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legal tender

“ … Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he [Jesus Christ, AD 33] said to them [national leaders from a minority party], “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.”                    Mark 12: 15                         

We have become so used to coins (and notes) that have no intrinsic value (not being made of valuable metal) that it is difficult to imagine a time when coins were actually made of silver or gold.


When a grower sold potatoes in those days – for cash – he actually received valuable coins in exchange. The metal in the coin was valuable – in fact, the metal had the same value as the potatoes.


Not so these days. In fact, the metal in a Jersey £1 coins are as valueless as (and identical in composition and weight) the metal in the UK £1 coin.


Because our coins are valueless, the States of Jersey has had to pass a Law restricting the number of coins that we are allowed to use when paying our debts. This is especially followed through when any Jersey employer pays wages in cash. The latest update was in 1997 and would not allow me to use more than 10 coins of 2p in a wage packet. Nor could I use more than 10 £1 coins in that packet. Interestingly the Law still allows me to use as many gold coins as I like to pay wages. But there aren’t any......


Coming back to the above incident in Jerusalem AD 33, the “denarius” that Jesus requested was a silver coin and, although quite small, it was very valuable because it equalled, in itself, a labourer’s wages for one day’s work.


Jesus asked to see it because he had been set a trap by Herodian Party members in the parliament of the day. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar/” was their question. If Jesus said, “no” the Romans would arrest him. If he said, “Yes” the bulk of the people would turn against him.......


One of the Deputies in the States of Jersey has been asking a parallel question – should Jersey’s incoming wealthy residents pay tax at a lower rate per cent than others? It may or may not be relevant to think about the Roman tax that was rankling all the Jerusalem residents in AD 33. It was a poll tax – a per capita tax – the same fixed amount irrespective of wealth.....


But Jesus Christ had bigger issues to teach the Herodian Party members. Having established that the silver of which the coin was made bore the likeness of Caesar and also bore Caesar’s name, Jesus instructs that such an intrinsically valuable “thing” be used to pay debts that are owed to Caesar.


Then he says, “Render to God the things that are God’s.” Use the “things” that bear the likeness and name of Almighty God to pay the debts that are owed to Almighty God....


Whose “likeness” do you carry around with you? Who are you like – with your love of justice and hatred of suffering and death? With your appreciation of beauty and kindness and truth?


How great a debt I owe for all that is “me”.......... I owe that debt to the one whom I resemble, albeit in a flawed and fallen way. I cannot repay it other than with my all.


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, ... forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.... 

‘All men are by nature equal, made of the same earth by the same Creator, and however we deceive ourselves, as dear to God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.’ (Plato, Mathematician and Philosopher, 427 BC – 347 BC)
‘Man is not just a chance configuration of atoms in the slipstream of meaningless, chance history. No. Man, in the image of God, has a purpose – to be in relationship with the God who is there.’ Francis Schaeffer, Writer and Pastor, 1912 - 1984)
Richard Syvret

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