I had never necessarily thought of Jesus as talented before sitting down to write this. He’s God. Isn’t God talented at, well, everything? It doesn’t seem like a descriptor that needs to be attached to God—it kind of goes without saying Although, looking back through the gospels, we could find some examples. He was good at preaching, healing people, answering the question people were really asking, telling parables, miracles…pretty much everything he did.
So, we could spend time looking at Jesus’ natural abilities that are different than most of ours (and probably end up feeling like there’s no way we could ever be like Jesus), or we could look at how he used those abilities and see what we can learn from that. Why?
Talents aren’t useful until they’re used to impact others in some way.
Every talent that Jesus had, everything that he did, went towards His one audacious goal. During his last meal with His disciples, He prays to the Father: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17). In other words, His goal was to glorify God, and He did that by completing what God had given Him to do, in the way God asked Him to do it.
Jesus used His talents, His natural gifts and abilities, to change the world around Him. Many of His actions had a deeper meaning. For example, healing someone not only freed that person physically, but gave them a new life. When He healed a leper, not only was the body made whole, but now that person could go back to life with his friends and family; He was no longer an outcast.
When Jesus taught, He wasn’t just explaining the law or telling people how to be more righteous. He was offering them freedom and a relationship with God if they believed in Him. He used His skills in speaking to teach, encourage, challenge, heal, and give people the choice of whether or not they wanted to be a part of the mission.
But Jesus didn’t stop there—He taught and trained his followers so that they could continue the work. In the same prayer that He prayed earlier about glorifying the Father, He also prays for His followers: “for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (v. 9-10) And later, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (v. 18) He gave His gifts away in the form of Himself. To us. So that as we received Him, we would in turn be changed and glorify Him.
In order for this to happen though, we need to have confidence in the gifts that He has given us. Sometimes it’s easy to limit our gifts and talents to a list that we choose from, a test that tells us where we seem to fit, where society tells us we should be, or a specific defined skill set. But this seems to breed uncertainty over whether those are really one’s gifts and how much they need to develop and build to really be effective in using them.
What if we broadened our definition of talents to be more than our skills—what if they involve how we interact with others and the resources we have? What if learning to use our talents can simply mean learning to be confident in who we are in Christ and living in that confidence on a daily basis?