Spiritual Gifts and Natural Talents

Let’s start with a Bible trivia question. Who is the first person whom the Bible says was “filled with the Spirit?”

Did you say Jesus? John the Baptist? Did you go back to the Old Testament and say David, Moses, or Abraham?

All of those answers would be wrong.

The correct answer is “Bezalel.” You might be asking, “Beza-WHO?”

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: … they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you’” (Exodus 31:1–6, 11; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Bezalel,” by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

(Notice that Bezalel was a craftsman or carpenter. Jesus was a carpenter until He was about 30 years old and then preached for only three years. Feel free to ponder that in your free time.)

Many Christians think God draws a big distinction between the secular and the spiritual. We may be tempted to think that there are areas of our life that God is really concerned about and others that do not matter to Him. We think God is interested in what we do in church or how we study the Bible and pray. We can think of a few rules that we think God is really interested in enforcing, like whether we dance, drink alcohol, or listen to the “wrong” kinds of music.

However, we might be inclined to think there are other areas of our lives that do not matter to God. For many of us, one of those areas might be our jobs. It is easy to forget about the Lord while we are working. We immerse ourselves in our work, stop thinking about God for eight hours, and perhaps assume God is not paying as much attention to us.

The story of Bezalel changes that perspective. For the first time, the Bible says that God filled someone with the Spirit of God. In spite of that, Bezalel’s career was not what we usually think of when we hear that someone is filled with the Spirit. He was not a prophet. The Bible never quotes him. We do not know anything he said. He was not a king or ruler. He did not perform any miracles or heal anybody. In fact, we do not even know for certain if Bezalel ever felt the leading of the Holy Spirit. Maybe he never felt like God was telling him how to do anything. It is very possible that he spent his entire career simply relying on his skills and experience, even while building the tabernacle, not realizing that his best ideas had been implanted in his brain by God.

However, God saw things differently. Bezalel’s talents, experience, wisdom, and understanding were all gifts from God, instilled throughout the years. He had probably spent decades building and crafting ordinary everyday items. He probably developed his skills while working as a slave in Egypt before Moses led God’s people out. Even in such mundane circumstances, God was preparing him for important service.

Stained glass image of Mary and Jesus, working as a carpenter. Photo by Thomas Quine, via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

How can we follow in Bezalel’s footsteps?

First, remember that everything you have—including your talents—comes from God. He orchestrated your DNA and your life experiences to make you the person you are. Even if you do not feel like your gifts and talents are particularly “spiritual,” they still come from God.

Those talents should still be consecrated to the Lord’s work. The Kingdom of God needs different people with diverse talents serving in various ways. We will not effectively spread the Gospel relying only on pastors, musicians, and Sunday school teachers. Your skills and experiences have placed you in your current career. You can minister to people—co-workers, classmates, customers, etc.—whom your pastor will never meet.

Even within church, a variety of gifts are necessary. While pastors, teachers, and worship leaders get most of the attention, most churches have important behind-the-scenes servants whose talents are needed to ensure that the worship service runs smoothly: from the person who prepares the bulletin, to the janitor who cleans up after service, to the person who fixes anything that breaks in the building, to the hospitality team that provides coffee and bagels for post-worship fellowship time.

Whether you have spiritual gifts in a strict biblical sense (see 1 Corinthians 12:1–11, Romans 12:3–8, and Ephesians 4:11–16) or skills that could be used mostly outside the church, all of your talents can be consecrated to the Lord’s service.

I can see this in my own life. My strongest spiritual gifts are teaching, discernment of spirits, and word of wisdom. However, the clergy at my church often ask me to serve in areas which rely more on my administrative and organizational skills. While those are abilities I developed in the workplace, they have at times benefited the church and helped in spreading the Gospel.

You have such skills as well. See where your greatest talents lie. Use all of your abilities for God’s glory. Your talents come from God. Give them back to Him.

“Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What talents has God given you? How are you using them for His glory? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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