A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Gifts are powerful. Solomon knew their power for good or evil. He warned against bribes to corrupt justice and pervert judgment (Pr 17:8,23; 19:6). But he also knew gifts could serve a noble purpose in obtaining favor and rewarding kindness (I Kgs 5:1-12; 10:1-13).
The proverb speaks of a man’s gift making room for him – opening doors of opportunity and privilege that were otherwise off limits. A nice tip to the maitre d’ will often get you superior seating or open tables that would be closed to other guests. No performance is sold out for the right price. Every inn has room when the gift is appropriate.
The proverb speaks of a man’s gift bringing him before great men – it gains entrance to the presence of those superior to the giver. A drug salesman can have a few minutes with a doctor if he brings a gift for the nurses. The president of a bank will entertain large depositors, and a senator will golf with you for a sizable campaign contribution.
The power of gifts can be abused. To give or receive a gift for the purpose of corrupting justice is bribery. It is a terrible sin for both giver and receiver. The God of heaven condemned bribes (Ex 23:8; Deut 16:19; Ps 26:10; Is 5:23; Ezek 22:12; Amos 5:12; Mic 7:3). Samuel’s sons took bribes, but Samuel never did such a thing (I Sam 8:3; 12:3).
Anyone in authority faces the temptation to compromise his judgment for a gift or favor given by someone desiring his help. Rulers are often offered benefits for promoting the cause of the giver. Employers may be bribed in ways for job opportunities. Pastors are flattered for mercy, and even fathers must overlook the favors of a disobedient child.
Gifts can be used for noble ends (Pr 21:14). Abraham’s servant found a bride for Isaac with gifts (Gen 24:53). Jacob used them to appease Esau (Gen 32:3-21). He also sent gifts for favor in Pharaoh’s court (Gen 43:11-14). Ehud used a gift for his errand (Judges 3:15-23). Abigail cooled David’s heart with a needed gift for his men (I Sam 25:18,35).
There are two lessons. Gifts to bribe someone are sin, corrupting justice and promoting compromise for financial gain. Any such gifts must not be given or received. Men that give or receive such gifts cannot be trusted. Legitimate gifts for favors or privileges must be very judicious, without having even an appearance or implication of compromise.
The true and living God is the greatest Being in the universe. How can any man come before Him? How can room be made in heaven for you? What gift will you give to gain His favor? There is none! God Himself gave the gift – the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, Who fully opened the way into God’s presence (Eph 2:18; Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-22).