The Gifts of the Spirit

What’s the difference between a gift and a present?

This is the question that I’ve been asking myself, for the past several years, every time my birthday or the holidays roll around. It is the question that exasperates my loved ones as they try to give me gifts.

Here’s my own personal definition: presents are something that I have specifically requested. I would like this shirt at Macy’s. I would like that item on Amazon. When the designated gift-giving day rolls around, I get to enjoy the present that I chose.

On the other hand, gifts are a little different. A gift is something that has been carefully selected (or made) by a loved one who knows me well. They took into consideration my taste, my preferences, my interests and chose something unique, something that I will treasure. I don’t have any idea what the gift will be until the day that I open it and revel in the gift and the gift-giver.

I wonder if my personal definitions of gifts and presents could apply to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Part of the joy and wonder of the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst, is that the Spirit “decides who gets what and when.” (1 Corinthians 12:11, The Message) Part of the beauty of the gifts of the Spirit is that they can be revealed in the most surprising ways, by the most surprising people.

But have you ever received a gift that didn’t seem to fit you? Perhaps it’s the time you were given a gym membership for your birthday or a vacuum cleaner for Christmas and you thought to yourself, “What is this supposed to mean?” Most gifts are supposed to bring a sigh of recognition, that someone loves you and knows you well, and has gifted you with a gift that is just right. Yet, there are some gifts that are unsettling—to say the least.

Spiritual gifts can also have the same effect. Most of the time, I’m convinced that the Spirit’s gifts, are so inherent and natural to us that we could easily chalk them up to talents or being “born with it.” Yet, there are also people in our midst who have wrestled with their gifts, convinced that it doesn’t fit them, convinced that they “shouldn’t have that gift.”

I can’t help but think of my own call to preach and teach, and how, I believe this gift has been given by the Spirit and affirmed by my faith community. While preaching and teaching come very naturally to me, for a long time, I wrestled with this gift. Was this a gift that someone like me should have? Someone who is young and female?

I have come to see, though, that spiritual gifts are not given to us because of our gender, our race, our nationality, or our spiritual heritage. These spiritual gifts are given lovingly by the Spirit—the Spirit who decides what gifts are needed and who will bear these gifts forth. It is the Spirit who gives the gifts that do not always naturally reflect what we would expect to receive or what we might expect a spiritual gift to look like, but who has carefully chosen gifts for us in love.

The next time my birthday or a holiday rolls around, I will still probably ask for a present. My loved ones—who get frustrated with me in their attempts of gift giving—will probably ask me to choose a present. Yet in this, I want to open myself to the possibility of a gift and to revel and delight in the Gift-Giver.

Alyssa M. Foll is a chaplain for Adventist Health System. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

No Pauline thought had been more abused than the Gifts of the Spirit. The present linkage between televangelism and the presidency is the overwhelming prime example. Micah put it square–(To o justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly wth God) (teachable) . What a void in today’s market place. But Adventism faces an even greater challenge, To prefer Ellen White over the canon. I have just read 1John – what an indictment! TZ


Gal 5: 19-22
God replaces our natural tendencies with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control.
And over time we cultivate them into Habits.
Love – Affection for others.
Joy – Exuberance about life.
Peace – Serenity The acceptance of things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and receiving the Wisdom to know the difference.
Patience – A willingness to stick with things.
Kindness – A sense of compassion in the heart.
Goodness – A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and others.
Faithfulness – Involved in loyal commitments.
Gentleness – No needing to force my way in life.
Self-Control – Able to marshal and direct my energies wisely.

Kenn – If one is Cultivating the Habits of The Spirit — one HAS to DO a LOT of MOVING and DOING.


What is the difference between a natural talent, or a predisposition to do something good for someone else, and a “gift of the spirit?” When does a soprano solo in church transform from a talent to a gift of the spirit?


I’ve never seen a truly satisfying answer to these questions, Jim. Maybe we can be satisfied with viewing all natural talents as gifts from God, and that the intention or motivation to serve Christ with them is what reveals them as spiritual gifts, so to speak. Then again, a less than pure motive, even in preaching Christ, does not necessarily invalidate spiritual gifting, as Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians and Philippians.

With all that traveling in circles that I just did, maybe it would be good for us to admit that we just don’t fully know. At least I don’t…



Ah …
I 2 was already 2 jump (on the plural).
Not about life in the Spirit,
but of IT: where does IT make you move?
IT is making you move, right?

