By Richard DeMarte, Board Member at Large, United Churches of Lycoming County
The saying is “a penny for your thoughts.” They jingle in your pocket, rattle in your purse, and collect in the cup holder in your car. You might even have a coin jar or dish on your dresser (as I do). My loose change goes in there each evening. And then I get more as I make purchases in my daily walk. Businesses have penny dishes to allow customers to pay and round off the purchase price, and many churches have penny jars or even coin drives to help with their mission giving. Coins are place holders for our folding money and allow our economy to divide our cash into smaller units that can be handy and yet cumbersome to some.
According to Stan Hudson, a numismatic consultant for the Horn Archeological Museum of Andrews University Theological Seminary, “Few tangible reminders of everyday life have seen as little change over the centuries as have coins. Except for production techniques, coins have received little improvement in concept from Bible times.”
His article, “Coins Of The Bible” in ministrymagazine.org
states, “Before coins in standard shapes and sizes were invented, payment was determined by weight. In fact, the terms ‘to pay’ and ‘to weigh’ were expressed by the one word shaqal. From this verb we get the word shekel (or more accurately, sheqel), which came to denote a somewhat fixed weight of approximately 12 to 14 grams.” Hudson goes on to state that in Genesis 13:2, “Abraham’s wealth was measured in gold, silver, and cattle.”
Exodus 30:13 states, “This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord” (NASB).
“Coins Of The Bible” continues staters “were silver coins” which were “equal to shekels” and came “from the city of Tyre and were used in the business of the Temple…Jews were forbidden to issue their own silver coins, so they were forced to use coins from this merchant city.” In Proverbs 20:23, “Solomon warned against the practice of cheating by using more than one set of weights.”
Money changers sat in the temples and exchanged Jewish money for staters, often at an overinflated price or using rigged weights. This was a key factor in Jesus’ clearing of the money tables in Matthew.
Coins are small, but small is not always insignificant. We have pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, even half dollars as our breakdown of folding money, and almost all cultures, past and present, have such small divisions as well. These coins serve more than place holders; they allow us to post charges and payments in very small units. In our early history, this was important because the average person did not possess larger amounts. We have carried the practice on into today.
This discussion of the usefulness of small coins relates to Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:4-8: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (NIV).
We know that churches operate best with the various members using their gifts for growth and missions rather than rely on the pastor and a few key leaders to do it all.
Coins and gifts are both important small divisions that carry big returns.
Thank you for letting me put my two cents in.