God’s gift

If you knew the gift of God…” (John 4:10).

Many people are thinking about buying and receiving gifts this time of year. It is admittedly predictable to capitalize on that theme. My mind immediately goes to Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4, where he said:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

Interestingly, on the occasions where Jesus used the word “gift” in the gospel records, we usually find the Greek word doron. In John 4:10, we find the word dorean. Both words come from the same root, and carry the idea of someone giving something for the benefit or enjoyment of another, but they have slightly different emphases. I’m not a Greek scholar by any means, but these are some things I’ve gleaned. If there are those who can help me understand this better, please feel free to comment below.

Doron is an offering, and carries with it the pain it brings the giver (hence: sacrifice). There is true sacrifice involved for the giver. This is not scraps or leftovers. It is something valuable, which the giver would rather keep.

Dorean (the word Jesus used in John 4:10) expresses the manner in which it is offered – freely (TDNT). This supplies us with the scope of the gift’s distribution. It is disbursed, potentially, for everyone (see: Hebrews 2:9 and 2 Peter 3:9). When we remember that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan – someone outside of the Jewish covenant – we might see why this word was selected. This “freely distributed gift” was for her, too.

But not everyone receives this dorean, this “gift of God.” Why? Generally speaking, it must be either because (1) God doesn’t want some people to receive it (Calvinism), or (2) because some people choose not to receive it.

The Bible teaches that we may choose to receive or reject this gift (cf. Revelation 22:17). This is consistent with what Jesus told the woman, “If you knew the gift of God…you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.”

Let me conclude by noting another element. In many cultures, including much if not all of the biblical context, it was possible, but a tremendous insult, to refuse a gift. How do you suppose God feels about our rejection of his Gift?

5 Replies to “God’s gift”

  1. Hey brother,
    I’m going to start this comment and it’s going to sound critical at first…but it’s not. Just hang in there till the end. 🙂

    When I began reading, the cat that dug its claws into my brain was “…the occasions where Jesus used the word “gift” in the gospel records, he mostly used the Greek word doron.” I’ve always heard and been taught that Jesus spoke Aramaic. That being so, Jesus didn’t use any Greek words when he spoke, especially in Samaria. Thus, it would be wrong to say “Jesus uses Greek words”. Again that’s what I’ve always heard. Then my cat retracted his claws so to speak.

    I wondered…

    Did he speak Greek? I don’t know. Could he? OF COURSE! A God who gave the gift of tongues to some can himself speak how ever he pleases. Then it hit me…whatever language he spoke is irrelevant. What is relevant is that John, who probably knew Jesus best, described this even using the wording you mentioned. So, it was a great article and we thought out, however, the “gift” that I received wasn’t the “gift” you may have intended.

    I am reminded how important it is to conjure up that “list of things you’ve always assumed” and question them line by line from time to time. They could be right or wrong, but more importantly, than can prevent you from growing in Christ.

    Thanks brother!

    1. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your willingness to share. Truly, I never gave the first thought to what language Jesus would have used on this occasion. As you mentioned, my primary concern was with the word by which John (through the Spirit) chose to express it. Looking at the article again, I think it would be fitting to change the wording to reflect this possible difference between the language Jesus may have originally employed, and the language selected by the Spirit to convey it to us. Again, I appreciate the blessing, and pray God continues to bless you as you serve.

    2. *I modified the language slightly from the original post, to read, “Interestingly, on the occasions where Jesus used the word “gift” in the gospel records, we usually find the Greek word doron. In John 4:10, we find the word dorean…” I think this might more accurately reflect the difference you highlighted, and seems to leave open the possibility that Jesus may have employed a different language than did the Spirit, though the words, undoubtedly, would have little difference in meaning. Thanks again, Andrew.

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