That is a very good question! Some people believe they are one and the same, but there is definitely a difference between them. In short, a TALENT is an ability that God gives to a person “when they are born” and in time their talent is developed by using it. There are literally hundreds of various natural talents; it could be the ability to sing, to play an instrument, to work with one’s hands to build or create things, to speak in public, to run a corporation, etc., etc. A GIFT, which is “spiritual in nature,” is also an ability given by God, but it is only given to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ when they are “born again” by the Spirit. This is confirmed by the following, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware….there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit….to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good….one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1st Corinthians 12:1, 4, 7, 11…NASB). Paul is speaking to those who had received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, as we see in verse 3, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible doesn’t give us lists of “natural talents” but we do have four lists of “spiritual gifts” recorded in the Bible. They are found in 1st Corinthians 12:8-10; 1st Corinthians 12:27-31; Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11. I would encourage you to meditate upon these passages. I believe these are only a sample of the spiritual gifts that are imparted to believers. It is important to note that ALL believers who make up the body of Christ have at least one spiritual gift and that these gifts are given for the good of the whole body, as we saw in 1st Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Perhaps it would be good to give an example to illustrate the difference between a talent and a gift. Let’s say one is born with a natural ability to teach students in a classroom. He most definitely loves the subject he is teaching and is able to teach it with passion and in simplicity, so that his students benefit from his knowledge and love for the subject. In time that same person learns, from the Bible, that he is a lost sinner in need of a savior and he then reads that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1st Timothy 1:15). He then discovers that all he has to do to be saved is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). The moment he believes he is BORN OF THE SPIRIT (see John 3:1-8) and the Holy Spirit endows him with a spiritual gift (as we saw in 1st Corinthians 12:1-7). What gift has he been given? Does the Spirit give him the “gift of teaching” (see 1st Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7 and Ephesians 4:11) since God had already given him the “natural talent to teach?” Not necessarily! I have known men who are excellent teachers in high schools and universities who do NOT have the spiritual gift of teaching. The gift of teaching will include 1) a love for reading and studying the Bible; 2) a knowledge of the scriptures and the ability to expound them; and 3) a love for other believers and a keen desire to see them “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2nd Peter 3:18). Not all believers will meet these criteria, but those who do have truly been blessed with the “spiritual gift of teaching.” It does NOT come naturally (as we saw in the case of a TALENT); it comes by the power of the Holy Spirit who, as we saw, “distributes to each one individually as He wills.” (330.1) (DO)