13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.'”
19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.'” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp. Genesis 32:13-21
The level of detail given here is amazing. It was enough to overwhelm and to make someone think twice. The large gift probably meant nothing to Jacob because he was very wealthy. In fact, it seems as if Jacob were sending the gifts in waves with sufficient spacing in between. He knew exactly how the gifts would be received on the other end. Who could resist?
It seems to me that Jacob had been thinking about this for a long time. Of course the gifts were save his own skin, so to speak, but it was well thought out.
Have you ever bought a gift for someone and you know it was not the best gift but because it was on sale or convenient you bought it and gave it anyway? We all have.
But gifts are mean to be special. For instance, I have a running gag with my mother-in-law whereby I give her something at Christmas that shows I’ve been thinking of her and no one else. If I gave the same gift to my wife or even her husband it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, they’d understand who it was intended for because they’re in on the gag too. But my point isn’t what the gift is, but what it is intended to do: make the receiver realize that I must have been thinking of her.
I recall the gift exchange a very wealthy boss of mine had with his wife. At the time when he told me, he could only spend $5 on a gift at Christmas and she the same. Here’s someone who could afford to spend thousands, but they both limited themselves to $5 because they would have to think hard about the best gift for that amount of money.
My point today is that gifts have meanings attached to them. How thoughtful are you when you give out gifts? Does it matter that what you buy never gets used because you bought a gift just because it was expected of you?