Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (NKJV). There are two ways we can look at this verse; one is negative and one is positive.

1) The word “gift” in this verse could be synonymous with a “bribe.” We see this thought brought out clearly in Proverbs 21:14, “A GIFT in secret pacifies anger, and a BRIBE behind the back, strong wrath.” In other words, this verse is teaching us that a man may “influence others with his gift and buy his way into the company of great men.” We know this to be true as we look around us, for if one has the means (i.e. money or other material possessions) they can win the favor of others by giving them gifts. Yet let’s remember this is NOT true when it comes to “winning God’s favor,” for no amount of money will influence God or bring us into His presence. The opposite is true; the sinner can only come into God’s favor and presence by GRACE, which is “unmerited favor.” Ephesians 2:8-9 declare, “For by GRACE you have been saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES; it if THE GIFT OF GOD, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

2) The word “gift” can be applied to a “spiritual gift.” After Christ rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven we read that He “gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:8). Later, in verse 12, we read WHY He gave gifts unto men, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Spiritual gifts are a BLESSING to men and when we, as members of the body of Christ, use the gift Christ has given us, it will result in “the edifying of the body of Christ,” which means believers will “grow spiritually and be built up on their most holy faith” (see 2nd Peter 3:18 and Jude 20).

Mr. H. A. Ironside had this to say on our verse in Proverbs: “A gifted man does not need to force himself forward. His gift will open doors for him as truly as in the case of a material gift for a natural man. In other words, the man who has had a ministry committed to him by the Lord Himself need never be a groveling slave to the methods of the present age. Let him go on quietly in faithfulness, and the Master he serves will bring him to the front in due time if He would have him there at all.”

A good example of this is found in Timothy. He was given a spiritual gift which was recognized by the elders (the “great spiritual leaders”) of his day. Paul wrote of this in 1st Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect the GIFT WHICH IS IN YOU, which was given to you by prophecy WITH THE LAYING OF ON OF THE HANDS OF THE ELDERSHIP.” The “laying on of the hands” does NOT mean that the elders conferred the gift on Timothy; it simply means they “gave him the right hand of fellowship” because they recognized the gift that Christ, by the Holy Spirit, had given to him. We have a similar example of this in Galatians 2:9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Again, Christ had given a gift to the Apostle Paul and His gift “made room for him and brought him before great men.” They saw and acknowledged the gift that had been bestowed upon him and were willing to have fellowship with him in the use of that gift.  (368.1)  (DO)