I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:1-8

A motivational gift is the underlying driving force that causes you to do the things you do the way you do them. Some have referred to them as personality gifts. Some people are oriented to doing tasks and other people are oriented to speak in order to be fulfilled. In fact, this is how Peter categorizes spiritual gifts.1

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10-11

There are several significant points in this paragraph.

  • Everyone has received a gift
  • The gift is said to be singular, not plural.
  • Some are speaking gifts. We would probably include prophecy, teaching, and exhortation. These might be termed more “public” gifts.
  • Some are serving gifts. Here we would include serving, giving, facilitating, and showing mercy. These might be termed more “private” gifts.
  • All gifts are to glorify God.
  • All gifts are to be used for others.
  • All gifts are to be done by the power of God.

Paul speaks of what I am referring to as motivational gifts as being according to the “measure of faith.” I am going to quote from one of my Bible College professors, Dr. Don Pickerill, to explain what this means.

Romans 12:3 says that we are to think, “according to the measure of faith which God has assigned to us.” The ‘Word “assigned” has the root idea of a separation or a division. From the Greek word “meris”, it means a “part of a whole that has been divided”. In our greatest need for unity and desire to see everyone become all that they possibly can for the Lord, we must not go too far and miss the point Paul is making in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12. For the right emphasis on our differences should actually increase unity. For then we know that we are individually only a part and our need of others is vital. This makes us humble and dependent, yet individually important all at the same time.

Marvin Vincent in his “Word Studies in the New Testament”, had a fine note on the way Paul uses the word “faith” in this passage. “It is faith as the condition of the powers and offices of believers, faith regarded as spiritual insight, which according to its degree, qualifies a man to be a prophet, teacher, minister, etc.; faith in its relation to character, as the only principle which develops a man’ s true character, and which, therefore, is the determining principle of the renewed man’s tendencies, whether they lead him to meditation and research, or to practical activity . . . it furnishes a test or regulative standard of their respective endowments and functions.”
(III, 155)

Since the measure of faith is the “determining principle of our tendencies”, we have a sound exegetical basis for calling these “motivational gifts”. And since they furnish a “test or regulative standard” of our endowments and functions, we have a basis for looking at the characteristics or personality tendencies which accompany each respective gift. A measure “metron”, is defined as any “instrument of measuring”. Therefore, Romans 12:6-8 is seven ways to see where we fit in the will of God. As Paul explained in II Corinthians 10:13, we should “keep to the limits God has apportioned to us”.

Dr. Don Pickerill

So with that, I will return to my opening statement, “A motivational gift is the underlying driving force that causes you to do the things you do the way you do them.” Let me give an example. You are an exhorter by motivational gift and you are asked to teach at a men’s gathering. You are a very well versed theologian. You “know your stuff.” However, when you teach this men’s group, you will do it as an exhorter would do it, not as a teacher would do it. What do I mean by that? An exhorter is driven to help other people make progress in their life. An exhorter will always be to some degree a motivator. He wants to see people take action and move forward. A teacher on the other hand is motivated to impart knowledge. He wants his listeners to understand. Once the teacher has imparted the doctrine of the day, he is fulfilled and satisfied. The exhorter will not be satisfied to simply impart doctrine, it must be applied for him to be fulfilled and satisfied.

Note, both the teacher and the exhorter taught the same doctrine. Both are capable teachers but how they teach is colored by how they are motivated, their motivational gift.

Everything I do is colored by my primary motivational gift. It explains a lot about my personality.

Let me be quick to say that we are formed in life by much more than our motivational gift. We have a lifetime of experiences that also enter into making us who we are. This understanding of motivational gifts does not limit a person to doing only those things that most ideally line up with their motivational gift. But, understanding your motivational gift will aid you in seeing how God has created you to manifest his life and love to all those around you at home and out in the world.

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  1. Much of this material on Motivational Gifts, comes from an unpublished syllabus created by one of my early professors, Dr. Donald Pickerill.