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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Gift, Giving

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A favor or item bestowed on someone. Gifts were given on numerous occasions for a variety of purposes: as dowry for a wife (Genesis 34:12 ); as tribute to a military conqueror (2 Samuel 8:2 ); as bribes (Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 17:8; Isaiah 1:23 ); as rewards for faithful service and to insure future loyalty (Daniel 2:48 ); and as relief for the poor (Esther 9:22 ). Since gifts might be required by custom, law, or force, modifiers are sometimes used to specify gifts given voluntarily: “willing” or freewill offerings or gifts (Exodus 35:29 ); free gift or “gift by grace” (Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23 ); bountiful gift not motivated by covetousness (2 Corinthians 9:5 ).

Both Testaments witness to God as the giver of every good gift (1 Chronicles 29:14; James 1:17 ). Human life is God's gift (Job 1:21 ), as are all things necessary for physical life: the sun for light (Jeremiah 31:25 ); plants (Genesis 1:29 ) and animals for food (Genesis 9:3 ); water (Numbers 21:16 ); clothing (Genesis 28:20 ); grass for herds (Deuteronomy 11:15 ); seasonal rains for crops (Leviticus 26:4 ); companionship of male and female (Genesis 2:18-24; compare Genesis 3:12 ); the ability to have children (Genesis 17:16 ); and sleep (Psalm 127:2 ). Various human abilities are likewise given by God: the ability to work (Deuteronomy 8:18 ); artistic abilities (Exodus 31:6 ); the ability to acquire learning and master communication skills (Daniel 1:17 ). These gifts demonstrate God's general providence.

Scripture also witnesses to God's gifts as evidence of a special providence. In the Old Testament such gifts include: the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7 )—including its successful conquest (Deuteronomy 2:36 ), possessing its cities (Deuteronomy 6:10 ), and its spoils (Deuteronomy 20:14 ); the sabbath (Exodus 16:29 ); the promises (1 Kings 8:56 ); the covenants (2 Kings 17:15 ); the law (Exodus 24:12 ); and peace (Leviticus 26:6 ). In the New Testament God's special providence is especially evident in the gift of God's Son (John 3:16 ) and of God's Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13 ).

God makes relationship with Himself possible by giving His people wisdom (1 Kings 4:29 ), understanding (1 Kings 3:9 ), a new heart (1 Samuel 10:9 ), and a good Spirit to teach them (Nehemiah 9:20 ). The New Testament expresses these gifts as the power to become children of God (John 1:12 ), justification from sin (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:15-17 ); and eternal life (John 10:28; Romans 6:23 ).

Both Testaments witness to God's gift of leadership to God's people as: priests (Numbers 8:19; Zechariah 3:7 ); Davidic kings (2 Chronicles 13:5 ); deliverers (2 Kings 13:5 ); shepherds with Godlike hearts (Jeremiah 3:15 ); apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12 ). Paul spoke of God's giving the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18 ), authority for building up the church (2 Corinthians 10:8 ), and grace for sharing the gospel with the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8 ). The New Testament also stresses God's gift of spiritual abilities to every believer (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Peter 4:10 ).

God's gifts should prompt the proper response from the recipients. This response includes not boasting (1 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 2:8 ); amazement at God's inexpressible goodness (2 Corinthians 9:15 ); the using of gifts for the furtherance of Christ's kingdom (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-11 ); and a life of good works (Ephesians 2:10 ).

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Gift, Giving'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/g/gift-giving.html. 1991.

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