Monday, March 4, 2013

the half shekel

Read Exodus 30 (again) and Matthew 17

Each shall give this: one half shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less. From Exodus 30: 13 &15

We are all born into the world with such differences. As we get older, those differences generally get greater.What an article of faith it was for our American founding fathers to write and then to sign in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

From this faith in the equality of all has sprung two American political philosophies. Liberals believe all children should be equally enabled so as to achieve whatever might be their dream. Conservatives believe that all children are equally capable of achieving their dream, if only they are not held back. Thus a liberal would provide training wheels for every bike so every child might be able to ride, while the conservative would pull the training wheels from every bike, for it is the training wheels that prevent every child from learning to ride.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never observed this equality anywhere. As a kid, I really wanted to be a good baseball player. I had several very helpful adults try to teach me how to keep my eye on the ball and how to hold a bat. I know they sincerely believed that any kid with the right coaching and the right encouragement could hit a baseball. But the only thing I could hit, if I was lucky, were foul balls.

I come from a really good Christian home. So does my wife. My kids all grew up at a Bible camp. And every night we read the Bible together and thought and talked about it together. Our three older kids are now married to godly spouses. So why did we get things so good?

I read about a man who loved the gospel and did wonderful work in bringing the Bible to millions of people throughout the world. But one day he was in a hotel in downtown Tokyo. He saw thousands upon thousands of people on the street below rushing about their business, and he cried out to God, “This is so unfair. Hardly one of these people has ever even had a chance to hear your beautiful good news of salvation.” At that moment, the Lord took away his voice and until the day he died, he was incapable of speaking above a whisper.

As Believers, we must believe the truth of the Scriptures. When we read, “God so loved the world,” we believe He so loved every single person who has inhabited this world equally, unequivocally.

The Lord required every Israelite, regardless of their differences, to pay the 1/2 shekel tax.Each person had to pay exactly the same amount. The Lord would not have made this requirement if it were not possible for each one to pay it. 

When Jesus came to our planet, He was absolutely unequal from everyone else. He always perfectly and precisely did the will of His Father. Yet, like every other Jewish man, He paid the ½ shekel tax and thus He identified with all of us on planet earth.

Every man who ever lived (except the Lord Jesus) is in debt to God by sin, and thus equally obligated to Him.  We all owe. We all must respond. All in the same way. By believing and receiving His Son. John 1:12

Question: Are we able to trust the Lord to be equally fair in His dealings with each person, regardless of their earthly inequalities?


  1. Equality is an interesting concept. A true assessment of equality cannot be obtained without perfect and complete knowledge; for instance, if Jane is paid $10/hour, while Bob is paid $8/hour for working the same job, someone might say that that was not fair. However, they would be wrong because they didn't know that Bob received health benefits whereas Jane didn't.

    As humans, it's not up to us to assess God's fairness, to determine whether he's treating everyone equally. It reminds me of the parable of the workers - if God wants to pay everyone the same wage, what is that to us? We are simply called to serve as He has called us, and leave the rest to Him.

  2. A few days ago I wrote some thoughts comparing opposing considerations on the nature of equality as seen in science and Scripture. (I would encourage you to read and respond to that argument). Although I agree that God is free to do as He wishes I am reluctant to dismiss this topic as irrelevant. Not only do I think that there is a fascinating theoretic discussion to be had, but I would suggest that there may be significant practical implications to this conversation, as well. For example: If God is not fair, do I have to be fair? Is it right to pay a bad employee more than a good employee because he is white? If God is fair, should we, His people, work to advocate for equality? If so, how? Does God have an understanding to the meaning of equality that differs with our own? And what lesson do we learn by seeing a world where there appears to be an inherent desire for an equality that does not, and perhaps cannot, exist? In the story in Matt. 20, is God behaving arbitrarily or is he saying that all workers, regardless of their service, should receive the same outcome? When masters are told to treat their slaves with equality (Col. 4:1) what is God saying? Should we look to require employers to disclose employment records to work toward more “perfect and complete knowledge” of the situation? What do we do in situation where “Jane is paid $10/hour, while Bob is paid $8/hour for working the same job,” and Jane also receives the health benefits and has less experience but prettier hair? What do we do with the Canaanites and the Esaus and the quadriplegics and the mean, good-looking guys who always get the girl? How is this the work of a God who is “no respecter of persons?”

    In Lev. 5 God allows people to offer different-valued sacrifices based on their wealth. Not only does this idea have implications for God's sense of equality, but for His sense of justice as well.

  3. I think we should be comforted by the fact that one day, justice will be served. Whether we think that is fair or not, I can't say. But from verses like Isaiah 42:4, we KNOW that God will bring justice to the earth!