Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Judas Iscariot went off to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?' They paid him thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:14-15
Each year at this time, Judas' betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver reminds us that the "sell out" is not a new phenomenon on the human scene.  Promises broken, loyalties betrayed, principles abandoned--these are not the inventions of our Age.  What is new, however, is contemporary society's easy acceptance of the "sell out" spirit.

Oscar Wilde once wrote that, in modern society, "People know the price of everything but the value of nothing."  Someone else has characterized our time as the "Age of the Sellout," in which "Everything is for sale. Every person has his or her price. Honesty and integrity are traded off, like chattels, for money and power." Although this assessment may be an overstatement, nevertheless it contains more than a grain of truth--enough truth, in fact, that it should be a matter for our deep concern. Whether it is the "Age of the Sellout" or the "Age of the Blowout," it is our Age. This is the time into which we, as a Christian People, have been called to give light. This is our one and only opportunity to be the "salt of the earth."

In recent years, U.S. politicians have become increasingly dependent on the advertising industry to "sell" them to the voting public.  Candidates for high public office are "packaged" to stimulate votes much like breakfast foods and detergents are packaged to stimulate purchases.  Appearances become more important than reality; the image more important than the person.  That is why we are told it is naive, unrealistic, even unreasonable to believe in campaign promises.  You are not being asked to remember the promises, really.  Each advertiser wants you to remember the image he has created.  The number one goal is to condition you to remember the image when you go to the polls, and to forget the promises.  The political leaders and the voting public have tacitly agreed with each other that campaign promises are merely part of the gimmickry. In effect, we the people have abandoned our right to believe.

Judas Iscariot went off to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you.”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he kept looking for an opportunity to hand Him over (Matthew 26:14-16). The biggest sellout of all time for thirty silver pieces: the price of a slave in those days!  One popular preacher, commenting on this Gospel episode, has said,

What was our Lord worth? About thirty pieces of silver! Slave He was. In the New Testament, the Greek word for slave connotes a person who does two things: he does hard things and he does dirty things (even to bearing the burden of human sin). So the price was fixed and the high priests gathered together thirty pieces of silver, and they dropped them one-by-one on that hand that had been blessed by the Lord Himself when He called Judas to be an apostle. And Judas went out clutching those thirty pieces of silver. Remember this, however, all who can hear my voice: you can sell the Lord, but you can never buy Him. Remember also that He is always sold for a price out of all proportion to His true worth. Inevitably, we betrayers become sick of what we get, as Judas became sick (he flung the silver back into the faces of the high priests, saying, "I have betrayed innocent blood").

How many times have we betrayed our Lord? How many broken promises? How many "sell outs?"  Before we condemn Judas it would be right to view our own ledgers this Holy Week.

Scripture to Claim:
A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.  Proverbs 28:20

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