Another aspect of Christian spirituality involves the notion that the Spirit bestows special skills and capacities to Christians in order to further God's project of love in the world. This understanding is greatly influenced by the teachings of St. Paul (Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11; I Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; 13:1-3; 14:6, 26) who elaborates various, apparently incomplete, lists of gifts or charismas of the Spirit-including prophecy, leading, teaching, governing, evangelizing, miracles, healing, tongues, alms giving, helping, serving, doing works of mercy, and administering material goods.
While in some Christian traditions the bestowal of spiritual gifts is thought to be interventions into nature while imparting some skill to which there has been no natural development, in other traditions spiritual gifts are seen to build on or complete some natural signature skill or capacity. In this latter view, all of nature, including human life, is seen to display a glimpse of God, however distorted, and to build on our natural capacities involves clarifying and completing these signature skills and mobilizing them on behalf of the Spirit's project of love and reconciliation.
Some have extended this understanding of spiritual gift to include the influence of social location-insisting, for example, that those in particular social positions, whether women, the poor, or ethnic minorities, provide unique wisdom and skills that can be mobilized by the Spirit. They suggest that the perceptions of those closest to social power and privilege can be distorted. Indeed, they conclude, all perspectives can only be partial and incomplete. Therefore, we require a range of alternate perspectives to complete our own. The perspectives and skills of those from various social locations may thus constitute gifts through which the Spirit works for our individual and corporate reconciliation and completion. This insight is echoed in Paul's articulation of the Body of Christ, requiring all parts-whether hands, feet, or head-in relation to each other and the whole.
This understanding of spiritual gifts can be focused in particular ways when reflecting on the social location of children and adolescents. A risk intrinsic to Western production-oriented society is that our push toward technical mastery may blind us to the Spirit's work in our midst. Often, this priority of mastery for the sake of production filters into the entire range of our values and institutions. Our inordinate priority of production often becomes too easily identified with a normative adulthood, since adults are most often productive as wage earners, and we interpret developmental theories through these priorities and emphasize older life stages as more advanced.
In viewing adulthood as normative or more important, we thereby undervalue the signature gifts of youth whose idealism, energy, or beauty is exhibited in important ways that are largely in recession among adults. Such a view ignores the possibility of God working in and through youth. The Pauline idea of spiritual gift or charisma brings the potential gifts of youth into focus in a way that values children and adolescents not as imperfect versions of adults, but as bearing important gifts to be energized for the Kingdom of God. They are not merely to be exploited by marketers, ignored or diminished by theorists, demonized by police, nor patronized by adults. Youth, by virtue of their social location as youth, have unique perspectives and gifts that Christians are called to help mobilize for God's Kingdom.