Monday 06 January 2014

Bible Book:

Matthew 2:1-12 Monday 6 January 2014


We owe much of our picture of the magi to a treatise attributedto the Venerable Bede rather than to Matthew's Gospel. Matthew doesnot even tell us that there were three magi - this has simply beeninferred from the three gifts they brought. Bede inventeddescriptions of the three so-called 'wise men' and named themGaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. He also interpreted the threegifts:

  • gold, a gift fit for a king
  • frankincense, an offering worthy of a divinity
  • myrrh, a foreshadowing of the death of the Son of Man.

But behind all this legend are significant messages aboutgenerosity to all.

According to social exchange theory you don't get something fornothing. This psycho-sociological way of understanding humanrelationships sees all human interactions as a form of exchange;that is to say, we give because we expect to receive something inreturn. It may not be anything as obvious as receiving a gift inreturn, or a return dinner invitation; sometimes what we receivethrough giving is the approval of others or a sense that we arekind and generous people, which boosts our self-esteem.

On the flip side, social exchange theory means that we don'texpect to get something without paying for it. This can make usdeeply suspicious of 'freebies', like the Christmas shoppers whorefuse the mince pies offered as a gift by the local church,certain that there must be a 'catch'. We can find it very difficultto receive without giving in return.

But there is no 'catch' to the love of God. In this passageMatthew's Gospel relates how God, in immensely abundant generosity,gives the gift of Godself. God does not operate within socialexchange theory or asks for or expects anything in return.Moreover, there could be no adequate recompense for the gift ofGod.

So why do the magi bring gifts, and extravagant gifts at that?It is certainly not an exchange - even gold, frankincense and myrrhare no exchange for the light of God's presence. Instead thesegifts are a faint human reflection of what extravagant generositylooks like. Today's passage shows us extreme human generosity sothat we can imagine how much greater is the generosity of God inrevealing Godself to us.

To Ponder

  • Do you find it difficult to receive? Why do you think thatis?
  • How have you experienced God's abundant generosity in yourlife?
  • Even if you have been a Christian for many years, are you stilla 'seeker' like the magi? How do you seek the true light ofGod?
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