2And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
34And he said, I am Abraham’s servant.
35And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.
Welcome to another non-faith article of mine. The Bible teaches us a lot about faith and on how to use it for our prosperity. However, this does not mean it is limited to faith alone. There are other truths in it that can benefit us if we bother to study them. In this article, I will show you the concept of money from the Bible and how we can benefit from it. If you have been reading my articles, you will realize that I always write about applications and benefits. I can’t help it because I am an engineer. Engineering is about applications to bring benefits.
Throughout all my articles I have been using the term “money” liberally. In order not to create confusion, I am going to use another term “currency” to refer specifically to cash, the stuff that are printed by governments like US Dollars, Euro, Yen etc. Throughout history, when a civilization reached a certain level, they will have some sort of currency in place. The main functions of currencies are medium of exchange and storage of value.
However, in the Bible, God only recognized the first function and not the second for currencies. I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where God describes anyone as rich for having a lot of currencies. The verses I put above show the typical way a person is described as rich. It also shows us that there are basically 2 categories of wealth. You are considered to be rich as long as you have a lot of either one of them.
I shall name them Organic Wealth and Inorganic Wealth. The examples of Inorganic Wealth are gold and silver. I call them inorganic because they are inanimate. It will never die because it has no life in the first place. When I walked into shops selling ornamental fishes, I found some fishes being sold at the price of a few thousand dollars each. The strange part was people are still buying them. Don’t they know that if the fish died, a few thousand dollars will be gone? You will not have this problem if you buy gold or silver.
The other characteristic of this category of wealth is, it is compact. Unless you are super rich, you don’t need to build a warehouse or a barn to store all your gold. A chest or a box is good enough. As such it is easy to secure and easy to run away with when things go wrong. It is easier to run away with a box of gold than with goats or grains of the same value.
However, the main weakness of Inorganic Wealth is it does not grow. If you keep 1kg of gold in your safe and open it up again 10 years later, you will still see 1 kg of gold.
Furthermore, the Bible never says God will bless your gold and silver. If you read Deuteronomy 28:1-13, the blessing from God covers a lot of area but gold is not among them. In the Bible, gold and silver are seen as the result of prosperity. They are not the origin of prosperity. They will not make you richer. They will preserve but not expand your wealth.
This is where the Organic Wealth comes in to fill the gap. Organic Wealth refers to life assets like cattle, sheep, goats, crops and anything that has the ability to grow. In today’s context, it covers stocks, properties and other businesses. Deuteronomy 28:4 tells us about God’s blessings on all types of Organic Wealth.
4Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock.
Deuteronomy 28:4 (NLT)
Organic Wealth grows with time as long as the environment is right. When you sow seeds to the ground, the seeds will grow into crops. On day, the crops will give you harvest where you will reap more than you have sowed. You will get richer. The herds of cattle and the flocks of sheep will reproduce. Baby cattle (calves) and baby sheep (lamb) will grow in size. All these will make the owner richer. This is the most important characteristic of Organic Wealth, which Inorganic Wealth cannot achieve. So, if you want to be richer, focus on Organic Wealth more than Inorganic Wealth.
The main weakness of Organic Wealth is the higher risk of losing it. A foul weather and pest can destroy crops before they can be harvested. Some time ago, there was a serious flood in Bangladesh and it happened just before harvest time. It was sad. The farmers were looking forward to their harvest and suddenly the flood destroyed it all. All their efforts were wasted. Such is the nature of Organic Wealth. It is more fragile and subjects to the mercy of the environment.
Organic Wealth is also less portable. You cannot pack them up and run away when things go wrong. After Jacob left Laban, he had a huge flock with him. When he realized that his brother Esau was in front of him with his army, Jacob found himself trapped. He could not run away with so many sheep. The situation would have been different if his wealth was in the form of a few boxes of gold.
So both Organic Wealth and Inorganic Wealth have their own strength and weaknesses. If you allocate your wealth into these 2 classes, you can have the best of both. The next question is, how does currency fits in?
On the surface, currency seemed to have the benefits of Organic Wealth and Inorganic Wealth. Like Inorganic Wealth, it is compact and easy to protect. Like Organic Wealth, it can grow if you put it in a bank to earn interest. However, in reality, it is worthless in itself and I shall prove to you in the subsequent part of this article.
In ancient times, governments used precious metals like gold and silver to make coins. The precious metal is necessary in the coins in order to give value to them. The problem is, when these governments faced budget deficits because their income was lesser than their expenditure, they would resort to produce coins with lesser gold in them. This is called the debasement of currency. For example, every coin used to have 90% gold in it but after debasement, the new coins now have 80% gold.
The traders were not dumb. They knew about it and charge higher prices for their products and services. The higher the rate of debasement, the higher the prices would be raised. This is called inflation. Those who relied on fixed amount of income will be poorer because they could buy lesser things for the same amount of money.
That is the past. Do things get better now? The truth is, our modern system is even worse. We use paper money now. Once upon a time, nations used gold standard for their monetory policy. They pegged their currencies to gold. This means having US Dollars is like having gold. However, this standard was abandoned and all the world currencies become free float. This means, governments can print as much money as they want. Some governments in the Third World had printed money to solve their financial problems and resulted in hyperinflation. Prices of things may get doubled everyday. Their currencies are worthless.
Even if governments do not print money to solve their problems, inflation will still happen and the prices of things will increase because the currencies do not have value in themselves. This means the currency in you wallet and bank account will decrease in value. You will be poorer each day as currency depreciates. The main action for governments to protect the value of their currencies is to raise interest rates. However, raising interest rate will also cause unemployment. So there is some balancing act to be done between protecting the value of currency and protecting jobs. Most of the time, governments choose to protect jobs. Therefore the drop in currency value, or inflation is inevitable.
What does all this mean to us? I believe all our income is in the form of currency. As such, its value is subjected to drop. So the prudent thing for us to do is, each time we receive our income, the first thing to do is to allocate them for our giving (tithing and sowing), expenses, repayment of debts (if any) and keep some of it for emergency. If there is any balance, allocate them into Organic Wealth and Inorganic Wealth. This way, your wealth will be protected from inflation and be able to grow more.