Everyone counted, age twenty and up, is to make the offering to God. The rich are not to pay more nor the poor less than the half-shekel offering to God, the atonement-tax for your lives. Exodus 30:14-15 (TM)
I need to lose ten pounds, but I never do. I should quit eating what’s not good for me – but there’s always tomorrow. I should donate more of my time to worthy causes – but I don’t get around to it. I should give away more money – but there’s too many things that I want to buy for myself. I should…I shouldn’t…I can’t…I wish I’d…I’d like to, but…
Scripture makes it clear that we are held captive by our human nature – our willful disobedience. The things we know we should do we put off endlessly and the things we know we should quit we keep right on doing. It is the crux of the human dilemma and the Bible calls it sin. Paul, writing a letter to the believers in Rome, put it this way:
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? Romans 7:17-24 (TM)
God wanted to remind Israel that they were captive to their sin, that they needed someone to deliver them, so He instituted (as a metaphor) an "atonement" or "ransom" tax. They were to pay this tax as a reminder that someone would have to pay to ransom them from their sin.
The "ransom tax" would be repealed thousands of years later, when Jesus came and paid the penalty for all our sin. He told the mother of two of his disciples that He came "…to serve and give [my] life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28 NIV).
There is no longer a reason to be held endlessly captive by sin. Our ransom has been paid.