Rich Man, Poor Man

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I remember there was a TV show called: Rich man, Poor man. By its name, we can imagine it’s about the lives and perks of having money or not. The worldly standard is that the rich has more and the poor has less in many aspects of life. The rich, more resources, more power, more influence, more ‘respect’, more value. Not so in the heavenly kingdom.. God has a different value system. Today, I read he has one monetary standard for both the rich and the poor. How so?

There is no doubt that the gap between the rich and the poor in the world is getting bigger than ever before. It is a sad reality that there is such inequality in the world. In the Bible, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, it was the same. There were the rich and the poor. Yet for God, their lives were of equal value. How do we know this?

Exodus 30:15 “The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to ATONE for your lives.” In short, it’s atonement money. Why atonement money?The background behind atonement money: vv. 11-14The Lord said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord.

Atonement is making amends for wrong committed to the injured party. Put simply, to atone is to correct a mistake. This offering was given as ransom money for all (20 yrs old and up) who ‘cross over’ from Egypt to freedom.How much is the atonement money? How much is half shekel? The gerah is the smallest unit of coin in those days and is 1/50 of an ounce, or 0.6 grams. The sanctuary shekel is 0.4 of an ounce of gold (20 times 1/50 of an ounce), or 12 grams. (taken from Based on market value of gold today $57.61/gm (taken from, a sanctuary shekel would be (12×57.61) $691.32.

Today we do not need to pay atonement money because Jesus Christ has paid the ransom on the cross for us. Each life is of equal value in God’s eyes. The rich did not give more and the poor not to give less. $691 is an absolute amount but of relative value. For the homeless sleeping on the sidewalk outside our home, it is a huge impossible amount. For Bill Gates, it is peanut.

One might say it’s unfair, the rich should give more. BUT how about the fact that the poor have the same capacity to give? God is just. He did not require the poor more than what they could afford. He also did not ask the rich for more than what was required even when they could afford.

No one can earn his salvation. God did not liberate man based on his earning capacity. Freedom from slavery was granted based on His loving compassion. Justification from sin (being made righteous in God’s eyes) is achieved through the precious priceless blood of Jesus.

Salvation is free yet costly. Jesus, Son of God came to live and die as a man so man could have peace with God. Ultimately, the atonement money is about God’s grace. He rescued both the rich and the poor from bondage in Egypt. All were to remember His loving kindess. The same applies today. Jesus died for all: the haves and the have-nots. All are of equal worth in God’s eyes.

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