A gift or a present is a tangible item given to somebody without expecting anything in return or any payment. An object is never a present if the one who receives it already owns it. However, even when this is the case, most people still consider it as a present. For most people, a gift is supposed to be voluntarily free, although gift-giving may involve only an expectation of compensation.
In ancient times, the greatest gifts were usually symbols or objects given with vows of love and loyalty. These symbols could be symbols of the husband or wife, loyalty, obedience, and honor. Symbols, such as bracelets with embedded stones or cups with engraved liquids such as wine or beer, held more religious meanings than ordinary objects. Therefore, these symbols carried with them a more religious meaning than did common, everyday gifts. Gifts therefore function as seals of fidelity and promises of loyalty to the giver, and therefore played an important role in the lives of both romans and pagans. Gifts also expressed class and status.
Throughout the Old Testament, many holy things are given as tokens of worship. Gifts from Grecian queen Alexandra, purchased from the god of wine and bread, were symbols of her divine status. Gifts from the queen of Assyria were symbols of her obedience to the will of the god.
Gifts, then, symbolize the communion of persons with God. Gifts from the church, therefore, are given not as presents to people, but as tokens of faith and devotion to the church. The giving of gifts includes physical acts, such as pouring the contents of the treasury into a new vessel, or blessing a building, or pouring forth wisdom into a young child. Many churches contain a treasury of offerings, which is used to support the mission of the church.
The early church fathers, in addition to the practice of gifting, stressed the importance of showing gratitude to those who have helped and supported the church. They gave thanks publicly to all those whom they had helped and especially to those with whom they had been in correspondence. For example, one of the first letters from Paul to the church in Galatia, written around 80 A.D., included a description of the converts to the church. He said that some of the converts there had become “Zealous of the grace of the Lord” (verse 11). The gifts that he described there included money, silver, garments, and other articles of clothing.
The idea that the church should offer gifts to those who have come to it is a long and rich history. Gifts help show others that you are in their corner, that your position in the community is elevated by your sharing of Christ’s love and His gift of His peace, provision, and wisdom. Gifts also remind the giver that he or she is not alone in the presence of the Lord, that there are other Christians with whom they can share the gift of the Gospel. A common passage that contains many descriptions of gifts is found in Acts 13:4-7. Paul and Silas go to a house in Ephesus where two converts have made a church.
The members of the church to greet the visitors and give them some pleasant gifts. Two young men sit on each side of Silas. One of the younger men has a ring with an iron crown on which a candle is burned. Another visitor gives a warm smile and receives a holy charm, an oracle or prophecy, and a book of dreams.
There are also other kinds of spiritual gifts among Christians. Some use prophetic or tongues to communicate verbally and others have special talents for interpretation of sacred scripts. These are called tongues because, when the giver wants to say something to a person, he usually intones or speaks in a low calm voice using his spiritual gifts.