Your skills and gifts

Article / Produced by TOW Project

The second consideration is your skills and gifts. The Bible says that God gives people gifts for accomplishing the work he wants them to do, and it names some of the gifts and skills that God imparts:

Isaiah 28:24-26

Do those who plow for sowing plow continually? Do they continually open and harrow their ground? When they have leveled its surface, do they not scatter dill, sow cummin, and plant wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border? For they are well instructed; their God teaches them.

Romans 12:6-8

We have gifts that differ,[1] according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

1 Corinthians 12:7-10

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

Johnny Cash on Gifts

As the last two passages show, when Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit, he is usually referring to their use in the church. But if all work done by Christians is done for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), then we can infer that the Spirit’s gifts are also given for use in the workplace. Gifts and skills therefore provide an element of guidance for discerning God’s guidance.

Gifts Assessment Tools

Gifts assessment tools can be very helpful for discerning your gifts and exploring how they relate to various types of work. The most rigorous, statistically-verified tools are typically available through professional counselors and institutions because they require qualified interpretation.  Among these are the Strong Interest Inventory,  Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,  California Psychological Inventory,  Work-Life Values Checklist, and the PDINH: Global Personality Inventory (developed on a truly global basis).  While these are not explicitly Christian in their language, they can, with a skilled, Christian interpreter become starting points for exploring God's gifts and his guidance to work. There are also explicitly Christian tools with a conscious spiritual and theological foundation. SIMA (the System for Identifying Motivated Abilities) and MAP (Motivated Abilities Pattern) are two such that require professional interpretation.

Some tools with a Christian undergirding can be used without professional interpretation, such as What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (published annually) and Live Your Calling:  A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission In Life, by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck. While these  can be self-administered,  it is best to use them with a trained vocational and career counselor and, ideally, within the context of a Christian church of other community. Christian career counselors can be found in most urban areas, in almost every Christian college and university setting, and in some individual churches.

A number of tools have been developed to help people discern their gifts and make use of them in workplace settings (see “For further exploration”). However, it is easy to pay too much attention to your skills and gifts. The present generation of westerners is the most gift-analyzed in human history, yet this penchant for analysis can lead to self-absorption, crowding out attention to the needs of the world. These passages say that God gives gifts for the common good, not personal satisfaction. Besides, in many cases, God gives his gifts only after you take the job in which you’ll need them. Paying too much attention to the gifts you already have can keep you from receiving the gifts God wants to give you.

Nonetheless, the gifts you already have may give you some indication about how to best meet the needs of the world. It would be narcissistic to declare that God has called you to be the world’s greatest pianist, and then expect him to download the necessary talent into you after years of mediocre piano playing and lukewarm practicing. Career guidance via skills and gifts is a difficult balancing act, which is why it must be sought in the midst of relationship with God and fellow Christians.

Here again, we must not become focused on work to the exclusion of the rest of life. God also gives gifts for our family life, friendships, recreation, volunteering and the whole breadth of life’s activities.

This verse (Romans 12:6), by the way, was the inspiration for and source of the title under which the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator was published, and there can be no doubt that many in the world at large regard God’s gifts to be an essential element of professional calling. See Isabel Myers, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type (Palo Alto, CA: CPP Books, 1993).



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