The Story Behind the Gifts

by Joanna Pierce on December 02, 2018

Matthew 2:1–2, 4–5, 8–12 // Watch Service Online

Story Basics

People all over the world like stories. It is a mode of communication proven to be a billion dollar industry. God knew this about His creation, and choose this format to share pivotal truths with the believer through His Word.

Stories have a tendency to change over time as well as our understanding of them. Just like our natural stories, stories in the Bible have been passed down, and we’ve all adopted an understanding of these stories in our mind. When it comes to the stories of Christmas, there are elements we might believe to be true but aren’t due to the lack of supporting Scripture. This is why it’s important to study the Scriptures around the Christmas story to discern what’s true.

The True Story of the Wise Men

The wise men (or Magi) were identified as men of intellect, learning, and education. The Bible gives us a glimpse of their identity, but we learn more from the history books. But, even in study we don’t know how many wise men there were. Against traditional storytelling, we know there were more than three! The wise men were led by God’s star in the east, their journey taking an underdetermined amount of time. More than likely, they journeyed for months and possibly years. They came to worship Jesus from afar, and arrived when Jesus was an unknown age. Many theologians predict Jesus was two years old or older when the wise men arrived on the scene. Finally, we know the wise men brought different types of gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Gifts

What do we know about the gifts brought by the wise men? What were their importance? Frankincense was a perfume used in tabernacle worship (Exodus 30:34). The wise men gave Jesus something historically used to worship God in the Old Testament. Gold was associated with wealth and power for royalty, specially kings. Jesus is known to us as the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Myrrh was a perfume usually applied on the dead in the burial process. This showed Jesus would suffer and die, alluding to the reason He was on the earth. Every gift provided pointed to the real gift: Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 9:15). Jesus was the ultimate gift, and One we definitely didn’t deserve (Isaiah 9:6). Do the gifts we give point back to Jesus? If not, what types of gifts should we give this Christmas?

Kinds of Gifts (and Gift-Givers)

A gift given without strings attached, a gift a sacrifice, and a gift that’s cost us something is a true gift. They’re considered “God gifts.” When we give gifts, the ultimate purpose is to give them to God: this is the true reason for giving. Someone else might be the recipient of our gift, but it’s given with the intention of giving to God. Once that gift is given, we shouldn’t be concerned about what’s happened to it. It’s been given to God to will and do His good pleasure with it!

There are different types of gifts and different types of givers. One group of givers are people who budget for giving. This is okay to a point (we want to be good stewards of our finances), but money cannot be our motive for giving. Instead giving needs to be our motive for giving gifts. Alternately, some people give gifts because they “have” to. An expectation and reputation drives their giving. This also shouldn’t drive our giving!

Instead, we need to be God-givers and give gifts that feel right and can never be repaid. Our gifts need to reflect the heart of God and how He gives (Philippians 2:7–8). Jesus became less for us so we could become more to others. Gifts need to be the best they can be to help this lost and dying world. An important lesson in giving is this: those with less still deserve the best.

Giving to the Poor

We need to treat the poor with dignity. All rich and poor are the same because we’re all created by God and deserve to be treated equally (Proverbs 22:2). We should offer the poor opportunities in our gifts. This may not always equal monetary giving, but helping them connect with resources, career pathways, mentors, and/or helping with our time. We’re also called to defend the poor and care about injustice. If we oppress the poor we insult God, but if we help them, we worship God (Proverbs 14:31). When we give any gift, the target of that gift is God (Matthew 25:33–40).

Conclusion

There are many lessons to learn when celebrating the story of Christmas. This season, make sure you ask God to help you be a Godly gift-giver. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus all the time, but especially in our gift-giving. Whatever He puts in our life is meant to be a blessing to someone else. Let’s pray God can open our eyes to better giving and that He opens a door of opportunity for giving!