(1) The Magi were pagans
(2) They were probably more in number to that of a band of merry men than three. Apparently the popular thought is three, because three gifts.
As I read the account in Matthew 2 of the Magi, the question they ask and the reason they ask stood out. "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star and have come to worship Him."
The word worship is the Greek word proskuneo (Strong's Number 4352) and means I go down on my knees, do obeisance to, and worship. Basically, they were going to bow or get down on their knees to adore Him.
And all the readers said, "Tell me something I don't know."
It doesn't say anything about giving Him gifts.
Upon arrival it says: On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. THEN they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (verse 11)
You and I know that if we were going to meet a baby for the first time, the chances of us showing up empty handed are not likely. But if the Magi were pagan, and their initial intent was to worship, why did they get there, do what they planned, and then decide to give gifts? And, what happened to the gifts? Mary and Joseph were poor and they certainly didn't start living the highlife after being given gold.
Unfortunately, those aren't questions we can answer because Scripture doesn't address them. But I wonder if there is a much deeper lesson we can learn from these men.
Their first priority was worship. Is it ours? I can honestly say that I think I try to do more offering of myself in His Name as if it's a gift Jesus needs me to give than I spend time just worshiping Him. And while He graciously accepts our gifts, He surely doesn't need them. And while we're at it, He doesn't need our worship either. I'm pretty sure He's fairly certain and confident in who He is. BUT, He does desire it. Why? Because He can do more with our heart than with our money, talents, gifts, or anything else we might bring Him.
I am truly convinced that if we were sold out for Jesus because of His great love for us, our hearts would so desire to do anything He asked us, and that any type of limitation we see (particulary financial) woudln't even cross our radar. He can multiply anything to be enough to do whatever He intends. I mean, if He wanted us to start some type of charitable organization and all we had was $3.00 in pennies, He could move the heart of someone who is looking for a huge tax write-off to underwrite the entire thing if He wanted. And boom! Our $3.00 in pennies is now $300,000. Quite a return.
In Unseen (p.134-135), Sara Hagerty writes:
"My resources are at God's disposal......But I err when I think of resources as merely
transactional. As if meeting needs alone is the only thing, or most important thing, God
desires of me. If meeting needs is my primary focus, I've missed a foundational step:
friendship with the King.
We often assume that God, however, is somehow pining away for just one thing: our
A+ effort so this broken world can finally be fixed. As if He is anxiously waiting
to see which one of us will respond and how well we will do.
We make our worth dependent on our ability to meet the needs around us.
My greater need is to interrupt this kneejerk cycling between the cries of the world
and my response so that I can cultivate friendship with God. It's there that I learn
that it's the friends of God who truly change the world. It's there that I have the depth
of friendship that informs the way I respond to the world's needs."
What if we truly learned this lesson.....worship first and respond second. What if we didn't just automatically jump in because we think it's what's expected and we actually let God inform us about what we are to do?
So much of this goes against our nature. Part of it is cultural and part of it is pride. We see everyone else doing something and we want to jump in regardless of whether or not we feel called. We have a fear of missing out or being judged by not participating. But if we don't listen to God on which needs we are to meet, we won't be able to meet the needs that He's specifically planned for us.
My hope and prayer as that as the season moves toward the birth of Christ, we will keep our eyes fixed on worshiping Jesus and allowing Him to direct our attention to the things that He is pressing on our hearts. He created us uniquely and has given us the experiences we have had to move our hearts in certain areas. Let's do what He asks in response to the love and friendship we have with Him, not in an attempt to gain His affection or attention.