The Gift is Not for You

“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” (Matthew 2:11).

What would the nativity be without shepherds in bathrobes and wisemen wearing handmade crowns? Luke shares the angels’ proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The shepherds ran to Bethlehem and “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). Matthew 2:11 rewrites this Christmas pageant script as most people know it. The Magi arrived perhaps two years later because: (a) they came to a house, (b) Jesus is called a child, and (c) King Herod reacted by putting to death all the male children in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger (Matt. 2:16-18).

When the Magi came to the house, “they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasure and presented him with gifts” (Matt. 2:11). This may sound obvious, but the gifts weren’t for Mary and Joseph, they were for Jesus. A two-year-old doesn’t understand what to do with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so Mary and Joseph became stewards of these gifts. Likewise, the gifts your donors generously give are not intended for you or your ministry; they are for Jesus. The Maji’s gifts teach three important truths.

All the inside walls of the temple were completely overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20-22). It was stunning. John reveals the streets of heaven are made of pure gold (Rev. 21:21). As fundraisers you ask your donors for gold, but God doesn’t need their gold. You’re not asking for gold but for them to make an eternal investment and lay up their treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).

The priests used pure frankincense to create a special blend of fragrant spices for exclusive use in temple worship (Ex. 30:34). Incense symbolizes prayer. John saw an angel who “was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God” (Rev. 8:3-4). Ask your ministry partners for their special gift of prayer.

Myrrh foreshadowed Jesus’ death. It was a key ingredient in the mixture of spices used to prepare bodies for burial (John 19:39-40). Invite your donors to offer “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18) by remembering your ministry in their estate plans. The best estate gift strategy is to simply ask.

Mary and Joseph were faithful stewards of the treasures the Magi gave Jesus. You are called to be a faithful steward of the gifts your ministry receives. These gifts pale in comparison to the indescribable gift God gave to us in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15)!

Think About This: Who are the wisemen and women in your circle of influence you could ask for gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Response: Father, thank you. Every gift our ministry receives is a good and perfect gift from you (James 1:17). Help me to be a faithful steward.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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