Giving gifts is an important part of human relationships and is a frequent occurrence throughout the Bible. God Himself gave mankind the ultimate gift by sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins (John 3:16). As Christians, we are called to be generous and willing givers just as God has been toward us. In this post, we will explore some of the many examples of gift giving found in Scripture and what they can teach us about biblical generosity.
The Bible contains numerous examples of gift giving among people, groups, and God Himself. These acts of generosity serve important purposes in moving along God’s redemptive plan and revealing His attributes and desires for His people. As we explore gift giving in both Old and New Testaments, we see lessons on the heart behind giving, the joy of lavish generosity, giving freely vs obligation, and God as the ultimate giver.
- Gift giving is a frequent occurrence throughout Scripture that reveals God’s generous heart
- True biblical giving springs from a joyful heart, not obligation
- God as Creator and Provider is the ultimate Giver of good gifts
- We are called to follow God’s example of generous giving from the heart
- Giving to others demonstrates our trust in God’s provision
With this foundation, let’s explore some of the many examples of gifts and gift giving found in the pages of Scripture.
Gifts in the Pentateuch
The first five books of the Bible provide us with examples of gift giving that establish God’s people as a generous community relying on His provision.
In Genesis, we see God as the ultimate gift giver, abundantly providing for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He also gives them each other as a gift to end Adam’s loneliness and provide companionship (Genesis 2:18-23). God’s gifts are presented without obligation and spring from His loving heart.
After the flood, God makes a covenant with Noah and his family, promising to never again destroy the earth. As a sign of this eternal covenant, God gives the rainbow as a gift to remind all future generations of His faithfulness (Genesis 9:12-17).
Notable gift giving also occurs between human characters in Genesis. For example, Jacob reconciles with his brother Esau after deceiving him by giving him a generous gift of livestock (Genesis 32:13-21). These abundant gifts impress Esau and soften his heart toward Jacob.
In Exodus, God provides great gifts of provision for His people as He guides them out of slavery in Egypt. He gives miraculous protection and deliverance from Pharaoh’s armies (Exodus 14), water and food in the wilderness (Exodus 16-17), and ultimately the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).
Later in Exodus, God establishes the design of the tabernacle and ark of the covenant, both gifts to help His people worship Him and feel close to His presence. These gifts reflect His generosity and desire for relationship with His people.
Gifts in the Historical Books
Throughout the history of Israel recorded in the biblical historical books, we continue to see acts of human and divine gift giving that provide perspective on God’s character.
In Joshua, the eastern tribes who have already received their allotment of the Promised Land give lavish parting gifts to their western counterparts as they separate (Joshua 22:1-9). This reflects the communal spirit established under God’s law.
In Judges, God gifts Deborah with leadership over Israel and victory in battle through the general Barak (Judges 4). As judge, Deborah is God’s good gift to lead and deliver His people when they cry out for help.
In 1 Samuel, Hannah gives her long-awaited son Samuel back to God as a gift to serve Him all his life (1 Samuel 1:24-2:11). This reflects Hannah’s trust in God’s continued provision and desire to steward her gift for His glory.
When David seeks to build a temple for God, the prophet Nathan tells him that instead God will make David’s dynasty a gift that lasts forever (2 Samuel 7:8-29). This points to God’s establishment of the Messianic line that leads to the ultimate gift of His Son Jesus.
In 1 Kings, King Solomon gives a great gift of 120 talents of gold to build the temple for God, reflecting His wealth, generosity, and desire to honor God (1 Kings 9:14). The Queen of Sheba later brings lavish gifts of gold, spices, and precious stones to Solomon after hearing of his wisdom (1 Kings 10:2,10). Her giving reflects the great esteem his reputation has earned.
Gifts in the Wisdom Books
The wisdom literature contains profound principles on gifts and giving that provide practical advice for living.
Proverbs repeatedly warns about the danger of bribes contrasted with pure motivations:
A gift opens doors for a man, gaining him access to important people! (Proverbs 18:16).
A bribe goes a long way toward blinding the eyes of wise men and silencing the words of righteous men” (Proverbs 17:23).
We also learn in Proverbs that, “A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). The book focuses not just on monetary giving but on all resources.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that even our skills and talents are gifts from God meant for serving others:
God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time, but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart so that people cannot discover what God has ordained, from the beginning to the end of their lives. I know that there is nothing better for us than to be filled with joy and to do good while we live. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12)
These wisdom passages provide guidance on embracing generosity while avoiding impure motivations.
