Talent: nature or nurture?

We tend to admire geniuses–people who are so different and so perfect in their fields. We learned from the biographies of those people that they were so different since they were really young. For example, Mozart showed his talents when he was only three years old and became an instant master performer at age three and a brilliant composer at age five. Pablo Picasso was also a child prodigy–at age of thirteen, his teacher, Ruiz felt that Picasso had already surpassed him and vowed to give up painting.

The debate on genius and prodigy (is it nature or is it nurture) has been the controversial topic amongst the scholars. For example, Dean Keith Simonton, a psychology professor at University of California, discusses in his book, Genius 101: Creators, Leaders, and Prodigies, that “geniuses are the result of both good gene and good surroundings.” On the other hand, the pop-sociologist, Malcom Galdwell addressed in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that dedication and practice are the most important determinant of success (TIME’s 2009 article:“Is Genius Born or Can It Be Learned?). Simonton argues that gene play an important role because personality traits also matter. Geniuses tend to be open-minded, introverted, driven, and ambitious. He argues that these traits are partially inherited and also partially shaped by environment.

So…what does the bible say about the genius? We notice from the Bible that, we are all given talent. We are all born naturally talented. From the Parable of Talent (Matthew 25:14-30), a master, before going on a journey, he gives his servants his property. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” However, the servants were given different talents:

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Romen 12:6)

God has given us the talent according to the grace given and to our abilities. You might complain that it is not fair to be given different amount of talent. However, “the amount” is not important here. “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.” (Matthew 25:16-17). Both men with five talents and two talents had worked with the given talent and made profits, and they both were acknowledged by their master:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21).

However, the man with one talent, complaining that it does not amount to his peers’,  dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Then, the master took the man’s talent and gave it to the man with five talents.

This parable teaches us that we are given different talents. We are all born naturally talented–God has given us the talent.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (Peter 4:10).

Therefore, the talents were given to glorify God and serve our neighbors. As we learn from the servants with five and two talents, we need to work on what we have given. Gladwell, the author of Outliers: Story of Success, mentioned about the 10,000 hours rule and showed that practice is the thing you do that makes you good. This reminds us of the servant with one talent–the given talent can be taken away, if you just hold it and not work on it. That talent was given to the servant with five talents.


1) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1879593,00.html

2) http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/01/is-talent-something-you-are-born-with-or-can-it-be-taught/


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