Gifts hold a prominent place in human life and interaction, as they represent an acknowledgment of love, appreciation, and respect. But what does the Bible, the most significant book for Christians around the world, say about them? This article delves into the topic.
Understanding the Concept of Gifts in the Bible
The Bible often uses the term ‘gift’ in a variety of contexts and applications. To fully understand the concept, one needs to grasp the biblical definition of gifts and their significance in biblical times.
The Biblical Definition of Gifts
In the bible, a gift, or ‘dorea’ in Greek, generally refers to a free will offering. It is something given without compensation, a mark of love, friendship, or favor bestowed upon someone. Gifts could be physical, like food, clothing, or gold, or they could be intangible, like wisdom, healing, or eternal life. Although the giver may be human, often the most precious gifts mentioned in the Bible are those coming directly from God.
The act of giving also had a spiritual dimension. It signified a person’s values, their respect and commitment towards God, and their love and care for their neighbors.
When we think about physical gifts, we can imagine the joy on a child’s face as they unwrap a beautifully wrapped present on their birthday. In biblical times, the act of giving physical gifts was just as significant. It was a way to express gratitude, to honor someone, or to establish a bond of friendship. For example, in the story of the wise men visiting baby Jesus, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts symbolized royalty, divinity, and sacrifice, respectively. They were not just ordinary presents, but offerings of great significance.
On the other hand, intangible gifts, such as wisdom or eternal life, hold a different kind of value. These gifts are not bound by material possessions but are everlasting and life-changing. In the Bible, we read about King Solomon, who asked God for wisdom, and his request was granted. This gift of wisdom not only benefited Solomon personally but also impacted his entire kingdom. It allowed him to make wise decisions, govern justly, and bring prosperity to his people.
The Importance of Gifts in Biblical Times
In biblical times, gifts held great significance. They were used as means of establishing peaceful relationships with neighboring tribes, as tools for showing reverence to God, and as mediums of assistance for the needy.
Gifts were a means of showing love, respect, or gratitude, and even served to restore broken relationships. Their value was often not in their material worth, but the intent and heart behind the gesture of giving.
When we look at the story of Abraham and Melchizedek in the book of Genesis, we see an example of gifts being used to establish peaceful relationships. After Abraham’s victory in battle, Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest, brought out bread and wine to bless Abraham. This act of offering gifts was a sign of goodwill and friendship between the two men and their respective tribes.
Furthermore, gifts were also used as a way to show reverence to God. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to bring various offerings to the Lord, including burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings. These offerings were a way for the people to express their devotion and worship to God, acknowledging His sovereignty and provision in their lives.
Lastly, gifts played a crucial role in assisting the needy. In biblical times, there were no social welfare programs or government assistance. Instead, the responsibility fell upon the community to care for the less fortunate. Giving gifts, whether it was food, clothing, or shelter, was a way to provide for those in need and demonstrate compassion and empathy.
In conclusion, the concept of gifts in the Bible encompasses both physical and intangible offerings. They hold great significance, representing love, friendship, reverence, and assistance. Whether given by humans or directly from God, gifts reflect the values and heart of the giver. In biblical times, they played a vital role in establishing relationships, showing devotion to God, and caring for the less fortunate. May we continue to appreciate and understand the depth and meaning behind the act of giving gifts.
Different Types of Gifts Mentioned in the Bible
The Bible mentions various types of gifts. These can be broadly classified into spiritual gifts, material gifts, and gifts of sacrifice.
Spiritual gifts are abilities granted by the Holy Spirit to believers for the building up of the church. These include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
According to the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, nobody has all the gifts, but every believer has at least one gift. These are to be used for the common good of all, not for personal gain or pride.
Material gifts, on the other hand, are tangible things given to individuals, groups, or even God Himself, as an act of respect and love. They could include things like clothes, food, gold, or livestock.
These gifts held historical, cultural, and symbolic significance in different situations. For instance, the three wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus at His birth. Each of these gifts held symbolic significance.
Gifts of Sacrifice
Gifts of sacrifice are offerings made to God, signifying the spiritual concepts of repentance, gratitude, and in some cases, atonement for sins. Leviticus discusses various forms of sacrifice, including burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings.
These were tangible expressions of worship, devotion, and submission to God, although God’s desire was always for the heart behind the gift, rather than the gift itself.
Biblical Verses About Gifts
Biblical references to gifts are scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments and provide comprehensive guidance on different aspects of gifting.
Old Testament Verses on Gifts
The Old Testament contains many verses related to gifts. These include commands to give generously and willingly, counsel about giving wisely, and encouragement to give joyfully.
In Proverbs 18:16, Solomon states, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” This highlights the influential power of a gift. In Proverbs 21:14, he adds, “A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath,” indicating the potential of a timely and appropriate gift to mend relationships.
New Testament Verses on Gifts
The New Testament also offers plenty of wisdom about gifts. For example, the famous verse from the Gospel of Matthew 7:11 states, “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
The apostle Paul, in his letters, also dedicated significant attention to the spiritual gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon believers. These teachings emphasize the importance of using God-given gifts to serve the Church and benefit the community.
The Significance of Giving and Receiving Gifts in the Bible
The act of giving and receiving gifts in the Bible goes beyond the material transaction; it contains rich spiritual and relational depth.
The Role of Gifts in Building Relationships
Gifts often play a significant role in fostering and strengthening relationships. In Genesis, we see instances where Abraham and Jacob used gifts to cultivate relationships. Such acts of giving were not merely transactional, but rather served to strengthen bonds, display respect, and forge alliances.
Similarly, the ultimate act of Jesus Christ sacrificing his life for humanity is portrayed as the greatest gift of God, epitomizing the depth of His love for humankind.
Gifts as a Means of Showing Love and Gratitude
Giving is viewed as a tangible demonstration of love and gratitude in the Bible. This is illustrated in the sacrificial offerings people made to God out of gratitude and as an act of worship. It’s also shown in the generosity towards the poor and less fortunate in society, framing giving as a manifestation of love towards God and neighbor.
We also see this principle in God’s gift of His son, Jesus, to humanity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Biblical Perspective on Misusing Gifts
While the Bible encourages the giving of gifts, it also warns against their misuse.
Warnings Against Misuse of Gifts
The misuse of gifts is often linked to corruption, manipulation, or deception in the Bible. For example, Proverbs warns about gifts being used as bribes that pervert justice. It’s clear that while giving is commendable, motives matter.
As for spiritual gifts, Paul warns against using them to create divisions within the church or to inflate one’s pride. He emphasizes the need for love to be the underlying drive in the practice of any spiritual gift.
Consequences of Misusing Gifts
Consequences of misusing gifts can be severe, affecting both the individual and their relationship with others and God. The Bible presents several instances where the misuse of gifts led to downfall and rebuke.
In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, a couple from the early Christian community, lied about the amount of money they received from selling their property, while pretending to give all proceeds to the church. Their deceptive act carried dire consequences.
The Bible, therefore, offers wise guidance on giving and receiving gifts and highlights the deeper spiritual and relational dimensions that accompany this practice.