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I never thought I’d be using Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, as an illustration of the difference between talents and character, between the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. But the graduation speech at Princeton University shown above is certainly an example. He might seem a surprising choice, given this recent article about Amazon’s ruthless business methods and this one about the effect of their low download prices on musicians, though. Surely the difficult decisions that individuals have to make in favour of kindness need also to be made corporately.
Yet sin will always be a problem. This is where it becomes more than an issue of choice: it is about needing to co-operate with the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in all areas of life. And that is not an instant thing. It is acquired with practice, as Tom Wright argues in Virtue Reborn. Bit by bit, we train ourselves to behave and react differently, until holiness becomes more of a habit. It takes time to acquire Christlike habits. Perhaps that is why Paul refers to ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: fruit doesn’t just appear, it takes time to grow.
Bezos’ speech above is only short and cannot cover all bases in twelve minutes. A longer exposition might explore a relationship between gifts and character, such as using gifts with character. It might also take on the thought that although gifts are given, we still need to work on crafting them. But whatever the failings of Amazon as a company, his call at the end of his speech to students to make a difference in the world with kindness is a welcome one. It might not be what we expected from a billionaire entrepreneur, but it is a breath of fresh air.