with a family that has a talent for something can acquire such talent.
On the other hand, the Spirit of God is the only source for spiritual gifts and without accepting Jesus Christ in true salvation, a person cannot receive spiritual gifts. We are reminded by this in Ephesians 4:10-12,
He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Spiritual gifts are as follows: Wisdom of the Word, knowledge of the Word, gifts of healing/
performing miracles, speaking, and the interpretation of tongues, apostleship, evangelism, and pastoral care. These are just some of the spiritual gifts that a person can receive once they follow Christ.
3. Spiritual Gifts Are Matured and Surprising While Talents Are Developed and Expected
Another difference between a spiritual gift and a natural talent is that natural talent can be developed with continuous practice while a spiritual gift cannot and is given with a surprise.
Spiritual gifts are always unexpected and when a person receives it, they are already good at it right away even if they have not trained for it. That is how powerful the Holy Spirit is in giving spiritual gifts. The Spirit gives spiritual blessings to the one who is mature enough to receive it. In Ephesians 4:14-16, it is written,
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supply, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Because spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, it is understood that it is used for the common good and for the work of the Church. On the other hand, natural talents can be used for personal achievements alone and not solely for the Church of Christ.
4. Both Spiritual Gifts and Talents Come from God
Both spiritual gifts and natural talents are God-given. This means that these are blessings that our Lord God has imparted in us. God is our Creator and it is through Him that we receive different abilities.
We are reminded by this in Nehemiah 9:6, “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You.” And in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Because everything that we have is from God, we should exalt Him and not lean on our own understanding, rather, to Him. Romans 12:3-8 states that,
For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
What Does This Mean?
The difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents is very obvious. Spiritual gifts are received, are given only to those who are saved and are given in surprise and maturity, and is used solely for the command of the Church, while natural talents are inherited, can be received by those who are not saved as well, and can be used even for selfish and personal gains.
Nonetheless, despite the major difference, there is one similarity between the two and that is the fact that both are blessings from God, the Creator of all things.