In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. – Matthew 2:1-12 [NRSV]
I’m not certain whether or not I wish to be less naive. Obviously there is a downside to being too susceptible to people’s untested claims. Those who don’t guard themselves are likely to become victims of scamsters and con artists. On the other hand, you want to think the best of people, not having to question everything they say.
Living with fellow sinners in a fallen world requires at least a bit of skepticism. We cannot be naive when it comes to dealing with sin, Satan, and subterfuge. If we deny the sinful state of fallen men and women, however, we not only deny God’s word (Romans 3:23, for example), but we set ourselves up for harm and mistreatment. People take advantage of the gullible. Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Thankfully, however, the magi were not naive. When Herod told them that he wanted to worship the new King of the Jews, they didn’t let on. Matthew tells us nothing of their response to this request. He does tell us, however, that when the angel warned them in a dream about Herod’s evil intent, they choose to believe the angel, and dismiss the request of the king.
What a blessed counterpoint is Jesus to those who would deceive us. His ways are pure and good. He speaks truth. He is the embodiment of truth. He will not deceive. He has no intent to harm or condemn. And while people may stubbornly refuse to receive his love, as long as there is life, there is grace and love for us. We never have to be suspicious about his promises.