Here are three definitions of spiritual gifts I dug up on the web. They share common ground and represent what most Christians think about spiritual gifts.

A God-given ability to serve the church effectively.

a divine endowment of a special ability for service upon a member of the body of Christ.

a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ according to God’s grace for use within the context of the Body.

While I don’t disagree with these definitions, I’m going with the Apostle Paul’s words:

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

The first batch of descriptors match the three definitions I quoted: service, working. In other words, a focus on the outcome of the gift. But in the next verse, Paul actually defines what a spiritual gift is: “In all of them, it is the same God at work. The manifestation of the Spirit given for the common good.” A spiritual gift is a manifestation of God, yet another way God incarnates himself (makes himself flesh and bone) so he can touch the world.

The gift is God.

Not an ability, not an “it,” a him. God at work in us, and the power to share him as we serve. He gives himself to us in such a way that we can pass him along to others. God gives himself to the world through us. God in us makes us God’s gift to the world.

Incredibly, God comes wrapped in us, as we give ourselves to his cause. The gift, Jesus, is manifested differently (wrapped uniquely) by each of us: tongues, prophecy, healing, administration, leadership, hospitality, mercy, discernment, evangelism… but the moment we start calling it an ability, we’ve forgotten that a spiritual gift is not us harnessing God, but God harnessing us.

The wrapping, the tag, isn’t the point.

The gift is.

Jesus.