Proverbs 21:14

A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

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Gifts are powerful tools to calm violent emotions. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous (Pr 27:4), but gifts can overpower them both. Gift exchanges are not the lesson here, but rather a private and personal gift from one person to another. A wise man uses them in self-defense or to restore damaged or threatened relationships. A wicked man uses them to overthrow justice and judgment by buying off a judge or other offended authority.

Here is wisdom! Here is prudence to behave yourself wisely like David with friends and enemies (I Sam 18:5,14,30). Do you have an enemy? Is a friend angry at you? You can pacify him or her and create peace by giving a gift. But give it in private, where you cannot benefit yourself by public knowledge of the gift. If the offended party thinks you gave it to make a show, you can easily aggravate the situation rather than improve it.

Fighting to defend yourself is usually stupid. A soft answer and approach turns away wrath, but arguing throws fuel on the fire (Pr 15:1,18; 17:14; 26:21; 30:33). If you want to be wise, speak gently and give a gift to the offended party. It helped Jacob pacify Esau (Gen 32:3 – 33:9). It helped Abigail pacify David (I Sam 25:2-35). And David used gifts to appease Judah for missing a battle against the Philistines (I Sam 29:1-11; 30:26-31).

God gives gifts – open and secret – to His enemies every day (Matt 5:43-48; Acts 14:17). And Christians are to be perfect like Him by doing good to their enemies, for it is such good actions that overcome evil – your gift-giving overcomes any thoughts of vengeance (Rom 12:17-21). Rather than allow another’s anger or wrath to provoke malice or revenge, take the high road of returning kindness to overcome their evil and your evil!

The gift should be done in secret, lest you spoil your good intentions with the appearance of a vain show. A reward “in the bosom” is a gift slipped to a person out of the notice of others. By giving it secretly, you avoid ostentation, and you avoid exposing the receiver to the appearance of covetousness. Public flattery is just the opposite of the lesson here!

Here is a warning! Though the offer of a bribe in secret or in the bosom may be accepted and may reduce your punishment or sentence, it is only a wicked man that gives gifts to subvert justice, and God will judge (17:23; Ex 23:8; Deut 16:19; I Sam 8:3; Micah 7:3).

The lesson here applies as well to the Lord. If you have offended your Father in heaven, He seeks your private and secret prayers and gifts, not public ones to be seen by others (Matt 6:1-6,16-18). If you give in secret, He will bless you openly. Glorious wisdom!