I filled out what could be the longest job application ever recently, which included several interview questions. One such question was “What are your top strengths?” In filling out my answers, I noticed a distinct hesitation to promote myself. I found this ironic because the older I get, the greater understanding I have of my strengths. I know exactly how to answer that question, but it feels so arrogant to answer without hesitation. It feels wrong to own my strengths.
I also re-read the story of Joseph from Genesis this week. I’ve mentioned it before, but it never ceases to amaze me that I can see new things in Bible stories, even after having read and studied them several times. This time, I honed on Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph had been accurately interpreting dreams since he was a child, so this wasn’t going to be a challenge for him; however, his response to the Pharaoh’s request is surprising,
“It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” (Genesis 41:16, emphasis mine)
Here’s a man who could easily interpret dreams, yet he asserts it’s beyond his power. What?! Long gone is the boy who bragged that his bothers would one day bow down to him and in his place stood a man who recognized that his gift was just that, a gift. He acknowledged that any ability he had was ultimately given to him by God, so even though it looked like Joseph was talented, it was really the Lord who should be praised.
In Joseph’s response, I see the proper way to acknowledge our strengths. It’s not to own them, as in “Look at what I can do!” but instead to point back to the gift giver, as in “Look at what Jesus can do through me!” It’s not wrong to know and acknowledge your strengths. In fact, God wants us to use them for his glory.
May we own the gifts our creator has lavished upon us. Above all, in knowing and using our gifts, may we never forget that ultimately it is God’s power at work within us.