The two brothers, Silas and Malachi, had been in business together their whole adult life. Malachi, being the older brother had inherited the shop from their father, when he passed away. But, Mal had loved his brother very much and had insisted on making his brother a partner in the shop. The shop itself wasn’t a smashing success, but they made enough to feed their families. They made everything from dishes to furniture to managers, really anything a carpenter could make…they made it. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but generally they got along about as well as brothers do.
Lately, though…Malachi had a bone of contention with Silas. It had all started the day the centurion had shown up. He had marched in like he owned the place, kicking and breaking furniture, costing them several shekels at the very least. The centurion had been very arrogant when he spoke to them. No, to be honest, he had started barking orders to them about what he needed and what he would pay for that need. He had stated that this was a long term contract, and they would accept the payment offered and not ask for more.
Silas was pretty excited about the deal. All Silas could see was the steady income and the chance to make more money. Malachi was a little more hesitant, after all this was a contract with the Romans. Dealing with the Romans always had strings attached. The centurion had wanted an answer right then or “he would offer the deal to neighbors across the street, the Iscariots”. So Silas and Malachi had asked for a few minutes to discuss the deal behind their shop.
As they stepped out of the back of the shop, Silas said “Think of the money we can make!”
And Malachi responded, “We need to be careful here, dealings with the Romans always have consequences.”
“But, think of the security this contract will bring. We have struggled for some time now, just trying to feed our families. That centurion said he would offer the deal to the Iscariots and you know how they would jump at this chance. They are already doing quite well with their contracts with the Romans, isn’t it about time we got a piece of this action?” said Silas.
They had argued back and forth for several minutes and Malachi finally said, “Let’s at least go find out what he wants us to build”.
As they stepped back in the shop, they saw the centurion headed out the front and Silas started hollering, “Please don’t leave, we will build whatever you need. Just tell us what it is and we will start immediately on the first one.”
Malachi was a little peeved at his brother and his panic mode response, but he was an honorable man and his brother’s word was his own. So he said, “Yes, good sir, tell us what we are to be making?”
When the centurion spoke and said, “You will be making crucifixes”. Malachi’s heart jumped in his throat. The centurion followed this statement with, “They are to be used for punishing criminals”.
Malachi followed the word of God more closely than his brother did and everything in him was screaming “NO, we will not be involved in these instruments of death”. But he considered himself to be an honest man and his brother Silas was already accepting the first order and payment. As he watched his brother, a picture popped into his head and he felt a little bit like Adam watching Eve taking the forbidden fruit from the serpent. He felt it was wrong, but he could not find his tongue to say no. They were now committed to the deal and as the centurion left he ordered, “You will fulfill this contract as long as I so desire!”
Malachi was sick to his stomach and he looked at his brother and said, “What have we done?”
“We have signed on to make money, is what we have done”, said Silas.
Malachi turned from his brother and headed back to work on his current project, a manger for Jacob the inn keeper. His stomach was twisted into knots and his head was spinning.
Silas, meanwhile, was whistling with anticipation. He was toward the front of the shop selecting lumber, taking measurements. Almost giddy with excitement! He just couldn’t understand how his brother could be so moody. Here was a steady income that was not depending on the locals. After all the taxes they had paid in…they were finally getting something back! He started thinking about all the things this money would buy for his wife and kids. They would finally be able to have some of the finer things in life, live like the Iscariots did for once! All for building something as simple as a crucifix, he felt a little twinge that maybe he was cheating the Romans. But, he quickly pushed that aside. It was the Romans after all; they deserved it…didn’t they?
When they stopped for lunch, Malachi could stand it no longer. He said, “Silas, why do you want to build something that leads to death? No good can come of this alliance with the Romans.”
Silas had finally reached the snapping point with his brother. Malachi was always lording it over him, did he think that he was better than Silas? Mal had been the first born and Silas had always felt like Mal had thrown him a bone when he made him a partner. Well, by golly, this decision was his and they were making money! They were partners and Malachi would treat him as such.
Silas said, “Why do you want to just do business with our neighbors? Take what you are working on now. How often does Jacob need a new manger? Once every 10 years or so? How much money do we make on that transaction?”
“But, Si” Malachi said, “My manger does not lead to death. This manger can be used for life. You feed animals in; if you line it with pitch you can store water in it. It has so many more uses than your crucifix; you could even put a baby in it if you needed too! There is only one use for your crucifixes! Death!”
“Well, Mal” said Silas, “My crucifix will give us so much more than your manger will. Just think what you can buy for your wife with the steady income that comes from selling these to the Romans. Isn’t it about time we got something back from these Romans? Aren’t you tired of always paying taxes, with nothing to show for it? Look at all of the people in town for this census. They all had to leave their homes and businesses to come here and be counted. Are they making any money? Isn’t only fair that we should be getting something? We certainly aren’t from all the people here, they want a place to stay and to be fed; we do not offer anything like that. We will make nothing from this census! At least with the Romans we are getting some silver for our work. As far as only offering death, the centurion said it was to be used only for criminals; they deserve to die anyway. In the long run, we will make more money off of my crucifixes than we will ever make on your mangers!”
“In the long run!?! In the long run!?!? You plan on making these awful things for a long run?, “ Malachi said, shocked. “What is a long run? 10, 20, 30 years? You, and I, both know about dealing with these Romans. Eventually this will come back to bite us, even if it takes 30 years!”
“ Oh, Mal, you worry too much. Just think how much money we will make in 30 years. What could possibly go wrong?” said Silas.