Is There An Age Limit for Spiritual Gifts?

This question is not often voiced, but we see it lived out so many places. Children are shunted aside until they are “old enough.” Retirees and Senior adults are dismissed as “out of touch,” “past their prime,” or “old fashioned.” Neither attitude is biblical. Today we’ll specifically address the first one.  (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to start your own study about the second wrong attitude.)

Fair warning: this is a soapbox of mine. Hang out with me long enough and you’re guaranteed to hear it more than once. Still, I’ll try to keep this blog a reasonable length by sticking to the highlights.

When does one receive spiritual gifts?

Does a person have to reach the age of 18 or a certain level of spiritual maturity in order to get a spiritual gift? The Bible says no. Every person who turns from their sin and trusts Jesus as their Lord and Savior receives at least one spiritual gift. (Learn more about what it means to turn from sin and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior in this video.)

1 Corinthians 12 is talking to Christians, people who believe in and follow Jesus. We know that the words in this chapter only apply to Christ-followers because verses 1-3 contrast those who do not believe (“Gentiles”) with Christians (“you”). Look at what God says in this chapter about Christians, Christ-followers.

Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person. The Spirit gives this to each one to help others.

1 Corinthians 12:7 (ERV)

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing [giving] to each one individually as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12:11 (NKJV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV, learn what “steward” means in this blog post)

So everyone who accepts Christ, who turns from sin and trusts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, has at least one spiritual gifts.

Can kids have spiritual gifts?

This is actually two questions rolled into one. The first is: can kids make the choice to turn from sin and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior? (Or, as most people would probably say: Can kids become Christians?) Scripture says yes.

 People were bringing little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on them to bless them. But the disciples told them to stop. When Jesus saw this, he was angry. He said to his disciples, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them. What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God’s kingdom like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms. He placed his hands on them to bless them.
Mark 10:13-16 (NIRV; compare with Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17)

What about if the person using their spiritual gift is a “baby Christians,” just starting to live for Christ?

The second question is: does a person have to be spiritually mature (know the Bible and understand more about what it means to be a Christian) in order to use their spiritual gifts? Scripture says no.

John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Mark 9:38-42 (NASB)

The believers in the church of Corinth were not mature Christians either, but they had many spiritual gifts (compare 1 Corinthians 1:7 with 1 Corinthians 3:1).

Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Things that make people sin are sure to come,” he said. “But how terrible it will be for anyone who causes those things to come! Suppose people lead one of these little ones to sin. It would be better for those people to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck. So watch what you do.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, tell them they are wrong. Then if they turn away from their sins, forgive them. Suppose they sin against you seven times in one day. And suppose they come back to you each time and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ You must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Give us more faith!”

He replied, “Suppose you have faith as small as a mustard seed. Then you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up. Be planted in the sea.’ And it will obey you.

Luke 17:1-6 (NIRV)

Still, it is very important to be discipled, to be taught more about the Bible, how and why we serve, and what it means to be a Christian (Matthew 28:18-20). But the use of spiritual gifts is not contingent upon graduating from discileship. For one thing, we should all be discipled and discipling others. No one is finished learning, growing, and becoming more like Jesus until he or she dies and is made perfect in heaven (Colossians 1:28; James 1:2-4).

Who should use their spiritual gifts?

So discipleship is important. Still, every believer should be practicing their spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so they will be used.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV, emphasis added)

It doesn’t matter if you think your gift is important or not. You have an important job to do as part of God’s family. So does every other believer, regardless of his or her age.

The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without.

1 Corinthians 12:21-22 (NIRV)

I pray that YOU use your spiritual gift. That is why God gave it to you. Click here for more information about discovering your spiritual gift.

For Further Study

There is so much more to this topic, but I promised to keep this blog a reasonable length. Feel free to study spiritual gifts more on your own. Here is a great place to start: 1 Corinthians 12.

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