Leviticus 27:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When a person makes an explicit vow to the LORD concerning the equivalent for a human being, 3 the equivalent for a male shall be: from twenty to sixty years of age the equivalent shall be fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary shekel. 4 If the person is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. 5 If the age is from five to twenty years of age, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female. 6 If the age is from one month to five years, the equivalent for a male is five shekels of silver, and for a female the equivalent is three shekels of silver. 7 And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the equivalent for a male is fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.
Vows to God were serious things back in the day. This passage doesn’t make clear exactly how a vow worked, but I expect it was something pledged to God either in hopes of securing a blessing from God or in response to receiving a blessing from God. And I suppose the more significant the blessing, the greater the value of the pledge.
What sticks out for me here is the drop in value for people as they age. Males between 20-60 years old could be redeemed for 50 shekels of silver. After turning sixty the value for men went down to 15 shekels. For women it went from 30 to 10 shekels. I suppose the drop is less about the value of the person in the moment and more about the number of years the person had left to be productive. 60 years old is no big deal today, but in ancient times people just didn’t live that long.
I’m not 60, but I’m past 50. Given how fast the decade of my 40s passed by, I expect my 50s to be over any moment – despite the fact I’m only 51 right now! This morning I’m thinking of people I know who are looking for work, but are having a hard time because (at least in their opinion) employers are wary of hiring someone past 50 years old or so. While older people are often well qualified, their skills may be considered dated and they tend to be expensive relative to someone in their 30s. Let’s face it, we live in a youth culture where older people aren’t as respected as in some other cultures. In the US older people are too often just considered… old.
Heavenly Father, while the world around us doesn’t value age much, you have done incredible things over the centuries with people well past 50. Help us who are on the back half of life remain productive and valuable for the sake of your Kingdom. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.