Today’s sketch is based on Jesus’ teachings about giving in Matthew 6:1–4. There are many kinds of financial giving, but according to the NET, the kind referred to in this passage is ‘alms’, referring ‘primarily to the giving of money or food for the relief of the poor.’
The topic of giving can a tricky one to navigate as the ethics and optics of giving vary hugely depending on context. There are particular stories in the Bible, like the woman who poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet the week before he died (Matthew 26:6–13, Mark 14:3–9, John 12:1–11), and the widow who gave all she had to live on to the temple offering (Mark 12:41–44, Luke 21:1–4), but I wouldn’t take either of these as a ‘template’ for financial giving.
Today’s sketch is set in heaven. We have an angel tasked with distributing heavenly rewards to people who selflessly made financial gifts, but he can’t filter out who these people should be. Enter Ezekiel and the widow who Jesus saw in the temple, to help him out.
I spent a long time last week bouncing ideas around for what to write. I thought of setting it in heaven fairly early on, but didn’t think that could work because I knew the ending wouldn’t be a happy-clappy one.
However, last week I also happened to sort through some old emails. Amongst them was one about the University of Cambridge’s report on the legacies of enslavement. In the introduction, it states:
…Cambridge, like many other major UK and North American institutions, benefited both directly and indirectly from enslavement, the slave trade, and imperialism more broadly, so an understanding of that involvement should be central to the University’s efforts to address some of the structural inequalities that are a legacy of enslavement, in particular around the continued impact of racism in our own community.
And when I read that, I thought that maybe my sketch was on the right track.
So here it is. It’s a comedy with a few serious moments.
As an aside: the sketch has a mathematical framing device so I modelled Ezekiel as the same character from the six-part ‘Living with conflict’ series that I wrote last year. Each one is a duologue between deceased prophet Samuel and another person. In this particular one, when Samuel asks whether Ezekiel would rather be a priest or a prophet, Ezekiel says he’d rather be a mathematician.
The Silent Finance Awards
ADVISORY WARNING: Brief mention of the transatlantic slave trade.
PREMISE: Derek is an angel tasked with distributing heavenly rewards to every selfless person who gave financially during their lifetimes. Problem is, he doesn’t know who the rewards should go to. Nearly at his wits end, he’s visited by the prophet Ezekiel and Tamar – the widow who once put all she had into the temple offering. Together they try to puzzle out the mystery.
LENGTH: ~1,850 words
DEREK: An angel. Very driven and informed. Not used to being given tasks he can’t do.
TAMAR: A widow who lived during the time of Jesus. Jesus saw her putting two small copper coins into the temple offering (Mark 12:41–44, Luke 221:1–14). Now deceased. Very happy and at peace.
EZEKIEL: The Old Testament prophet, now deceased. Neurodiverse, intelligent, wry. (Character draws on Ezekiel as portrayed in ‘Samuel Talks with Ezekiel,’ being part two of the Faith in Grey Places ‘Living with Conflict’ series.)
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Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash