Can we eat money?
I am not a sociologist or a historian, and I don’t claim any authority for what I write. However, I thought to share my view on money with others.
Over our long history, humans almost always failed to recognize essentials from non-essentials, or at least, mixed them together. With essentials, I mean things of true value to our life on earth .
So think about it; isn’t it really striking that everything we truly enjoy and need for living was meant to be free? Air, water, sun, earth, animals and plants all were given to us for free. We did not create or manufacture them, and they existed long before we did. According to the belief of many Christians, including myself, we were meant to be stewards over these valuables, not owners. We were meant to care about our environment just by maintaining it in its functional and beautiful (original) state.
The situation got out of hand when men decided to redefine their relationship with their environment into ownership. Fallen men, in Christian prospective, thought of their stewardship as ownership. Following self-deception to its end, men started to divide the free land with its animals and crops, they thought to own, into shares of ownership. Then they started fighting over these shares. The same scenario, if imagined in a theatrical context, would be very funny; to fight over free things, right! Well, this funny situation is our reality now as we created it. It does not matter if people adopt capitalism (individual ownership) or communism (state or common ownership), it is all human ownership.
Fighting over free things was not the only problem. With time passing, men found that the biggest obstacle to ownership is disintegration, mutability and decay. It is the hard fact of the second law of thermodynamics. The free things, people thought to own, did not last for long. You gather crops and store them, but not for long as they rot. You build a house over “your land” and it does not stay there forever. You claim a land for yourself, but it can be taken from you by others who have the power to take it. So, our ancestors started replacing free valuables with smaller and more durable but worthless materials like silver and gold. They assigned imaginative values to gold and silver to trade them with the real things like water, food and land. So, gold and silver money was invented. Later, people got used to see gold and sliver as of value in themselves and started fighting over them.
Again, another problem arose. Silver and gold were very heavy to carry for long traveling distances. People needed something lighter. This was tempting to create a second layer of worthless material: paper money, to replace the first worthless layer of gold and sliver. In the middle ages, banks and later governments offered services for travelers to replace their “valuable” heavy gold with bank notes of paper. These paper pieces or”banknotes” were meant to be a guarantee from a government or a bank to pay X amount of gold/ silver to whoever carried the note. Paper money replacing gold and sliver became a value in itself, and again people started fighting over it. Isn’t that similar to kids assigning value to their toys and starting to fight who gets the biggest toy?
Well, the toys people invent tend to get them further away from real valuable things. And when toys get old they are replaced with fancier ones. In our present time, paper money faced more serious problems. Paper money, besides being fragile (easily destroyed), was too slow to use in a digital world where everything has to go faster in the process of globalization. For example, it is hard for anyone in our time to carry a bag that contains a million dollars in a subway to go and buy a house. It is even harder for an American investor to travel all the way to China with lots of bags of cash to buy a company. Fifty years ago, that could have been OK, but not anymore. So, for the sake of speed a third layer of worthless nothing emerged in 1990s, i.e. the digital money. Money became just electric impulses and waves traveling in the speed of light. It is like ghost money with ghost value. All transactions now are digitalized and wired over the internet and/ or with credit and ATM cards. People don’t touch or see gold, silver or even much paper money anymore. Indeed, they keep some change in their pockets, but don’t usually carry bags of money in private cars or buses or in public places. It is too risky, too heavy and too slow!!!
While mentioning these layers of fake values, I did not bother to elaborate on the many layers of ghostly financial products. I did not explain how banks build their wealth by encouraging borrowing and collecting interests without adding any true value to our resources. Not to mention all these stocks, bonds , CDs, and mutual funds that add more layers to the bubble to enslave people. Leo Tostoy rightly said, “Money is a new form of slavery, which differs form the old only in being impersonal, and in freeing people from all the human relations of the slave.” (From What Shall We Say?) This is the harsh fact of inventing value. And the worst of all is that after all these centuries of inventing layers upon layers of worthless things, we tend to forget about the true valuables that were meant to be free. We created a big bubble of nothingness and fought for shares in it. In the meantime, we lost attachment to our essential resources, controlled and consumed them with the authority of paper, gold and sliver, and denied other people their rightful share in them. What a mess !!!
Jesus said: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money“. The truth of this statement goes so deep into the question, where does true value come from? Does it come from our bubble of worthless inventions or from Who created everything for us for free to enjoy and live without any need?
With God helping me, I now understand. I can see. And I try so hard (it is kind of difficult still, I kid you not) to think of money as using “nothing” to buy free valuable things, and use these free things for God’s glory. I sometimes get this matrix-like revelation and see the matrix we created as just the way it truly is. Some useless metals and papers of no true value controlling the life of millions. Interestingly, I also see that we can help the poor and the needy and change our world with just worthless “nothing“; I mean just with “money“. And I do believe that God Who provided us with water, air, land and every valuable thing, will provide us with more “nothing” to build his kingdom. AMAZING isn’t it ?!!!