The life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth came to an abrupt and fatal end over a now famous amount of money: 30 pieces of silver. While Judas had spent years of his life following Jesus and urging others to do the same, when he received a tempting offer by those who held power, he had a price.
Thirty pieces of silver.
Many often wonder how much this was actually worth, and it’s an interesting question beyond simple history. I mean, if you’re going to betray your best friend and get him killed, and if it just so happens that your best friend is actually Jesus, one would hope you at least got a good deal out of the whole transaction, no?
So, how much was 30 pieces of silver worth back then? The technical answer is the equivalent of about $200 modern U.S. dollars– not much on the surface, but it was a few months wages and did have significant buying power for someone of lower socioeconomic status in first century Jerusalem.
However, that’s not the question I’m most interested in. The question I’m most curious about is this: if you betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, what could that buy you in today’s money? Would you at least be getting a better deal than Judas?
From following the recent news cycle and trends within white evangelicalism, I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered the answer to this and can calculate to a near-scientific certainty what 30 pieces of silver would buy in today’s money. Here’s a few of the more interesting or luxurious items I’ve recently seen sell for this precise amount of silver:
It’ll buy you temporary freedom from the eeeeeennnndless burden of seeing immorality and wickedness all around you, because you’ll “magically” stop seeing it when it’s “your guy.”
After spending years and years confronting any and all perceived immorality one can find, it’s understandable a break might be needed. Well, all one needs to do is sell out Jesus and get those thirty 30 pieces of silver– because in today’s money, it can buy the ability to align with someone like Donald Trump regardless of his character or behavior. And thanks to this magic power, one doesn’t even have to plug their nose to do it.
In fact, once that money clears the bank, one will totally (but selectively) forget all the values and morals they’ve spent a lifetime professing. This will enable the purchaser to cozy up as close to Trump as needed in order to gain more and more political power & influence. Morals and values will no longer become a stumbling block between you and your goals– this magic power will make all those things “irrelevant” at the most convenient times.
At just 30 pieces, this feels like a bargain.
It’ll buy you the ability play the role of a victim without actually having to be one.
Who actually wants to be a victim? Well, we know it’s not conservative white evangelical men. The good news for them is white Christian men are dead last in line when it comes to risk of being an oppressed victim. Ahh, but there’s some downsides to that, apparently.
The good news is that in today’s currency, if you sell out Jesus and get those 30 pieces of silver, it’ll actually buy you the power to play the part of a victim without actually having to experience being one.
Case in point: your guy (the most powerful man in the world) could nominate another guy to become a judge so powerful that he’d literally have to die in order to lose his job. Since they’re both your guys and you have all the power, it’s hard to claim victimhood in that scenario.Thankfully, in today’s money, 30 pieces of silver will fix that– you’ll get both your guys and get even more powerful, while still being able to parade around as if you’re somehow being oppressed when other people do the same thing you’re busy doing every other day of the week: calling out wickedness and immorality.
Oh, and bonus: playing the victim role from a position of power also has the fringe benefit of making it so that you don’t have to actually see or do anything to help the real ones in your midst.
That’s practically a steal if you ask me.
It’ll buy you a front-row seat to the swearing in ceremony of a Supreme Court Justice.
What good is being able to buy the power to ignore sins obsessed over just the day before, or even achieving victorious control over the third and final branch of government, if you can’t actually sit back and admire your own efforts?
Ahh, that’s a problem that 30 pieces of silver will easily solve– because for this bargain price, it’ll buy you a seat toward the front of the room for a Supreme Court Justice swearing in ceremony so that you can savor the moment. Sorta like Franklin Graham got to experience after his selfless and nonpartisan advocacy for Trump & Kavanaugh (thanks to products previously mentioned):
So, have you read that famous story a thousand times over and wondered what 30 pieces of silver was actually worth? If so, we now know the answer: about $200 bucks.
But Judas didn’t exactly enjoy it– in fact, he was so remorseful over the fact that getting 30 pieces of silver in the first place requires betraying Jesus, that he returned the money and then took his own life. In the end, the money was worth enough to buy a grave.
But 30 pieces of silver in today’s money? Well, that’s a much better deal and will buy you far more than Judas had ever dreamed.
Just ask today’s white evangelical leaders who coined the phrase “character counts” during the Clinton administration but now have permanent parking spots at the Trump White House, and who magically find themselves completely oblivious to the Christian morality they were preaching about just the day before.
Today’s money is a waaaaaay better deal.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary.
He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.
Corey often writes with a certain degree of snark, but is actually quite likable in real life.
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