Regarding, the wise-men presenting gifts to Christ. We ought to understand two important points. One, these gifts were not presented as financial assistance. Because, God does not need anything from man. He is not served by human hands as if He needs anything. (Acts 17:25) Piper makes this clear, rather humorously, “It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.” (pg. 20) Second, these gifts were not meant to be bribes. Because, God takes no bribe. (Deu 10:17)
These gifts were (as discussed previously) – (a) meant to demonstrate their recognition of Jesus’ Kingship; and (b) meant to demonstrate their joy in finding Jesus. I’ll invest a few more words (here) on this second point.
Finding Jesus after much labour, and perhaps after much speculation, and doubt and fear on the wise-men’s part, was perhaps like finding wisdom. (Pro 2:4) The wise-men seem to demonstrate similar joy, as the one we find in the parable of hidden treasure. (Mat 13:44) The crux is this: their joy was not of earthly riches or favour – but that they could witness the birth of the Messiah, and that they could worship Him. They presented gifts as way of demonstrating, that finding Jesus was the treasure above all treasures. And so, they presented their best possession as a show of respect and reverence, and to show that they treasured that moment, and Him, more than the anything. Piper formulates it better. He writes, it was their way of telling “you are my treasure, not these things”. (pg. 21)
I find the wise-men’s endeavour awe-inspiring. But much more than that, I find, myself humbled as to how YHWH led these men against all odds – to being blessed. How amazing is our God? But by saying that, I don’t mean anyone to be mistaken. I am not talking about donating financially to the Church or other philanthropic exercises, as gifts to Christ this Christmas. If you do that, then that is good on you. Keep it up. But that’s not the point I want to make here. Because, we shouldn’t forget what the scriptures says about sacrifices and offerings. And I quote: “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.” (Hos 6:6, TLB) But how can we love someone without knowing them? Therefore, knowledge is preceded by obedience. Only when we being obeying Him by learning and keeping His Word (i.e. the Bible), we begin to love Him, and know Him. “But Samuel replied, what is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1Sa 15:22, NLT)
What is it that a man treasures the most in his life? It is his ‘self’ – his self-interest and all the vices that comes along with it. If you ought to gift anything to God. You begin by mortifying your self – your self-interest – your sins – your sinful habits – your sinful desires. For a person who continues to harbour his old sins cannot please God, let alone offer Him anything. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mat 16:24, ESV) If you want to offer anything to God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Seek righteousness and holiness. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom 12:1, NIV) How profound it is that the scriptures note, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat 6:21, ESV)
Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy“
Read previous entries in this Series:
(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas (x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions