Yesterday I started talking about how we view our innate characteristics, the things we were born with. In the church, it’s become popular to downplay our natural traits and build up what are considered to be our spiritual gifts.
Basically, the idea is this:
- The talents we have to use in the church are things that were given to us by the Spirit when we became Christians.
- These things, like speaking ability or worship leading skills, are seen as superior to things that are natural in us, specifically our gender. One is a spiritual gift; the other is an accident of birth.
I see several problems with this reasoning.
- It misunderstands spiritual gifts, failing to see them as ministries instead of talents. Basically, we’ve conflated natural talents and spiritual gifts.
- It stems out of neo-Platonic ideas that seek to separate the physical and the spiritual, disdaining all things physical.
- This reasoning leaves God out of the birth process, reducing it to animal reproduction.
God made us. Some of us He made with innate leadership skills; go to the nursery school playground, and you’ll see that these things are in us from very young. Some He made with speaking skills, others with enhanced sensitivity and compassion. There are introverts and extroverts. And, since this is the hot button these days, some are male and female. I don’t think gender is a choice; I think God created us a specific way. None of us are superior to the others, but all of us different, according to the design of a loving God.
When we become Christians, God uses who we are in new ways, for His glory. Peter was a spokesman and a leader before receiving the Spirit. He was a spokesman and a leader after receiving the Spirit, but his ministry was channeled and led by the Spirit. Paul was an well-educated influencer before becoming a Christian; after becoming a Christian, Paul allowed the Spirit to use him in a ministry to the Gentiles. According to Paul, that was a gift from God (Romans 15:15-16)
We are who we are because God made us to be just who we are. There is no accident of birth involved. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by a loving God. That God has destined us for good works, done through His Spirit, by the ministries He gives us by His grace.