When reading this, I would like you consider what your life, and the lives of your loved ones, is worth. Just try to consider that. Put a value on the lives of those dearest to you. It’s an interesting mental exercise and a way to help us understand the simple truth that the value of a human life is measured in much more than dollars and cents. All that said however, try to consider those things as you read what is to follow.
Thirty pieces of silver. This was the price paid to Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of Jesus, and it was chosen by the priests because it was the value of a slave (specifically if they had been gored by an ox Exodus 21:32). It was no likely considered to be a large amount. Now a shekel of silver would weigh anywhere between 7 and 17 grams. We will go with the highest number. As of this writing, the spot value of silver is $17.42 per ounce. Taking that and multiplying by 30, we arrive at about $522.60. That was the assumed value of an old testament slave, not to mention Jesus. It’s not very much and I hope that we can all agree they both were worth much more.
In Rome during the time of Augustus, a male slave would go for an average of 500 denarii. That is about $212.00 in today’s value. A female could sell for up to 6, 000 denarii or a little over $2,500 in today’s value. That sets the lower and upper limits of value of a Roman slave. I hope that we can all agree that they were worth far more than that.
In 1850, which was arguably the height of American slavery, the average price of a slave, adjusted to today’s dollars, was about $12,000. Yes, there is a calculator for such things. (https://www.measuringworth.com/slavery.php) Again, I hope that we can all agree that all life is worth more than that, and in fact can not be quantified in a dollar amount. After all, we, as Christians, know that we were bought with a price as well, and that price was the death of Christ on the cross. That is what we were worth to God, and not just those of us who believe, but everyone who has ever lived and will live. That is our true value. We can not comprehend that well of course, but that is another rabbit hole for another day.
George Floyd was a 46 year old man living in Minneapolis. Police were called for a potentially forged $20 bill that was passed. They arrested Floyd. Security footage, from a neighboring restaurant, got a part of the incident on tape. Nothing in that part of the video seems to indicate he was being anything other than reasonably compliant all in all. Certainly nothing that would indicate resisting arrest in any meaningful way, let alone justify what happened next. The store owner who called the police said he saw no signs of Floyd resisting arrest. Let that sink in. The guy who called the police on him did not see him resisting. When your accuser has something to say about you that is in the positive, that should carry weight. A seventeen year old young lady would capture what happened next on her cell phone. She, or anyone, should never have had to see such a thing, and now she will never be able to not see it. In my estimation, you should see it too. You should never not be able to not see it too.
Now, a city is on fire and the protests have turned to rioting. I am never going to condone rioting, but let me admit a couple of things. First, I am not a African American in America, so I do not know what that is like, and do not pretend to. I have been in circumstances where I was part of the minority community and the predominate authority was with an different ethnic majority that was at best indifferent and at worst oppressive. It’s unpleasant and nerve wracking. That doesn’t compare, but it is the best that I have to try and understand. Second, the looting is not the answer. Mob mentality is an ugly thing, but I have to be honest and say that if I thought that “my people” were being killed unjustly on what seems to be an escalating basis, if a city had to burn to change it, I would be tempted. Rioting and looting is never the answer, but sometimes revolution is. Thankfully, we live in a democratic society where the issues that exist can change without such revolution. The real issue that that we must have the courage to do so. Right now we don’t. We don’t even seem to have the collective courage to admit that racism is a real thing and that we need to undergo, at the very least, some serious self examination into how we may be contributing to the problem and what we can do to be a part of the solution.
How many cities have to burn before we start realizing that this is a real problem? How many cities have to burn before we forget about it in a news cycle? How much collective pain, frustration, and heartache do our brothers and sisters have to undergo before we will stand in the gap for the Creator God on behalf of Him, and the land, and protect His children? Longer still most likely. I pray not however. I am sickened and heart broken. I am angry. I want to burn down a city too. No, I am not endorsing it, no I will not, but yes, I very much understand the desire to.
“The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery and have done violence unto the poor and needy; they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.
And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:29-30)
John Wesley had this to say about these verses. “I sought – God speaks after the manner of men. A man – Any one, among princes, prophets, priests, or people, to repair the breach. And stand – Interpose between a sinful people, and their offended God, and intreat for mercy. But – All were corrupted.” I hope and pray that there are those who will stand today.
In 1850, the value of an enslaved black man in America was about $12,000. On Monday in Minneapolis, the value of a free black man was $20. God help us all.