Special Christmas Post

I have blogged 237 “Daily Wisdom” posts. These are comments on the Book of Proverbs taken from my book Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World. So far, we have reached Proverbs 11:20.

But this is Christmas Day, so I will offer a special post that includes the only reference to Christmas in my commentary on Proverbs. Merry Christmas!

Proverbs 18:16 (NKJV) — 16 A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.

The skill of giving gifts. There are two common interpretations of this verse that do not appear to be correct. The first one suggests that this proverb uses the word gift in the sense of a talent, ability, or even a gift of the Spirit. According to this view, a person’s ability, natural or spiritual, will open doors of opportunity for that person. While this concept is valid, it does not seem to be the most accurate understanding of this proverb.

The second view suggests that the word gift is synonymous with bribe as in Proverbs 17:8, 23. Thus, the verse would mean that a bribe will open doors and bring the giver into the presence of the great. Those who hold this view do not suggest the proverb condones the use of bribes; it merely recognizes them as a fact of life.

A third view, however, seems more accurate. It recognizes that the English word gift in this proverb is translated from an entirely different Hebrew word than in Proverbs 17:8, 23. In those proverbs, the word gift is from the Hebrew shachad and suggests a bribe. It seems to have this meaning throughout the Old Testament. In this proverb, however, the word gift is from the Hebrew mattan, which seems to refer consistently to a present, with no suggestion of a dishonest bribe. Under this view, the proverb teaches the proper use of giving presents, or gifts, a skill largely lost in our society. People sometimes give presents simply out of a sense of duty or obligation, which is an inferior motive for gift giving. At other times they give out of generosity. While this is certainly superior to the previous motive, it is still not the finest use of gifts.

The finest use of gifts is based on a careful selection of a gift to have a positive impact on the recipient’s life. A well-chosen properly presented gift can serve to motivate the recipient to be a better person. A hastily selected gift, chosen without consideration of the recipient’s needs, weaknesses, and strengths, can be a snare. For example, many Christmas or birthday gifts are given only to fulfill an obligation and so have limited value. But a gift carefully chosen and thoughtfully given can motivate the recipient to greater achievement or spirituality as well as cement healthy relationships between the giver and the receiver. There is nothing evil about this positive effect of a gift.