Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
We’d all like more it seems, money that is. We also recognize a $100 bill is worth much more than a $1 bill, not because it is inherently more valuable, or the person’s portrait is more attractive, but simply because we collectively agree to its assigned value. That understanding seems to work when dealing with our own currency, but imagine basing worth on the stone pictured above located in the Smithsonian. It’s sometimes referred to as Rai, or Fei, the stone money of Yap. Yap is part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the western Pacific.
Some of these stones are quite large, up to 12 feet in diameter and requiring 20 adult men to carry them. As a result, when ownership transfers from one person to another, the stone may not actually move at all. Everyone just knows this transfer of ownership has taken place. In fact, the stone doesn’t even need to be on the island. One of these giant stones was being brought to the island when a storm broke out and just before making landfall, the stone broke loose and sank to the bottom of the ocean. The crew informed everyone what had happened, so collectively they agreed its value was still intact. As a result, someone owns this money, even though no one has seen it for over 100 years.
The assigned value of a given stone is based not only upon its size and craftsmanship, but also upon the difficulty involved in obtaining it. To transport one of these large stones on a raft which was towed behind canoes for 225 miles obviously contributed to the value of the stone.
Peter reminds us of this same concept of worth when referring to Christ’s redemptive work. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)