If we take some time to think about it, each of us could identify something that we do well. Not just well, but better than most of the people we know. It might be something the world watches and cheers, like winning an Olympic gold medal. It might be something only one or two see, like taking a sickly plant and nursing it back to health for an anything-but-green-thumbed friend.
No matter how big or small, it feels good when someone notices how well we do something. It feels even better when they praise our efforts to people whose opinions we value.
Words of praise can make us work harder to develop our gifts, which can lead to even more praise. That’s good. People who achieve great things usually do so because they’ve poured their energy and emotions into developing a special talent.
Whatever our gift is, it’s good to work to make it better. It’s also important to remember it’s a gift, not something we created by our work alone.
The problem comes when we lose sight of where that talent came from to start with. That can lead us in two opposite directions, neither of which is good.
It’s too easy to bask in the recognition and praise while we forget that we didn’t create our own talent.
Pride stalks me when I take my eyes off the One who created my brain. He gave me my ability to use written words to share my thoughts. He gave me the brain that’s able to have the thoughts that might be worth sharing in the first place. When I take my eyes off the Giver of the gift, it’s too easy to start thinking I’m a Big Deal of my own accord.
Pride in being the best at something or even in a simple job well done becomes sin when I start taking all the credit, letting it separate me from God.
The opposite problem is choosing not to admit God has given me gifts. It might seem humble to go around saying I’m not very good at anything, but I don’t think that’s true humility. In some ways, isn’t it an insult to God to claim that we aren’t any good at the very things he’s gifted us to do well? Will we ever use those gifts fully in his service if we keep saying they aren’t much at all?
True humility is recognizing the abilities we have while realizing they are gifts for us to develop, not something that makes us better than other people.
Johann Sebastian Bach is without question one of the greatest composers who ever lived. On each composition he wrote, he added the following Latin phrase or the initials that represent it:
Soli Deo gloria. (Only to God the glory).
When we use the best of our talents, let’s always say with Bach, “Soli Deo gloria.”
What special gift do you think God has given you? Have you found special ways to honor him in how you use it?