GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MYRRH
- John Piper
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. -Matthew 2:10–11
God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages. Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship? The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’” I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. May God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”
It’s an interesting concept – to give up focus on material things at Christmas. Isn’t getting stuff what it’s all about? The magi gave gifts – and I’ve always looked at it like going to some ones house for dinner and bringing some flowers or a dessert – you don’t show up empty handed (it’s called manners – ha). What do I have that I could give God anyway?
Thinking about the gifts they brought not as need based, or required – but a sacrifice – is a new concept to me. Piper talks about giving God what He does not need – after all, what do we have that God doesn’t already have more of? These gifts we give God may even be things we enjoy – but isn’t this the time of year we focus on things we enjoy more than any other time? We tend to shift from what we need for our daily life and start looking at what we want – or might enjoy.
Giving Him the things we might enjoy, shows how much we care about Him. What do we enjoy more than time – our time – to use as we wish?
How can I worship God during this season and give Him my gift? Maybe it’s as simple as giving up a few minutes per day to read an advent post. Maybe I take time to reflect on what God means in my life, and how much I really do treasure Him above all else. No matter what it is, taking the time to prepare our hearts and show God how much He means to us, will make the gift He give us on December 25th have a greater impact in our lives.