I don’t usually mourn the deaths of popular culture stars. I just simply have no connection with them. However, Whitney Houston’s death was different. I’m certain it’s because she was a Christian. One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is her rendition of “I Love the Lord.” She had a spectacular, beautiful voice. That voice was a gift from God. And it’s that topic—giftedness—that I would like to address. There are natural gifts, and there are spiritual gifts. This brief article will deal only with natural gifts.

All good things come from God. When the disciples of John came to him and said that he was losing disciples to Jesus, John said, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27 ESV). Solomon wrote, “Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God”  (Ecclesiastes 5:19 ESV).

God gives everyone a gift or gifts. This contemporary culture lifts up those with certain gifts, and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that every culture throughout history has lifted  up those with these gifts: intelligence, beauty, athleticism and musical talent. Whitney Houston was gifted with at least two of these—beauty and musical talent. As to her intelligence and athletic ability, I have to admit ignorance. I just don’t know. I assume she had average intelligence and athletic ability, but when I say “gifted athleticism and intelligence,” I’m talking about those men and women who have gained recognition as a result of possessing those gifts. I’m not at all saying that Whitney was unintelligent or that she couldn’t play tennis, just to make that clear.

Again, God gives everyone a gift or gifts. Now, our issue is how to use them and how to be stewards of them. Romans 11:36 says, “For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen” (NLT). The gifts that the Lord gives us are “intended for His glory.” This is where the world—and Christians, too, unfortunately—go down a dangerous, destructive path. We don’t use our gifts primarily to glorify God. The world uses them to glorify individuals. This is how these talented people make money. There is nothing wrong with making money. Nevertheless, gifted individuals should always be careful to give the glory to God and not ever to take any to themselves. However, I don’t expect the world to do that. Exalting people for their gifts is just how the world rolls.

I don’t blame Whitney Houston for not being able to handle the fame, money and attention that she received because of her giftedness. I don’t blame her for using drugs and alcohol to deal with that fame, money and attention. I don’t blame her at all. She was a flawed sinner, just as I am and you are. As far as I’m concerned—although I am not her Judge—she is in heaven. As far as I can tell, she had a relationship with Jesus Christ, who forgave her for her sins. Whitney Houston is an example of someone whom the culture was lifting up as a goddess, and God did not wire Whitney Houston to be exalted that way. She was incapable of handling it. We’re all incapable of handling it. God didn’t wire any of us that way. He wired us to find joy in humility and meekness. Am I saying that Whitney wasn’t humble and meek? No. However, walking in humility and weakness may have been one of her struggles, but let’s be honest—it is for most people. She knew the Lord, who created her to exalt Him and not herself, and she didn’t know how to go there. She needed a husband to help her go there. She needed Christian mentors to help her go there. And, yes, she just simply needed to go there, whether she had a husband or a mentor or not. However, there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. We all need help. We need help with our hatreds, our unforgiveness, our polluted thoughts, our lack of love for God and for others—all day long. So, to say that it’s sad that she “didn’t go there,” doesn’t mean she hasn’t been received by our loving heavenly Father. It’s just as sad that you and I, as Christians, don’t do what we know we should do, either. This is why all Christians rejoice in the knowledge of Jesus, our Savior. When we will be judged by God, we’ll be judged by what Jesus did, not by our failed, imperfect efforts to follow Him. We have His righteousness, His holiness. We don’t have those qualities in and of ourselves, by ourselves.

So, I would like to send out a caution to my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Please don’t join in with the world’s adulation of gifted individuals. It’s destructive to them, and it dishonors God, the giver of the gifts the person possesses. It’s a gift. This person didn’t earn it. It was given freely. God gave it freely. I admit to you that I’m working on this. I am so accustomed to having stars in my eyes over the talents of individuals, that I have to purpose to think otherwise, to give the glory to God for the gift, instead of the person. I’d like to ask you to join me in this God-honoring effort.