What is the difference between a gift and a talent? Do not forget Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which is a completely different category. I once heard someone say that you can only have one talent at a time. What they should have said is you can only successfully use one talent at a time or one gift at a time. A person can be charming, well-educated, and be a dud. Let’s look at this deeper.
I watch Cooking shows because I am always looking for new ideas. Some of the ideas are weird, some are why didn’t I think to try that. Given that information, Bobby Flay, he is a gifted cook. But from watching him on the show, he is obnoxious and arrogant. He is not humble. But is he a talented father? Does he have other talents? I could not tell you. However he is clearly a gifted cook. But does that mean it is a gift of the Spirit.
Another point we constantly say pastors should be servant leaders. Does that confuse you? If I can only have one talent then how can I be a servant leader? A servant is supposed to help people yet at the same time be in charge? The idea that a person can have only one gift or one talent is extremely narrow vision. It is the same as placing a limit on God. Now Gifts from the Holy Spirit that is an entirely different matter. These are talents we can only receive through salvation and not everyone receives gifts from the Holy Spirit. Or do they? I am not sure. Why because I am not sure what my Gift from the Holy Spirit is. I can tell you about my talents. I am a talented cook, or at least for my family. I am a talented writer. I have a gift with languages; I can listen to a foreign language and pick it up rather quickly. I have a green thumb, but it fades out sometimes. I am compassionate, is that a gift or a talent? The negative point is I can sometimes do too much for others and then get frustrated because I do too much and forget to take care of myself. That is the thing with talents and things we call personalities there are negatives and positives.
Here is the big problem with thinking that a person can only have one talent. Here is my imaginary person. There is a dentist. She is gifted, but she is also a gifted mother and wife. She drinks too much sometimes. But she gives to the community. She devotes a certain percentage of her time to do pro-bono dental work. It is not advertised but occasionally she runs into a potential patient with a big need but little ability to pay. She considers each case individually evaluating several factors. The catch the client has to sign an agreement to not reveal that she did pro-bono work. Sometimes the drinking can get in the way but does that change her talents? No it only changes the fact that sometimes she is unable to utilize her gift.
This would apply to Gifts of the Spirit. If we do not utilize them they get weak. They are never lost but they are not always effective. Why because we do not use them. Take for example my gift with languages: I am out of practice and it while this gift is not lost, it will need to be exercised to be effective. (Matthew 25: 14-30)
What then are the gifts of the Spirit? Romans 12: 6-8, mentions these gifts: prophecy, teaching, serving, encouraging, giving and leading. 1 Corinthians 12 4-10 tells us that there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service and that the same Spirit distributes them, the same God at work. There is wisdom, speaking in tongues, translation, healing, and distinguishing between Spirits (good versus bad). 1 Peter 4:10 wraps it up very well we should use the gifts we have to God’s glory.
So what is the difference between a gift and a talent? A gift is a talent that you have developed or that comes naturally to you. Take for example, I have a gift to write, public speaking is a talent. I have the ability to speak publicly, but writing just seems to come to me whereas speaking does not. If I were to practice public speaking to a point where everyone was asking me to speak, then you would think that I was gifted when in fact, I am just good at writing words.
Each of us has many gifts or talents; it is how we use them that make most of them gifts of the Spirit. Obviously healing, prophecy, interpretation of prophecy, distinguishing Spirits, and true wisdom all come from God. However, the unsaved, those who have not accepted Christ into their hearts as the Messiah and Savior, can have some of these abilities as well. Given this I believe that Gifts of the Spirit are given to us by God to win souls for His Kingdom and when we use them for God’s glory and not our own, and then we are correctly using the Gifts of the Spirit. Otherwise, they are just talents or gifts.