“This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary … The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
Money, of course, cannot make atonement for the sinning soul. In addition, a soul is much more valuable than half a Shekel! (Which in today’s terms might be a couple or three UK pounds) Jesus says the soul, even just one soul, is of more value than all the treasures of the world. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36,37) No, money cannot make atonement for the sinning soul.
Now then, Exodus 30:16 goes on to tell us just what that money was used for, “And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.” In other words, this was utilized as a simple public maintenance charge for the upkeep of the sanctuary and its ministers. The top three budget line items of property, personnel and programs never change across the centuries once you have a settled ministry focused on a building. Here, God was providing for the same.
There is more than that of course in these verses, but for tonight I want to point to the age of majority within God’s economy, that is, the age when a minority became a legal majority, or better still, when a minor became a recognized adult with all the privileges, liabilities and responsibilities of adulthood. For the Hebrews, the age they received ‘the Key of the door’ was not 21 but rather, 20. In the West, the age of majority, the age of legally becoming an adult is currently 18, though sexual, political, and even military convenience may introduce lower ages for sexual consent, marriage, voting and the taking of the ‘Kings Shilling.’
It is verging on social suicide to suggest that younger people may not have the experience to enter into the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, but never being one to slip away from a sharp knife, may I suggest that society is giving too much responsibility to young people and the Christian church has been almost cult like in its approbation of the same, believing that giving younger people power will save the church from its terminal decline and somehow make it hip. It will not. It has not. It cannot.
I speak with some experience for used to be young! I joined the armed forces age 17 and was married 2 days before my 19th birthday. My wife was just 17. We were British red-necks. In terms of being self-supporting, the expectations of my generation were higher than at present but even so, we struggled but we survived. I was serving on a Polaris submarine when I was 20 and by then, we had a brand new daughter. I felt like an adult, acted (for the most part) like an adult, and was expected to perform in my job and in society as an adult. Looking back, we were really just a couple of kids and I am glad to say, that though the rights and responsibilities of adulthood were ours, older people saw us for what we were, young adults with the ‘Learner’ plates still on. In most cases, we did not have ‘Scooby doo!’ (Clue). Yes, we functioned on the higher ground of adulthood, were called to that higher ground, but were recognized as newbies by those who had been on the journey a wee while longer. I am so thankful for all of that.
Elders of churches should be just that. ( The clue is in the office title…Elder..Older!) If Christ began His ministry aged 30 then I would suggest this should be the low end of Eldership admission and recognition. Frankly, I would not let anyone near a pulpit, seminary or any Biblical teaching until they had got some experience as an adult in the world of adults. I have mellowed in my old age, but I still would not recommend anyone for training until they were at least 27. But that’s just me. Oh I know, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I have yet to meet a modern day Spurgeon.
God indicates that Twenty is a good age to come of age, and I would suggest that the future church needs to use this a yardstick for a multitude of measurements, especially when the world will manipulate the status of adult majority for its own political, military and sexual ends. Look now, majority does not mean maturity, whereas minority does indicate immaturity.
In a society of hedonistic exploitation which is corrupting arrived at Biblical wisdom, once so thoroughly enshrined in our Judeo Christian laws, the church must resist the lowering of age limits and re-enshrine within its own borders the land of adulthood beginning at age Twenty.
I wonder, if in a world gone wrong, the church now has the opportunity to lay out what these rights of passage should now be. You will wait a long time for any Christian consensus, and you will not get any from a culture away from God, therefore O Leader, taking twenty years, maybe you could make that your base for forging a path to celebrated adulthood within your congregations. Think about that. Talk about that. Put it on the agenda.
Listen: These are the ones who were numbered, whom Moses and Aaron numbered, with the leaders of Israel, twelve men, each one representing his father’s houses , from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel—all who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.(Numbers 1:44-46)
Pray: Father, grant us the wisdom to inculcate a method of maturing growth into our communities, the courage to expect it, and the grace to correct the failures of those who are children still.