The Mistaken Identity of Spiritual Gifts

by Pastor Keith Knight

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Those of us who are parents will have wonderful opportunities to help our kids understand the importance of life in the Christian Community, and encourage them to value how God unites people for the glory of His name.

A big part of Christian community is understanding that upon conversion, God gives each believer a measure of His Holy Spirit, and a particular spiritual gifting that is to be used for the building up of other believers to the glory of God. But I have found that there is much confusion among parents and students about spiritual gifts, and it can often lead to a spiritual arrogance, something which Paul warns about in the letters to the church at Rome and Corinth. As we help our kids understand spiritual gifts, let’s make these things clear to them:

  1. Spiritual Gifts are NOT natural abilities. – For years I have seen young people misunderstand this. Being athletic is NOT a spiritual gift. Can young people use athletics as a means to use their spiritual gift for God’s glory? Yes. But over time, no matter how much someone were to train, physical abilities will degenerate. But we are encouraged in God’s Word that older saints are still part of the effective body of Christ. Spiritual Gifts are just that – Spiritual. It is the same with intellectual, performance, etc. Don’t make the mistake of encouraging your child’s natural abilities above their spiritual gift.
  2. Spiritual Gifts are meant to cultivate humility – It is painful to watch a group of believers elevate a particular gifting above all others. It is more painful to watch someone utilize a gifting to influence others for their own gain. There’s a story of Simon the sorcerer asking Peter if he could ‘buy’ the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Peter flipped out on him. Don’t use spiritual gifts as an ‘incentive’ for our kids to follow Jesus. Spiritual gifts aren’t about ‘what God can do to make us great.’ Spiritual gifts are about how God blesses us to serve others and make His name great.
  3. Spiritual Gifts must be received by faith – I have been part of many many ‘spiritual gifts inventories’ through the years, and have led students through them as well, and it can be a dangerous thing. Paul tells the Romans that these gifts are given in conjunction with a ‘measure of faith.’ This really means that not only the gift, but the understanding of the gift, is given by the Holy Spirit. I can’t authoritatively tell someone what their gift is. If we want our kids to grow in their understanding of Spiritual Gifts, and how God wants to use them, we must encourage THEIR FAITH. We must help them see that spiritual blessings are outflow of a dynamic relationship with Christ, and that it doesn’t matter if they are serving, if they aren’t serving by abiding in Christ. Apart from living in the Spirit, any gifts are meaningless. (Paul tells us this too.)
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