In Part I of this series, I shared some thoughts about how we can devote our time to the Lord’s service by giving Him the first fruits of our day. Very closely related to this is the use of our talents to God’s glory. These two are closely intertwined. For most of us, it takes time to exercise our talents. As a writer, I can testify that writing a blog post or a book does not happen instantly. I have to set time apart to use my talents for God’s glory.
Many sermons on the topic of talents focus on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. (Since it is such a long passage, I will not include it in this post; you may click on the link to read it if you are not familiar with it.) The problem with such sermons is they usually focus on talents in the modern English sense (as skills and abilities) as opposed to the way the term was used in the New Testament: a talent was a large amount of money, not an ability. The parable most directly relates to how people use their money. Of course, the principles apply to all aspects of stewardship, but we can lose sight of that when we spend too much time on a wordplay generated by Greek-to-English translation.
Perhaps a better passage for consideration would be any of the passages about spiritual gifts in the Bible. Romans 12:4-8 is particularly appropriate:
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.
One of the great dangers for Christians is to focus too much on whether a skill is a spiritual gift or a natural talent. Some of the “gifts” mentioned above are supernatural spiritual endowments. Prophecy especially comes to mind in this case. Others, though, are abilities that we often see in unbelievers: people who have no relationship with Christ or interest in God can be quite skillful as teachers or leaders, and may have great eagerness to serve others or perform acts of mercy. While such secular skills can be used without any connection to God, they can be enhanced by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We can use any of our abilities in service to God.
Most Spirit-filled Christians acknowledge our need to share our spiritual gifts with the Body of Christ. God does not pour out His gifts upon us so that we can show off, brag, or feel like we are holier than other believers. God’s goal is not for us to see who can speak in tongues louder and longer than anybody else. God’s purpose in gifting us is so that we may build others up. Some of our gifts (e.g., speaking in tongues, prophecy, or healing) may be dramatic and supernatural. Others (like leadership, service, and acts of mercy) may seem mundane, even unspiritual, because even a heathen could do them (and, sometimes, we could even get paid pretty well in the marketplace). However, the church needs all of these gifts. Every Christian should want to discover his or her particular gifts and share them with the church. The Body of Christ can grow in numbers and strength through your abilities.
Even the natural abilities you had before dedicating your life to Christ are important in this regard. These talents are often needed in the church. As I write this article, I am using talents I discovered as a youth and honed at college, even before I became a believer. God did not miraculously pour out a “spiritual gift of writing and editing” on me one day. However, He molded me to be the person I am, so even those natural abilities come from Him. Since He gave those skills, I have had several opportunities to edit church newsletters and write articles to share the Gospel and build up believers around the world.
Yes, the Body of Christ needs writers and editors. It also needs musicians, janitors, bookkeepers, office workers, and others who can share talents they developed long before they came to know Jesus. Probably most of the work in the Kingdom of God relies on such “secular” abilities in one way or another.
Even gifts like teaching, preaching, or pastoral ministry often rely on such “secular” skills. A Bible teacher must know how to study, prepare a lesson, and then present it in a clear, cohesive way so that his or her audience understands. A preacher must have some level of public-speaking ability. A pastor is often called upon to use skills related to counseling.
We should bring not only our talents before the Lord, but our interests as well. Maybe you do not show any signs of having a gift of evangelism, but you think you would like to help share the Gospel with more people. That interest could be the beginning of something God is trying to stir up within you. He may want you to develop a gift of evangelism through practice and training.
I mentioned earlier that time and talents go together. A good way to check your relationship with God is to see how you are using your time and talents. Take a week to log how you spend your time. See how much of your time is used in different spheres. If you are working many more hours than your employer requires, but say you have no time for prayer or fellowship, there is a problem.
At the same time, consider your talents, skills, and abilities. How many of them are you using for God’s glory. Are you a talented musician, but are too busy to sing in the choir or play an instrument in the worship band?
Whatever your talents and abilities, find ways to use them within the Church and to glorify God. Do people tell you that you are really good at something? Find ways to use it for God’s glory. Are you interested in learning a skill? Work on that and find ways to develop the skill within the church. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).