Please take out a one-dollar bill and look at it. The design you are looking at first came off the presses in 1957. This so-called paper money is a cotton and linen blend, with minute red and blue silk fibers running through it. It is actually cloth! We’ve all washed it without it falling apart. Is that money laundering? A special, secret blend of ink is used. It is overprinted with symbols, starched to make it water resistant and pressed to give it that nice crisp look.
When you look on the front of the bill, you see the U.S. Treasury Seal. On the top are the scales—for a balanced budget. In the center is a carpenter’s square—a tool used to ensure an even cut and honest dealings. Underneath is the key to the U.S. Treasury. The year 1789 is when the U.S. Treasury was founded.
That is all pretty easy to figure out, but what is on the other side? It is a “Message in Your Pocket” that we all should learn this Independence Day weekend.
When you turn the dollar bill on its back, you see two circles. Both circles, together, comprise the Great Seal of the U.S. The first Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved.
If you look at the right-hand circle and check it carefully, you may recognize the picture. It is on every national cemetery in the United States. It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery. It is the centerpiece of most heroes’ monuments in our nation. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the U.S. President and always is visible when he speaks. Yet very few of us know what the symbols mean.
The bald eagle was selected as a symbol for victory. The eagle is not afraid of storms. The eagle is strong and smart enough to soar above them. The eagle wears no material crown. We had just broken from the king of England when this symbol was designed. Also, notice the shield is not supported by anything. It is independent. This was another way to declare our country would stand on its own. In the eagle’s beak, we read in Latin, E Pluribus Unum—which means, “out of many, one” or “one nation from many people.” We were coming together as one nation.
Above the eagle are 13 stars, one for each of the original 13 colonies. Notice the clouds are rolling away from the stars. As we came together as a nation, the clouds of misunderstanding and storms of conflict were rolling away.
Notice what the eagle holds in its talons—an olive branch and arrows. As a people, we want peace (the olive branch), but we never will be afraid to fight to preserve peace and defend liberty. The eagle always wants to face the olive branch; but in time of war, its gaze turns toward the arrows to defend itself.
Many say the number 13 is unlucky—true almost worldwide. You seldom see a room numbered 13 or hotels with a 13th floor, but notice this: 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin above the pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin E Pluribus Unum, 13 stars emerging from the clouds, 13 vertical bars on the shield, 13 arrows in the eagle’s talon, 13 leaves on the olive branch, 13 fruit on the olive branch.
If you look at the left circle, you will see a pyramid. Notice the face is lighted, but the western side is dark. This is because our nation was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the West. We had not yet decided what we could do for western civilization. Notice also the pyramid is uncapped. This reminds us we are not close to being finished. Inside the capstone is the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-watching eye—an ancient symbol for divinity or God. It was Franklin’s belief that one person couldn’t do it alone; but a group of people, with the help of almighty God, could do anything. You and I know the capstone of all nations is the stone the builders rejected, Jesus Christ.
In the very middle, slightly above the center, are the words “In God We Trust.” This is our national motto. Above the pyramid in the left circle are the Latin words Annuit Coeptis, which means “God has favored our undertaking.” At the base of the pyramid is the Roman numeral for the year 1776. The Latin below the pyramid, Novus Ordo Seclorum, declares “A new order has begun.”
The words “In God We Trust” are traced to the efforts of Pastor W.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania. His letter of concern was addressed to the Honorable Salmon P. Chase, Nov. 13, 1861. Seven days later, Mr. Chase wrote to James Pollock, director of the US. Mint as follows: “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. Will you cause a device to be prepared without delay with a motto expressing in the finest and tersest words possible, this national recognition.” Since 1863, these words have been printed on the money in our pockets, before it was adopted as our national motto.
Maybe you already knew this, but in case you didn’t, there is a message in your pocket. It is a message of dependence on and gratitude for almighty God’s providence in establishing this nation. It is the message of
As Alexis de Tocqueville is said to have observed: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
We will be strong as a people only as we are good. We will be good as a people only as we believe and depend on almighty God. It is not the might of our military, productivity of our labor force or the health of our economy that is the secret to our nation. It is not the military, labor force or the economy, Stupid, to turn a well-known phrase from a presidential election. It is simply the grace of our God and the humble righteousness of His people.
“The highest glory of the American Revolution,” said John Quincy Adams, “was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” As the Rev. John Wingate Thornton said, “God blessed America because our forefathers built their nation with reliance on Him and His Word, and because God had a Gospel purpose for our nation.”
Rev. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian, signed the Declaration of Independence. He personally taught several of the signers of the document. Nine of the signers were graduates of the little college over which he presided at Princeton. When he took up his pen to write his name on the Declaration, he declared, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, a spark. We perceive it now before us. To hesitate is to consent to our own slavery…” The inscription on our Liberty Bell cites
Our patriotic hymn “My Country, ‘tis of Thee” was written in 1831 by a Baptist pastor, Samuel Francis Smith. The Pledge of Allegiance to our flag was written in 1892 by a Baptist pastor, Francis Bellamy.
State legislatures and the U.S. Congress employ paid chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions. All military branches of the U.S. government have paid chaplains. It may be illegal in our schools and in our state and municipal government buildings, but above the Speaker’s chair in the U.S. Congress hangs a portrait of Moses with the Ten Commandments. The Library of Congress displays statues of Moses and the apostle Paul. It also has large inscriptions of
The Tomb of the Unknowns is dedicated to a soldier “Known but to God.” There is a prayer room in Congress. Think we can get that in our schools? The Supreme Court opens its sessions with the words “God save the U.S. and this honorable court.” The U.S. government mandates a “National Day of Prayer” each year. Christmas is a federal holiday.
Of all the places you could be living, by the grace of God you are today living in the USA—a nation founded on a belief in God by those who sought a place to worship Him in freedom. He has placed you here for a purpose. That purpose is to know Him and enjoy Him forever. It is to tell others about Him. It is to discover true freedom of the soul and spirit.
The message in your pocket can become the message in your heart! Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.