Yesterday, I ended the post with the categories of spiritual gifts recognized throughout the Bible. I firmly believe that all people – whether they believe scripture or not – are born with at least one, if not more, of these gifts. Some people discover their gifts early in life. Others find them much later. Some people never try to discover or use their gift. I believe that those who actively seek out their God-given gifts and pursue their gifts are the most fulfilled in their work, whatever they choose to do. It is these people who absolutely love their vocations, as opposed to the 85% who hate their jobs.
Below are the spiritual gifts in the old & new testaments, and a simple explanation of what they might look like in some profession.
In scriptural terms, the gift of prophecy was the God-given ability to speak the future as a messenger of God. A prophet was a prophet only if everything that he or she said actually happened. If one has the gift of prophecy, one has the ability to see things as they will be, rather than seeing things as they are today. In other words, these are the visionaries. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and others quickly come to mind. Not that they can predict the exact events of the future, but that they have the gift of vision into the future and the ability to inspire others to pursue that vision. Those with vision often make the best leaders, but they also require help with details.
This one is easy, and MLK put it best: “Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve.” But not everyone has this gift. My wife does. She sees need long before anyone else, and she acts to meet that need, no matter how big or small. She is delighted when she is able to serve others. Serving gives her energy, even when she’s exhausted from caring for her family, friends, and community. Serving is indeed her spiritual gift; however, she is not good at casting a vision or teaching. Serving often means putting your own needs second to those of others, but those people who serve don’t see that as a negative. In fact, it brings them great joy.
We say glibly that our teachers are gifts, but indeed the good teachers among us have the gift of being able to explain something so that their audience just gets it. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it yourself.” Really great teachers have the ability to explain complex things simply. I’ve found that the very best sales professionals often have this gift, usually in combination with other personality traits that make them unafraid to make calls, be politely persistent, and ask for the sale. That said, those who teach have an enormous obligation and responsibility to teach the truth, which means they have to seek, know, and understand their subject matter before they teach it.
Your best manager has the gift of exhortation. I once worked with a very talented software engineer who had this gift. She didn’t know it. Our boss saw it, and he made her the engineering manager. She thrived in the role. Her employees loved her management style, and consequently did great things under her leadership. She is one of those people who could demand that you get something done that is well out of your reach and ability, and yet you’d thank her for demanding that you do it. It truly was amazing to see her use this gift that she did not know she had until our boss put her in the right role.
The gift of giving is an interesting gift because it has a requirement: one has to have something to give. But we all have something. Too often, we see giving as financial in nature. That’s only part of it. We all have time, talent, and treasure (money) to some degree. The gift of giving means that you get your energy from giving of your time, talents, or treasures, or all three!
In fact, there is very clear science behind this gift of giving that can help us all, whether we have the gift of not. I’ll explore that in a subsequent post. We can all give, but some people have the gift of giving, meaning it comes naturally, and it gives that person great joy. Also, those with the gift of giving honestly have no expectations of receiving anything in return. In fact, they often really struggle with receiving recognition or gifts in return for their generosity.
Some say leaders are born. Others say leaders are made. I say both. You can’t turn someone into a leader if they don’t possess that gift. You can put someone in a leadership position, but unless they have the gift of leadership, they will struggle, if not fail, in that role. Most of the time, leaders are seen early on in life in sports, academics, friend groups, early jobs, and in their families.
A friend of mine from high school is a great leader. He always has been, despite having what most would call a really messed up childhood. From his first job through today, he was always a leader. His peers always looked to him for leadership, and he always delivered. He was always more mature and able to handle pressure situations better than the rest of us. We all knew he would be a successful leader as an adult, and he is definitely that today.
You know that person who just always seems to know when you need to talk, when you’re hurting, when you’re going through some of life’s worst stuff? That person has the gift of mercy. This gift is similar to the gift of service; however, it is also very different. The person with the gift of mercy isn’t always the one getting stuff done for other people. In fact, sometimes the person giving out the mercy is frowned upon by the doers for not doing anything.
One of the pastors at our church described it best for me. He calls it “the ministry of being there.” When everyone is searching for something great to say, struggling for anything to say, or dropping useless platitudes that are all too obvious, the merciful person is simply there. They never say a word. We all think “Nurses!” and many of them have this gift. It’s almost a requirement for the job. But one does not have to be a nurse because one has the gift of mercy.
Mercy also encompasses empathy, and empathy is a powerful tool in any position.
What is your gift?
We are all given gifts to be utilized through our work, our families, our friends, and our communities. Have you sought out your gift, or do you already know and use it? No matter what you do or what you believe, it is wise to seek out your gifts. Knowing, understanding, and using our gifts is the only way to find actual satisfaction and fulfillment in our work, whatever we do.
If you are a leader, it is essential that you learn and understand the gifts of those you lead, so, like my old boss, you can put people in a role where they will thrive.