When is a "natural talent" a spiritual gift? That isn’t an easy question to answer. If you limit yourself to the Pauline lists, you quickly realize that you can’t offer an either/or answer to the question. Could they be natural talents with a supernatural add? Could they be transformed natural talents, where once they were natural but if they are used for sacred purposes we should consider them to be spiritual gifts? It is probably best not to make a sharp distinction between gifts and talents and recognize the mystery of the Spirit’s engagement with our lives. In the mystery of creation, we can recognize that what we call talents are in reality divine gifts of grace. We can use them for our own purposes, or in gratitude to the creator use them in the work of God’s kingdom. A gift’s usefulness to the community faith is rooted in our appreciation of the one who is the true source of all talents and abilities, the Creator.
The biblical discussions of creation witness to the mystery of human life. There is a strong sense that humanity is created for a relationship with God and gifted with abilities that relate to that calling. Hear the implications of the Psalmist’s affirmation of God’s attention to the details of our formation as individuals.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;you knit me together in my mother's womb.I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made(Ps. 139:13-14).
We do not have to take this passage in a deterministic or literalist manner to appreciate our calling by God to stand before God as people who are "fearfully and wonderfully made." This passage helps us affirm that each of us, no matter our backgrounds, skills, intelligence, social class, have something to offer to the world. Who we are and what we do does make a difference. No one else can do what I do like I do it and no one can do what you do quite like you do it. It’s not just a matter of talent; it’s also a matter of personality and temperament. Who we are is somewhat of a mystery, but the call to use our talents and abilities to create a community of faith that will witness to the love of our God, that is not a mystery.
Excerpted from Gifts of Love (unpublished mss.)