Christ is risen!

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Aren’t we forgetting that the Bible was not written in ENGLISH. The word “gift”, even in English, has a couple of meanings. The “gift of the Spirit” is not one wrapped and bowed. Strong defines it as “charisma”. It’s a “gift” in the sense of being gifted - having an attribute, as in being gifted in music or painting etc. In this case - being gifted in temperament or personality - as being imbued by the Spirit of God - “God in you”.


Once people are clear on definition of terms, to aid in understanding, it is important to present the takeaway for application.
I focused on Tuesday’s section of the SS lesson (PURPOSE)

This caught my eye— “The spiritual gifts were clearly given for service, NOT for our sanctification.”

They aren’t??? I don’t buy it.

Then on Wednesday’s section, at the bottom…
“Read Ephesians 4:11-13, especially verse 13, which says: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (NKJV).”

Surveys reveal that 90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible once. Because of this they are NOT LIKE what Paul describes here…

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Eph 4:14

In the early 1970’s I attended a mega church where one of the best preachers in America spent 66 weeks presenting an exposition of the letter of Ephesians…verse by verse.

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Sirje, it simply means gift, and nothing more. Being gifted has nothing to do with the meaning. That has been supplied.

χάρισμα (charisma). n. neut. something graciously given; a gift. Something that is freely given on account of favor and kindness.
This noun is related to χάρις (charis, “grace, favor”) and refers specifically to the result of gracious giving or action. In the NT, God is usually the one who gives such gifts, and his gifts include spiritual gifts for equipping the church (e.g., 1 Cor 12:4), a person’s special calling (e.g., 2 Tim 1:6), and God’s gift of salvation through Christ (e.g., Rom 5:15–16; 6:23; 11:29). (LTW - Lexham Theological Wordbook)

5486 χάρισμα charisma; from 5483; a gift of grace, a free gift:—favor(1), free gift(3), gift(5), gifts(7), spiritual gift(1). (NASB Dictionaries)

When someone speaks in tongues, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with a gift you were born with. However, the Holy Spirit may use a persons gift and enhance it for a period of time. Some are given the gift of faith, however, all have faith, but this is a greater measure for a specific time and purpose, and may be taken away when the Holy Spirit’s purpose for it is fulfilled.

A section of a paragraph from the SDABC puts it like this:

Those who receive them [a gift from the Holy Spirit] have no ground for conceit. The source of their increasing strength and influence is not in themselves.

The whole point is, it’s a gift. Has nothing to do with us. Sure you may be born with a talent, or many talents, which could be classified as a gift from God, and used by God. But what Paul is speaking of here is much more; in other words it’s also supernatural.


Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The difference is a measure of the beholder’s personality. Should the beholder be a narcissist and feel entitled then all are seen as presents. If however the beholder feel generous and benevolent, then all are seen as gifts. Anyone who perceives having a sprinkling of both presents and gifts has a healthy and balanced outlook of God’s blessings.

No one can perform any task he is not capable of. It comes across and fake and pretentious.

Just an opinion.


Yes, in a sense it seems like a “present”; however, given the meaning of the word “charisma” - (among other things it’s “a divinely conferred power or talent”). In a way it’s a “present,” but actually a talent granted by the Spirit -the gift (as in ability) of patience etc. And yes, we do not produce it on our own. It comes from the indwelling Spirit. - a decidedly Greek concept.


Hmm, yeah… not to be picky, Sirje, but I don’t really like the word present used in this context, over the word gift. This person explains it well:

Many of us tend to use the two words [present and gift] interchangeably in most contexts. Of the two, present is the more informal. The two words are used with things given to other people without expectation of return or compensation. It is not uncommon to hear people say, I gave him a gift/present on his birthday. Both the sentences are grammatically acceptable. Careful users of the language make a distinction between the two words. A Gift tends to be much more valuable than a present. It usually passes from the rich to the poor, from the high to the low. A present, on the other hand, passes between equals or from the inferior to the superior.

Also, I agree with what you say here about it being a gift in the sense that “we do not produce it on our own”, it just seems to be different from what you wrote above.


I used present because gift does have two meanings and I wanted you to be sure I meant gift as in “talent”.

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