Are Christians supposed to be doing business in the marketplace with natural abilities or with spiritual gifts? Should it be a combination? Should it be mostly one or the other? Is there even a distinction between natural abilities and spiritual gifts?
Most of us would agree that non-Christians cannot operate with the “gift of healing” or the “gift of miracles,” which are spiritual gifts that the Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12.
At the same time, few of us would say that non-Christians cannot operate with the “gift of administration” or the “gift of leadership,” which are also listed as spiritual gifts in the Bible. Many of the Fortune 500 companies are run by non-Christians that possess extraordinary administrative and leadership abilities.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1). What did Paul mean by “spiritual gift”?
I will try to move us closer to working definition of spiritual gifts by explaining four things that they are NOT.
1 – Spiritual gifts are NOT natural aptitudes, strengths, or abilities.
Have you noticed that most of today’s professional growth coaching focuses on helping people to identify their “strengths” rather than their “gifts”? Why is the term “strength” preferred over the term “gift”? I believe it is because most of our society would prefer to remain unaccountable to the Giver for how they use their God-given abilities.
Yes, we might be using “strengths” and “gifts” interchangeably, but this vocabulary shift is worth noting—especially considering that society has a nasty habit of using vocabulary changes to distort the truth.
The world teaches us to think of our natural abilities as our “competitive advantage,” “competitive edge,” etc. The potency of a strength is always relative. No matter how strong I might think my strength is, there remain countless others whose version of that strength is stronger than mine. From God’s perspective, our “strengths” aren’t very strong at all.
An ability only becomes a truly strong when it is surrendered to the Holy Spirit. In turn, the Holy Spirit gives that ability to the Church as a supernaturally-empowered, spiritual gift. Until then, it remains a weakness, unable to produce anything of eternal value.
The Bible teaches God’s people to think of our abilities as “grace gifts” from God for the building up of the Church—not merely as strengths that are common to all people, believers and unbelievers alike.
2 – Spiritual gifts are NOT character traits or spiritual fruits.
Spiritual gifts are received from the Holy Spirit. These gifts include administration, leadership, teaching, discernment, and many others that Christians bring to the marketplace each day.
Unlike spiritual gifts, spiritual fruit is cultivated in partnership with the Holy Spirit. This “fruit” is the Christian character that each of us must develop over time. When we speak of the Christian business ethics and values that we should all be bringing to the marketplace each day, we are speaking in terms of spiritual fruit, not spiritual gifts. The Bible says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
God expects us to ask for spiritual gifts. He expects us to produce spiritual fruit through our partnership with the Holy Spirit.
Fruit is cultivated. Gifts are given.
3 – Spiritual gifts are NOT titles or positions in a local church.
A person may have a spiritual gift without an official title or position. Another person may have a title and position without the spiritual gift that is necessary for fulfilling that role.
A person’s spiritual gifts may result in that person receiving a specific title or position in the Church. Usually, this is only true in the local church.
In the “extended church” (that is, the title given by C. Peter Wagner to the Church in the marketplace), however, church structure is almost non-existent. As a result, Christians in the marketplace often do not understand their roles in the Church.
Although the Church usually only affirms spiritual gifts that are linked with a title in the local church (i.e. pastor, worship leader, greeter, etc.), the lack of a title in a local church does not lessen the potential impact of a spiritual gift whatsoever.
Approximately 85% of Christians work in a for-profit company. Because all of these born-again Christians have spiritual gifts, it follows that 85% of the Church’s spiritual gifts are intended to be used primarily in the marketplace.
4 – Spiritual gifts are NOT only for serving Christians.
This point should be fairly obvious, considering that one of the spiritual gifts is the “gift of evangelism,” a gift that, by definition, must operate among non-believers. Unfortunately, the Church has had a difficult time understanding that spiritual gifts are primarily intended for use among unbelievers in the marketplace—not only for helping out at church on Sunday.
Through His Holy Spirit, God has graciously given spiritual gifts to every born-again Christian for accomplishing the purpose of the Church, which is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). In other words, our spiritual gifts have been given by God to help the people influenced by our businesses—customers, clients, vendors, co-workers, bosses, board members, shareholders, etc.—to become more like Jesus Christ. According to the Great Commission, the goal is for entire nations to become like Jesus.
Discussion: How have you used your spiritual gifts in a business setting?