Thirty Pieces of Silver and a Blended Life

*Dear reader, please read to the end of this blog. Please don’t question my sanity half way through this post.*

“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:14-15


Just behind the British Museum glass, there were thirty pieces of silver. This would have been the exact reward that Judas got for betraying the King of Kings. The money I stared at was the cost of my freedom. Jesus was sold like a slave, so my heart could be free. And there it was. No longer silver in color. The money would not buy a tiny candy bar in a convenience store today. It is essentially worthless.  But to Judas, it was enough.

How often do I betray Jesus for such worthless things? Things that seem to shine, but are essentially worthless. Things that lose their sparkle so quickly. I am no better than Judas. Every hour, I choose something else. I betray my king with a kiss. I act as if I am the perfect one, as if Jesus is my friend, but I think horrible things. I am a sinner.

I thought of all the ways I betray Jesus. The money that this trip cost could have gone to a missionary family. It could have been used to further the Kingdom of Christ. Does that mean that this trip is something I bought and am betraying Jesus with?

If this is true then should I give up everything that brings me pleasure? Is it harming my relationship with God? Is this really what I am demanded to do? Should I never have fun again? Because sometimes my fun becomes my center instead of God.

One of my earliest, clearest memories is from a day in Sunday school. The teacher prepared an object lesson that caused my little heart much trouble. First, she brought out a big clear bowl. And then she asked us about the things in life that fill our time: playing outside, doing chores, going to school, watching TV, spending time with God. Each “time filler” was represented by a food item. Someone said they spend a lot of time watching TV, so the teacher poured in a lot of sugar. Then she added flour on top of the sugar when we said we played outside, and so on until the bowl filled up quickly. “God” was represented by marshmallows. But by the time we thought about how much time we spend with God, the vase was already full. There was no room for the marshmallows.

Then she rearranged it. She poured the first vase out and set God as the foundation for the second try. The marshmallows went in first. And then, when she added the sugar and the flour, it seeped through and there was room for everything.

This lesson made more of an impression on me than was probably intended. I take directions very personally. I want to be good. So I thought about it. Was I putting God first? I counted hours (quite a difficult task for a little mind). If I spent seven hours at school, two hours playing with my sisters, and an hour reading for pleasure (American Girl books)—then my day was gone. There was no time left for God. That was not the way I was supposed to live; my marshmallows were not fitting.

Running to their room one night, close to tears, I remember asking my parents about my troubling thoughts. And I think I am finally starting to understand their answer. Because when I, in the hard London dorm bed tossing and turning from all the sugar I consumed at High Tea, thought of those thirty pieces of silver, my mind haunted me with questions, and I remembered this marshmallow lesson. While there is always room for God to be more prominent in my life, I do not need to give up everything else that is so important. Just like God did not want six year old Sarah to give up fun time with my sisters (or educational American Girl J), he does not want this older version of me to forsake all good times.

I thought again of that lesson. I realized an element was missing. As we grow, life becomes more complicated. Nothing is in segments. Life is not compartmentalized. The human thought process has a way of stirring things. The sugar and the marshmallows meet the mixer.

While we walked along the River Thames, one of my new friends asked me, “So, did your parents do anything different with you?” I answered awkwardly, “Huh?” The basic premise of the conversation was this: she wanted to know how I was raised. And my best answer was that my parents made faith attractive, they raised me by a being a great example (and a lot of other things I cannot as of now understand). They read us the Bible, but they also had fun with my sisters and me. They taught us how to live and rejoice in life by having fun.

Fun is not something to be forsaken. It is not this great sin. The pursuit of happiness can (and often is) pursued in lieu of God, but it is not necessarily (for me) thirty pieces of silver. I am not betraying Jesus every time I laugh with a friend instead of spending time reading and worshipping Him. This trip has indeed furthered the Kingdom of God, in ways I can only see a small glimpse of now—it’s not be betraying Jesus.  Laughing, buying souvenirs, and visiting museums with friends can be worship, if my gaze is focused on God. There need not be separate “God time” and “Fun time”. They can swirl. My laughter can glorify him.

It was not the thirty pieces of silver that bought my freedom after all. It was the love Jesus held for me, holds for me. So that I would not live a compartmentalized, works based life, he gave me freedom to choose Christ. And in choosing Christ, I choose happiness.

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

–Hebrews 8


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