”The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them… Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary.., half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord‘s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord‘s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.’” Exodus 30:11-16
In our day of exacerbated inequalities, of tensions and volatility between people of different background, ethnicity, privilege, it is a beautiful thing to be reminded that before Almighty God, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Instructions for the tabernacle, for sacrifice and worship, make clear that each life counts, and each is equally valued and needful of atonement by its Maker. While taxes to the government may vary depending on income, the census tax to be offered for atonement was equal for all.
Do we hold this same view, and behave as such? Do we truly see others, young and old, humble and pompous, poverty-bound and famous, handicapped and healthy, well-dressed and sloppy, meek and brash, as of inestimable worth? Where have I turned up my nose to avoid someone not like me on a plane or in conversation, turned my back on someone with a deformity or annoying tic who is trapped in body or mind out of his control, or stepped ahead of someone because I’m in a hurry, ie, my agenda is more important? Where have I failed to love my neighbor as myself? Whom do I eschew because ‘we have nothing in common’? (Psalm 139:13-18; Isaiah 43:4; Luke 10:27)
I know that the times I have obeyed the Spirit’s impulse to sit on a flight next to those with obvious different lifestyle choices, or taken time to converse with another from a background foreign to mine, God has clearly been present. I’ll never forget the smile of a bathroom attendant in an airport when I spoke to her personally as she looked down, avoiding eyes, I’m sure feeling (and being treated as) invisible. I persisted until she looked up, our eyes met, and I thanked her for keeping everything nice. Her face came alive, she and her work had been noticed and appreciated, she was a real person of worth even in this crowded buzz of anonymity. God uses truth and light and personal interest to convey His love; we all have the privilege of being His conduit.
Lord, expose to me even the small places where I show preference or deem myself superior to or more deserving than another. Check me acting out any putting down of another, any demeaning of a fellow image-bearer in impulse or word, and purify me. Replace wrong thinking with truth, default selfishness with Spirit-controlled responses. May I believe, and value, and love, as You do.