“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?