Have you ever started out on some project or endeavor, only to discover part ways in that it was actually going to be much more costly and time consuming than you had originally planned? I’ve had such an experience recently with my youngest daughter and Highland Dancing. We put her in assuming that once fees were paid we were set to go, only to discover quickly that special shoes, different outfits for each dance, and extra days of rehearsal were also included in the cost of this pursuit.
And when you encounter that moment of realization, it forces you to answer an important question, viz. “Is this pursuit important enough to me to warrant the cost?” And once you say, “yes” (buyer beware) you are – by default now – agreeing to pay whatever costs may be associated with the pursuit of this goal.
But here’s the problem: with pretty much any pursuit or goal we embark on in life, we understand right from the beginning that there will be cost involved. And we pay that cost because we believe that the goal/prize is worth it. And this is our common belief and understanding in every area of our lives … except in our worship of God. Somehow and at some time or another, we got it into our heads and began to believe that our worship of God shouldn’t cost us anything; that it should be free. But in doing so, doesn’t that belief have a direct bearing on how much we value the thing – or in this case the Person – that we are pursuing?
An Advent case study
Enter the wise men, which we read about in the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. As we look through their story, I think we see four ways that our worship of God is actually incredibly costly. And yet if we agree that the Goal of our worship is as valuable as we say He is, then really no cost could be too high. Right?
Worship of God will cost us our time. If we accept the theory that the wise men were of Babylonian origin – being raised up over the centuries under the influence of the Hebrew slave Daniel who Nebuchadnezzar had placed, in his day, over all the wise men of the Babylonian kingdom – then the journey to Jerusalem by major trade routes would have been over 800 miles. That’s like walking or riding a camel from Vancouver to Edmonton! And yet these wise men were so sure of their interpretation of this star-sign they had seen in the east; so convinced of the value of what they were coming to see, that they willingly paid the cost of time to make the journey.
And yet, how many – if we were to ask someone who knew us well – would say that the way we use our time in a week shows how valuable Jesus is to us? That we intentionally set aside time for daily personal worship that is not simply about sermon writing, as well as for family worship and corporate worship? How much of your time is your worship of God really costing you?
The arrival of these foreign travellers to Jerusalem would have been the talk of the town; Twitter feeds would have been going crazy with #wisemen tags. They were even granted an audience soon after their arrival with the then reigning king over Jerusalem, Herod the great. Their reputation, in once sense, preceded them. And yet – so valuable is the goal of their pursuit to them – that the wise men instantly toss aside any status or reputation they may have had, by asking the reigning king in Jerusalem where the true King of the Jews had been born so they could go and worship him! This would not be unlike walking into Kim Jong Un’s palace in North Korea and asking him where the real supreme leader of north Korea was that was going to replace him!
In our own lives, being unwilling to risk our reputation to be identified with Jesus can seriously impede our worship of Him. The obvious reason is because, in protecting our own reputations over God’s, we are showing what (and who) it is that we truly worship above all! Are you willing to risk people’s opinions and maybe even misconceptions of you, in order to identify yourself with the One you treasure above all? The apostle Peter faced this very same question standing outside Jesus’ trial by a charcoal fire, and showed – that night anyways – that he was unwilling to pay the cost of worshipping Jesus.
It’s not commonly looked at, but vss 9-10 of Matthew 1 could indicate that – at least for a period of time – the wise men lost sight of the star they were following. And it was only after the star reappeared over the place where Jesus was born, that they found it again and greatly rejoiced. Worship of Jesus in that moment required patient trust and hope – even in the midst of darkness – that their journey had not been for nothing.
And at various times in our own lives – when the sky seems to go dark, when God seems far off, and we’re wondering if maybe we made this journey for nothing – will we pay the cost in our worship of patient trust in the goodness of God? Will we hold tightly to what we know and keep pursuing Him, until He reveals Himself once again?
Whether or not we attach theological significance to the gifts that the wise men brought in worship of Jesus, what we can say is that what they brought was important to them; that it was meaningful to them; that it was the best of what they had to offer.
If you know your OT well, you’ll remember king David’s words in 2 Samuel when Araunah seeks to sell him his threshing floor for nothing. He says, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”
And yet how often is that exactly what we do? How often do we drape our pocket-change and garage-sale throwaways in theological language to make it appear much more costly than it actually is; all the while clutching our true treasures closely to our chest? Is Jesus truly the most valuable of your pursuits? Is there truly anything that you have that He does not already have rightful ownership over anyways?
Do you see it now? Our worship of God is actually more costly than any other pursuit we have in this life! But it is only more costly because this Goal of our worship is also more valuable than any other thing we could ever pursue in this life. May our worship demonstrate and declare just how valuable He truly is to us.