"For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew 11:30 NLT
I have a small collection of coal mine company store scrip (pay advance tokens) that range from 5-cents to five-dollars and I take them in hand sometimes when I think that the world is becoming too negative. Compared to the script of those days and to the years of compounding debt that they represent, these days look pretty positive.
Back after the turn of the previous century and before WWI, it was very likely that a coal miner in the U.S. could work all of his life and never get out of debt to the mine's country store. Like Satan pursuing a soul, the mine owners were more than happy to advance wage tokens before payday that were good as money only at the mine owners "company store". Having little choice to do otherwise, the worker would pay inflated prices for merchandise and gradually find himself in so much debt that he could never quit the mine. Just like that lost soul being harvested by Satan, the miner literally "owed his soul to the company store".*
With the appearance of the automobile and its ability to allow some of the miners to leave the coal camps and travel to distant towns in search of better prices and choice, the owners began to lose their easy profits from their company store's declining customer base, but there were always plenty of workers without automobiles to keep the mercantile doors open, just not as good for the owners as it had been before. Kind of like having eight men working where there were ten men before, until two of them "saw the light" and left for the higher road.
Along about 1950, the practice of company scrip was not only determined to be a form of predatory lending (like payday loans today), it was also determined to be a form of currency by virtue of how the owners were using them as form of wages paid in advance. Only the Federal Government has the power to print money, (which they do so well and so much of it) and they said that employers did not have such powers and shall cease from doing so. Like everything else, rattling the saber at the mine owners was one thing and getting compliance from them was quite another. By 1983, company store scrip was a practice and thing of the past.
When I think of how the automobile and the government stopped the bondage that the "company store" script had yoked upon so many those "who went down into the mines each day" and of the poor souls who came back up each day deeper in debt, I think of our Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of how upon the cross He broke that bondage with which sin had us yoked to Satan, and of how He leads as many as will follow Him back up and out of that darkness.
Whether it was 16 tons of number 9 coal, or a life of sin that has us weighed down to the point of collapse with no hope of return, our Lord says "Follow Me, My yoke is easy and the burden is light" and we can leave these burdens behind us by His power, to follow Him forever. Amen to that!
*Lyric from the song "16 Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1955