It may have been a practice in patriarchal times to give gifts to those having suffered adversity. When Jehovah turned back the captive condition of Job, his brothers, sisters and former acquaintances, not only came to comfort him, but each one gave him “a piece of money and each one a gold ring.”—Job 42:10, 11.
GIFTS GIVEN TO OPEN THE WAY FOR BENEFITS
Gifts were often given with a view to gaining something desirable. Jacob got ready an impressive gift of livestock for Esau in order to find favor in the eyes of his brother. (Gen. 32:13-18; 33:8) Jacob’s insistence that Esau accept this gift can be better understood when considering that, according to Eastern custom, refusing to accept a gift denoted that favor would not be granted. (Gen. 33:10) Also, to gain the goodwill of the harsh-speaking food administrator of Egypt (who was actually their own brother Joseph), the sons of Jacob followed through on their father’s recommendation to take along a gift of the finest products of the land. (Gen. 42:30; 43:11, 25, 26) King Asa sent a present of silver and gold to Ben-hadad in order to induce him to break his covenant with Baasha, king of Israel.—1 Ki. 15:18, 19.
The giving of presents can result in direct benefits to the giver, as indicated by the proverb: “A man’s gift will make a large opening for him, and it will lead him even before great people.” (Prov. 18:16) A gift can subdue anger, but it will not allay the rage of an able-bodied man against one who commits adultery with his wife, regardless of how great a present is offered by the adulterer.—Prov. 21:14; 6:32-35.
GIFTS TO KINGS AND PROPHETS
The indications are that it was customary for those going to see a king to bring gifts. “Good-for-nothing men” who had no respect for Saul are singled out as not bringing any gift to him. Solomon especially was given gifts in great abundance by those coming from distant lands to hear his wisdom. The astrologers who came to see the “one born king of the Jews” were simply following this custom when they presented gifts to the young child Jesus. (1 Sam. 10:27; 1 Ki. 10:10, 24, 25; Matt. 2:1, 2, 11; see also 2 Kings 20:12; 2 Chronicles 17:5.) Similarly, at times those going to inquire of a prophet took a gift along. (1 Sam. 9:7; 2 Ki. 8:8, 9) But God’s prophets did not expect or seek a gift for their services, as is evident from Elisha’s refusal to accept a “blessing gift” at Naaman’s hand.—2 Ki. 5:15, 16.
AS A RECOMPENSE AND IN REJOICING
Gifts were given to reward those successfully completing a certain task. (2 Sam. 18:11; Dan. 2:6, 48; 5:16, 17, 29) According to the Law, an emancipated slave was not to be sent away empty-handed, but was to receive a gift, something from the flock, the threshing floor and the oil and winepress. (Deut. 15:13, 14) Also, occasions of great rejoicing might be attended by the giving of presents.—Esther 9:20-22; compare Revelation 11:10.
IN CONNECTION WITH THE SANCTUARY
God took the Levites as a gift for the house of Aaron, as those given to Jehovah to carry on the service of the sanctuary. (Num. 18:6, 7) Also, the Gibeonites and others who were made servants at the sanctuary were called Nethinim, meaning “given ones.” (Josh. 9:27; 1 Chron. 9:2; Ezra 8:20) Furthermore, the contributions for carrying on the service of the sanctuary and also the sacrifices are referred to as gifts.—Ex. 28:38; Lev. 23:37, 38; Num. 18:29; Matt. 5:23, 24; Luke 21:1.
By reason of his creatorship, Jehovah owns everything. Therefore, in giving material things for the furtherance of true worship, the giver is merely returning a portion of what he originally received from God.—Ps. 50:10; 1 Chron. 29:14.
ADMONITION CONCERNING GIFTS
Since gifts in the form of bribes can destroy the heart and pervert justice, the Scriptures admonish the hating of such gifts. Those who chase after gifts are condemned. (Deut. 16:19, 20; Eccl. 7:7; Prov. 15:27; Isa. 1:23) Moreover, the “man boasting himself about a gift in falsehood,” not doing according to his boasting, is compared to vaporous clouds and a wind without any downpour. (Prov. 25:14) The giver of gifts may have many companions, but his giving cannot ensure lasting friendship.—Prov. 19:6.
The Christian Greek Scriptures strongly censure certain practices in connection with the giving of gifts. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for overstepping the commandment to honor father and mother. According to them, if one claimed his material things were a gift dedicated to God, he was free of obligation to aid his parents. (Matt. 15:1-6; see CORBAN.) There is no merit in giving because one expects something in return. (Luke 6:30-36; 14:12-14) To be pleasing to Jehovah, giving must be done unselflshly and without showy display.—Matt. 6:2-4; 1 Cor. 13:3.
The early Christians made gifts or contributions in behalf of their needy brothers. (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) However, all such gifts were voluntary, as indicated by Paul’s words: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) Additionally, they aided those who devoted themselves fully to the ministry, as did the apostle Paul. However, though very much appreciating the gifts sent to him by his brothers, Paul did not seek a gift.—Phil. 4:15-17.
Christians can give things more valuable than material presents. They can give of their time and abilities to edify and build others up mentally and spiritually, which brings greater happiness. The greatest gift that one can offer to another is an understanding of God’s Word, for this can lead the receiver to everlasting life.—John 6:26, 27; 17:3; Acts 20:35; Rev. 22:17; see BRIBE; GIFTS FROM GOD; GIFTS OF MERCY.
GIFTS FROM GOD
The gifts God gives to men are an expression of his undeserved kindness. The very word khaʹri·sma (pl., kha·riʹsma·ta), appearing seventeen times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, implies a gift involving undeserved kindness (khaʹris) on God’s part. (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 12:4; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Pet. 4:10) It is, therefore, only proper that the gifts received from Jehovah be used for the benefit of fellowmen and to the glory of God the giver. (1 Pet. 4:10, 11) These gifts are not for the selfish profit of the receiver. Since such one has “received free,” he is under obligation to “give free.”—Matt. 10:8.
“Every good gift and every perfect present is from above.” (Jas. 1:17) Jehovah is generous in giving, allowing both the righteous and the wicked to benefit from the sunshine and the rain. In fact, he “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” God’s gifts, including food and drink and seeing good from one’s hard work, are for man’s enjoyment. (Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:24, 25; Eccl. 3:12, 13; 5:19; 1 Tim. 6:17) Both singleness and marriage are gifts from God, to be enjoyed within the limits of his requirements. Since the single person is freer to devote himself to Jehovah’s service without distraction, singleness is the better of the two gifts.—Prov. 18:22; Matt. 19:11, 12; 1 Cor. 7:7, 17, 32-38; Heb. 13:4.
GOD’S GIFT THROUGH JESUS’ SACRIFICE
Jehovah’s undeserved kindness in providing his Son as a ransom sacrifice is a priceless gift, and those exercising faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can thereby