Many of us have lived with a misunderstood interpretation of Proverbs 18:16, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” We thought this verse meant our personal ministry gift is what opens a way for us to gain access to important relationships that a non-gifted person would not be able to enter. While that can be true in some cases, it is not what the verse is saying.
With the advent of more readable translations of Scripture, the understanding of Proverbs 18:16 has being clarified, “Would you like to meet a very important person? Take a generous gift. It will do wonders to gain entrance into his presence.” The verse, when correctly interpreted, means if we are being led by God to meet with someone in a place of authority, we should prepare a gift to bring with us. The gift will open the door and grant us the favor of an audience.
The word “gift” is used elsewhere in the Hebrew text to describe the dowry gift given to obtain a wife, offerings offered in worship, a gift given to a ruler as a gesture of goodwill, or a gift given in secret to pacify someone’s anger. In its original usage, it had nothing to do with our ministry gifts.
Some of this misunderstanding has created an unhealthy hierarchy in the Church, leading some to believe only certain people with certain gifts can be used by God to speak to people in places of authority. Proverbs 18:16 is actually a verse about wisdom. There are times when a natural gift will open a relational door to deliver a spiritual gift. We need to discern under the guidance of wisdom what that gift might be. This makes all of us, not just the visibly gifted ones, a potential deliverer of a breakthrough word – a word released after the delivery of a gift had opened the heart of the hearer.