A gift is an unattended gift given to somebody with no expectation of something in return or even payment. An unattended gift is not a proper gift if that gift is already owned by another person to whom it’s given. Nevertheless, even though the gift-giving may involve only an implied expectation of reciprocation, a gift is still intended to be free.
In the New Testament the authors use many words to convey their meaning, but in general they refer to gifts as “gifts” and the recipients as “givers.” In the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews the gifts of the Holy Spirit are revealed and applied to people for the remission of their sins. The concept of the given gifts of the Holy Spirit is found nowhere in the New Testament. However, this concept is quite common in the Old Testament, especially in the Mosaic law and in the oral traditions of ancient Israel. The idea of the given gifts is the same and can also be found expressed in the Song of Solomon, where God Himself grants His only Son, Solomon, certain gifts.
The gifts of wisdom, knowledge, fear, love, and wisdom are the fundamental concepts of the New Testament idea of the gifts. Knowledge includes the concepts of grammar, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. Fear and love are emotional concepts. Wisdom encompasses the entire gamut of scientific and theological understandings of life and creation. All of these concepts, however, are dependent on some kind of spiritual gift, be it personal, institutional, or relational.
One could view the New Testament presents of the gifts in relationship to three distinct groups of gifts, all of which express differing aspects of the same reality. Individual gifts are expressions of who we are. institutional gifts are those that come from the institution of Christ. Predestination, salvation, and the elections are aspects of God’s purposes for the creation and life of humanity. Lastly, wisdom is a non-personal expression of truth.
In old English the word for “gift” was “wisht.” The idea of a person receiving a “gift” meant that they had been favored by someone else. Gifts are also referred to as “offers” and “trades” in early medieval writings. A more modern meaning is a given possession, be it material or non-material.
The practice of gift giving has roots in many cultures around the world. For example, the Mayans believed that their lives would be rewarded with a large quantity of flowers and plants after they had acted in a responsible way. Similarly, in the Chinese culture the fortunate ones were believed to be gifted with possessions such as tractors, boats, or even automobiles. On the other hand, in western cultures a very visible symbol of prosperity is the stock market.
In today’s technologically advanced culture it is hard to believe that gift giving was once a custom in almost all societies. However, research into the ancient cultures of the Near East and North Africa show that family treasures were not only used as tangible objects but were also used as seals of wealth, which were considered sacred. Also, in some cultures it was necessary for the family to provide a certain number of grains as a form of economic investment. In the ancient world, giving was not just limited to adults but also to children. For example, the ancient Egyptian god of wealth, Osiris, gave away possessions, mostly livestock, in order to keep his children from following in his footsteps.
Gift giving is certainly not limited to modern man. In fact, the practice has been adopted by the present generation. Gifts are now used not only for economic reasons but also as a means to communicate and interact with others. Gifts can be interpreted in two different ways: according to the language we speak and according to the language of the prophecy.