What happened to the Wise Men’s gold?
Robert Parham asks a question I’d never considered:
If the Magi/Wise Men/Three Kings brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn Jesus, then Joseph and Mary must have been pretty well off, and not simple laborers and peasants as they are often depicted.
Parham speculates that the treasure was a kind of stimulus package for the baby Jesus, as his parents “invested most of the gold in his education and future vocation, anticipating great things from their son (Luke 1:32-33 and Matthew 1:20-21).” He also suggests it could have been “startup” money for his ministry with all those working-class fishermen.
“If Jesus did indeed have access to the wise men’s gold – firsthand experience with wealth – then we can better understand why he knew the dangers of wealth,” Parham writes.
I thought Mary Magdalene and other female followers did some of the financing, and it seems that Jesus had a pretty low-overhead operation — eating where he was offered food, sleeping where he was offered shelter. In addition, there would have been opportunities for a bright and spiritual young man to go learn the faith, maybe even in places like Qumran.
Me, I’d like to think that Mary and Joseph shared that unexpected windfall with their wider family and community — and gave Jesus a lesson that he elevated in his own teaching and ministry.
Which is why I like Parham’s outro best:
“Imagining what happened to the wise men’s gold ought to spark our own moral imagination about what will happen with our own gifts at Christmas. What do we do with our own abundance?”
Frankly, this is why Christianity needs a more robust Talmudic and midrashic tradition.