And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you. (Shemot / Exodus 31:6; ESV)
Last week (http://torahbytes.org/72-20.htm) I mentioned that God intentionally designed the universe. Everything exists for a purpose given to it by God. It is essential, therefore, to discern what that purpose is. Just because we can do something, doesn't automatically mean we should do it. God, through the Scriptures, has revealed how life is to be lived and calls us to stay within the bounds of his design. I concluded my message with a reminder that God's intentional design no less applies to each one of us and that we need to be true to his purposes for us.
It is not always easy to discover God's purpose for our lives. Beware of teachings with claims of supposed "guaranteed" formulas, promising you "keys" to finding out who you are and what you are about. Teachers truly representing the God of the Bible will encourage you to seek him in order to answer that question. That is something that is done through prayer, the study of Scripture, sensitivity to God's Spirit, and considering godly advice within loving community, including your family, wise leaders and other believers. Learning to take action based on how you discern God's leading in your life will also help you discover what is truly of God. God will even teach you through your mistakes, especially if your heart is geared toward wanting to do his will.
As mentioned, Scripture gives us an understanding of boundaries within which God has called us to live. While the Bible will not tell you what you should be when you grow up, it is clear on so many general topics. As we are keen to keep God's ways of faith, morality, truth, diligence, and responsibility in every sphere of life, be it personal, family, congregation, community, education, business, financial, political, or leisure, we place ourselves within God's general will and can be assured of his blessing upon our lives, regardless of what our more specific purpose may be.
One of the ways we may discover our specific purpose is by discerning the talents that God has given us. Talents are abilities entrusted to us by God. How we come by our talents is not relevant to this discussion. For now, it is sufficient to acknowledge that God is the one who gives them to us.
I have tried to explain that it is wrong to assume that the presence of ability automatically dictates what our abilities are for. Just as in everything else in life, God has given us principles to act as boundaries within which we live. Therefore, first and foremost, using our talents according to God's will requires we remain within those boundaries.
That said, the existence of boundaries doesn't necessarily mean narrow boundaries. God's boundaries are as narrow and wide as he has determined. Some things, such as marriage fidelity, are very narrow. But other things such as architecture and music are wide. Not as wide as some people may think, but there is a lot of room for creativity within many of God's specified boundaries.
This is evident in this week's Torah portion. The Mishkan (English: Tabernacle) was a major building project requiring God-given talent to construct. It demanded the involvement of highly skilled creative artisans. While these men were given clear and specific plans as to the design of the various aspects of the Mishkan, they were not given detailed step-by-step instructions of how to do their jobs. They were called upon to use their abilities based on the wisdom God had given them. This would have required all sorts of big and small decisions in order to get the job done.
The way the verse I read is translated gives the impression that all ability comes from God. In the context of the verse, this may only apply to the men being referred to. But even if this particular statement was intended for only these men, it nonetheless expresses a general truth. That truth is that our abilities come from God and are designed by him in order that we might use them to fulfill his purposes. Let's put our talents to good use.