There has been some discussion on the difference between a natural talent and a spiritual gift. For some of the gifts the distinction is not clear. We need to remember, all the abilities we have do come from God in some way or another. Traditionally, when thinking about natural abilities we assume these come genetically, through our parents. Many great engineers, artists, teachers, etc. have come from families who have excelled in these areas. On the other hand, a spiritual gift comes from God, independent of heritage or parentage. Taking this further, a natural talent has been there from the beginning but a spiritual gift manifests itself after conversion.
A person (regardless of his belief in God or in Christ) is given a natural talent as a result of a combination of genetics (some have natural ability in music, art, or mathematics) and surroundings (growing up in a musical family will aid one in developing a talent for music), or because God desired to endow certain individuals with certain talents (for example, Bazeleel in Exodus 31:1-6). Spiritual gifts are given to all believers by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3, 6) at the time they place their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. At that moment, the Holy Spirit gives to the new believer the spiritual gift(s) He desires the believer to have (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Another way natural talents can be confused with spiritual gifts is the fact that both must be discovered, cultivated and practiced in order to grow and mature in them. Likewise, whether we have a natural talent of a spiritual gift; we need to use it for the benefit of others. Natural talents should be used for the benefit of all mankind and spiritual gifts for the building up of the church. “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial” ( 1 Corinthians 12:7)
God has given you a spiritual gift, and it is not the same as a natural ability. That natural talent, rightly sanctified for God’s use, often points toward the identity of your spiritual gift. But you should find out the special gift God has given you while you’re serving as diligently as you can without that definite information. In fact, in addition to the study of Scripture, the best way to discover and confirm which spiritual gift is yours is through serving. Donald Whitney
As Christian, we ought to know the difference. We ought to know how talents and gifts work. We recognize that natural talents and predispositions are passed down to us and nurtured in our family. And we expect that we can improve our talents if we work hard and practice. But we also know that spiritual gifts come from a supernatural source; they surprise us. We find ourselves doing things that we never expected, or we find ourselves doing what we used to do with unexpected effectiveness. God is now with us, empowering us to do and be more than we ever thought we could do or be. We find ourselves engaged in His work instead of just our own, and our efforts are no longer all about us; they are all about Him. As Christians, we ought to know the difference between living as a ‘natural man’ and living as a ‘spiritual man’, and we ought to know the important difference between ‘natural talent’ and ‘spiritual giftedness’.
To summarize the differences between spiritual gifts and talents: 1) A talent is the result of genetics and/or training, while a spiritual gift is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. 2) A talent can be possessed by anyone, Christian or non-Christian, while spiritual gifts are only possessed by Christians. 3) While both talents and spiritual gifts should be used for God’s glory and to minister to others, spiritual gifts are focused on these tasks, while talents can be used entirely for non-spiritual purposes.