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Monday, May 6, 2013

A (Controversial) Perspective on Using Your Talents for God

I believe in using my talents for God's service.  This is a common theme in a lot of today's church discourse, and I don't disagree with that.  However, I'm going to say something controversial, here.  Often times, the church is wrong about what individual Christians should be doing in God's service.

Obviously, it is not wrong to try to help people or be charitable.  It is good to do so.  We hear genuine needs every day, and we should care. We are heartless if we don't.

Still, there is a cookie-cutter mentality that has lapped over into the Christian world that has no place among us.

To begin with, there are people who have been told that they should help out at the soup kitchen, or build houses for people, or contribute large sums to their local charities, or go out as missionaries to the far corners of the world.  Unfortunately, they are the kind who can burn boiling water or who can't talk to strangers; they are flabby or uncoordinated, causing them to get hurt when they try to lift a hammer or a heavy board; they are barely middle class themselves, so they don't have much to contribute financially each month; and they are frightened and unequipped for the mission field.  Should they feel guilty?  Are they bad Christians because they are bad at all the typical "Christian" things to do?

I don't believe so.  I know there are readers who will say, "Don't make excuses," and I'm not intending to.  I am just saying that to make my first point: Everyone is talented at something, but not everyone is talented at everything; therefore, everyone should use their talents for God, but since everyone's talents are so varied, they should not all be doing the same things.

Rather than feeling guilty on some level for their failure to measure up to other people's abilities, Christians out there should be considering how their own God-given abilities could best be used.  The Bible compares a church congregation to a body, where each person works as a part, keeping the whole body healthy, and with each part being necessary and placed there for a reason (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27).  Perhaps there are talented individuals out there who have not yet realized that they, too are necessary, even though they haven't found their "niche" to serve quite yet.  They may not realize that they are created by God for a purpose,  perhaps to put "Christian engineering" or "Christian salesman" or "Christian deliveryman" on the map as a new way to serve God while showing His love to our fellow man--doing jobs that no one else could do as effectively.  Maybe they are the only ones in the whole world who can do the job.  They will never know, if they keep comparing themselves to others.

That brings me to another point I wanted to make: Christians shouldn't use the oddness or obscurity of their talents as an excuse to downplay them or refuse to use them.  A person's penchant for armpit orchestra could break the ice with a few laughs, opening doors to share his or her testimony with an audience; a talent for origami could help cheer up an elderly person or a sick child in the hospital; life experience as a parent could help a Christian man or woman mentor a struggling single mom at church or a young man who is trying to get his life back on track.  God can use any talent, since He made every person and saw in advance what each could do (Ephesians 2: 10), but God cannot use a talent if the talent holder knows better than Him what other people need.

Bloom Where God Plants You...
This leads into my last point: Where Christians are is where God can use them best.  Take Christian students, for instance. While they can reach out to the homeless in their towns, they might be best suited to reach out to their fellow students.  The workers at the local shelters cannot attend classes and live in the dorms, eat at the school cafeterias, or gather at places where the other students hang out.  If all of the Christian students feel they can only serve by working at the shelter, there may be thousands of young people who don't benefit from the help God sent Christian students to do on campus. God has placed each person where they are, for a purpose they alone may be able to fulfill (Esther 4: 14), so when the time comes, they had better be there to minister to the need that is there.

I'm sure there is more to be said on this subject, and I invite readers to add their comments to the discussion.  How best would you advise Christians to use their talents for God? Are there any more Scriptural guidelines I have failed to mention?