Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Matthew 2: 7 – 8
As Norman said yesterday, on face value this interaction seems innocent enough. Some visitors have come from afar with news of a special baby and the King is curious to find out more. But those of us who are familiar with the story know what was really going on. Herod was manipulating the Magi, tricking them into revealing the baby’s location. His intention all along was to eliminate this potential rival. These ‘Wise’ men were in fact being played.
One of the challenges of being a Christian is that there are people out in the world who will lie, mislead and manipulate us. Jesus taught us to be loving, open and forgiving but that can open us up to being taken advantage of. That can be really demoralising, especially when we have acted in good faith only to have those good intentions used against us. But there’s a risk that after being taken advantage of that we can snap too far the other way. We can go from being trusting, to treating everyone with suspicion; constantly on the lookout who is going to try and trick us. But that just leaves us feeling jaded and cynical.
Our challenge is how to be loving, while also being canny of the ways of the world. Later in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” There is great value in being street smart, being able to tell when we’re being taken for a ride is a huge asset. But don’t let that rob you of your innocence. We are called to be generous and loving people, don’t let the dishonesty of other people get in the way of that.
Prayer: Lord I pray for the wisdom to discern truth from lies, to see hidden agendas and to resist those who would try to lead me astray. But I pray that I won’t give in to cynicism, but instead remain open to others.
Action: If you have the chance have an honest conversation with someone you trust about how you are doing, beyond the ‘fine thanks’ we normally say. Model what it means to live an honest life by sharing with others.