I’m bad at math, but sometimes still try.
Recently I asked my friend Amy to help me with a little math problem, to try and determine the approximate worth of the Magi’s gift to the Christ child.
They brought gold, silver, and myrrh.
The common coin, a silver denarius, weighed about 1 ounce. In today’s market, an ounce of silver is worth $33.82 USD. Gold is worth 51.4x silver, so a gold coin would be valued at $1739.89 USD.
IF the Magi gave Christ a gift of gold coins, we can safely assume they gave him no less than 100 gold coins (possibly more), thus amounting to approximately $173,989 USD.
Frankincense was worth 10x the value of gold, but they probably gave him less. If we surmise that 1 measure of frankincense weighed 3 ounces and that they gave him 3 measures of that kingly gift, then the approximate value of the frankincense offering would have been $156,451.50.
Myrrh was worth 5x the value of frankincense, resulting in three measures valuing approximately $782,260.
Total value of all three gifts combined? $1,112,700
But let’s not forget to multiply that by a standard rate of inflation from 0AD to the present day, 5.49, thus resulting in a total gift (adjusted) of $6,108,723 USD.
What a ridiculous number.
You may, of course, doubt the process by which I’ve arrived at this remarkable sum. I invite you to do so. But EVEN IF I’m VERY, VERY WRONG the gift was still an astronomical sum given to a stonemason’s family earning the equivalent of $30,000/yr without medical or dental insurance.
It’s a crap-ton of money.
They gave lavishly to Christ.
To whom do we give lavishly?
In my case, I’m saddened to think that I most frequently give to people I cannot impress or to purchase things I cannot keep.
But the gifts of the Magi convict me. They gave gifts fit for a king—gold was a gift of allegiance, given in tax; frankincense was a gift of coronation, given at the moment of a king’s ascension; myrrh was a gift of burial, given at interment.
If they recognized him as king in such a costly manner, why don’t I?
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com