Gifts in the Major Prophets
The Major Prophets contain examples of both spiritual and material gift giving that reflect God’s abundant provision for His people.
In Isaiah, God promises the lavish gift of living water to His people, both literal and spiritual:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1).
In Jeremiah, in the midst of His people’s sin and neglect of the poor, God reminds them that He has given generously without expecting repayment:
“From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day I have taken care of you and given you food. But you have not served me or paid any attention.” (Jeremiah 7:25)
Ezekiel contains examples of abundant and meticulously detailed gifts from God, such as measurements of the coming temple (Ezekiel 41-42) and specific allotments of land to each tribe (Ezekiel 47:13 – 48:29). These plans reveal God’s concern for justice and provision.
Finally, Daniel receives lavish gifts from King Nebuchadnezzar including purple robes, gold chains, and power over Babylon for correctly interpreting the king’s dreams through God’s wisdom (Daniel 2:46-49). This reflects God’s ability to care for His servants by inclining the hearts of rulers.
Gifts in the New Testament Gospels and Acts
Luke’s birth narrative highlights the generous gifts presented to honor Jesus’ birth. At His circumcision, Mary and Joseph give the poor person’s gift of two turtledoves (Luke 2:22-24). When the magi visit, they lavish Jesus with honor and costly gifts fit for a king – gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:9-11).
Later in Jesus’ ministry, He benefits from the gifts and generosity of others. Women like Joanna financially support His ministry (Luke 8:1-3), a poor widow gives her last two coins (Luke 21:1-4), and His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus open their home to host Him (Luke 10:38-42).
After His resurrection and ascension, the early church in Acts continued practicing generous giving. Members sold property and gave to anyone with need (Acts 2:44-45). Both Ananias and Barnabas provide great examples of extravagant generosity (Acts 4:32-37, Acts 9:26-27). The Holy Spirit himself gives lavish and varied spiritual gifts for ministry (Acts 2, Acts 10).
Gifts in the Epistles
The New Testament letters provide teaching on spiritual gifts in the church and encourage generous giving from the heart.
Paul teaches the Corinthian church about diversity of gifts but unity in God’s Spirit. He reminds them that, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4). He explains that each person’s gifts are given by God’s grace for the common good.
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul holds up the poor Macedonian churches as an example of joyful generosity in giving. He stresses that they begged earnestly for the gift of contributing and, “gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
The letter to the Philippians thanks them for providing for Paul’s needs through their gifts, but stresses that he seeks fruit that abounds to their account (Philippians 4:10-17). He focuses on motivations of love over obligation.
James teaches that every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father (James 1:17). He reminds believers to humbly receive God’s Word as a treasured gift.
Finally, Peter exhorts Christians to use their diverse spiritual gifts to serve others: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
Principles for Gift Giving
This survey of gifts in the Bible provides some key principles that can guide our own gift giving:
- Give from a generous heart, not out of mere obligation (2 Corinthians 9:7)
- Make gifts sacrificial, not just convenient extras (Mark 12:41-44)
- Give the best gifts our means allow (Proverbs 22:9, Exodus 35:21-22)
- Allow diversity and creativity in gifts to honor others’ uniqueness (Romans 12:6)
- Give to meet others’ needs and bless those unable to repay (Luke 14:12-14)
- Allow our gifts to build community and reflect Christ’s generosity (Acts 4:32-37)
- Honor God as the ultimate Giver by using gifts to serve Kingdom purposes (James 1:17)
The above principles help frame gift giving as a way to glorify God, serve others, and build Christlike love into our relationships and communities.
In exploring the many examples of gifts and gift giving throughout Scripture, we see that generosity is central to God’s character and actions. He is the ultimate gift giver, showing His love, grace and provision from beginning to end in the Bible.
As those made in God’s image, we are called to follow His example by generously and thoughtfully giving gifts that meet needs and build love. Our motivation should be pure, not obligatory. We trust that as we give freely and joyfully, God will provide for us in return.
The Bible as a whole presents a community of generosity, where giving flows from God’s abundance to us and through us to others. We all have a part to play. Our generosity should reflect our Creator’s lavish heart so that all glory is His. What an invitation to participate in kingdom generosity!