God's Monetary Policy In The Bible
This article will cover what the Bible says about two overlapping subjects, money and trade. I define trade as two people exchanging goods or services either directly or through the use of money. Money is simply a medium of exchange or trade. It allows trade to cost less time, effort, and resources.
We all know trade can occur with or without using money. We have all swapped lunch items in the school cafeteria or have seen it occur. Maybe your mom wouldn't give you a dessert. If you wanted a dessert and you had something else of value like Cheetos, there was still hope. Maybe there was a kid at your table who didn't really like her Twinkies. Now there was an opportunity for both to get what we wanted. No money was needed to trade the Twinkies for the Cheetos. However, you had to find someone who wanted what you had more than what they had. You also had to want what they had more than what you had.
This is a problem with direct trade, not all items are valued equally. What if the girl across the table had 8 Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies? In that case your bag of Cheetos may not be enough for her to make the trade. You may have to give her half of your sandwich or your Orange too. With money those differences in value are more easily understood and the swap is more easily made. Everyone values money not because of what it does itself but because it is useful to trade for anything you like.
Whether direct trade or using money to exchange goods, the ratio of value between goods is what determines if the trade is made. In my theoretical examples above, Cheetos = Twinkies, Cheetos < 8 Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, Cheetos + Orange = 8 Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. These valuations are all made by the individuals involved. Those ratios of value can be different when different people are involved in the trade. When money is involved the money prices are set by the ratio of values between items, also determined by the people involved in the exchange. For example, some people would buy a Comic Book for a $100. Other people wouldn't buy that same Comic Book for $5.
I went through all that to explain what trade is and how money is used. In the Bible, God's priority in money and trade is that both parties in the exchange are paying the amount they agreed to pay the other party. He warns that person A should not deceive person B, in a way to make person B pay more than agreed or to receive less of the good than agreed for the money paid.
Leviticus 19: 35-36
"35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt."
The weights, capacity, balances, ephah, and hin were all ways to measure out goods or money to complete the transaction of an exchange. The ephah and hin are examples of a capacity or a measurement of volume, like a bushel basket. The ephah was for grain and the hin was for oil. The goods of an exchange could be weighed, but gold, silver, and other coins or currencies were weighed to ensure the agreed price was being met. The next two verses start to explain how weight and capacity measurements can be falsified.
Deuteronomy 25: 13-15
"13 “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15 You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."
"4 Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, 5 saying,
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
6 So as to buy the helpless for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?” "
In this context only a dishonest man would carry differing weights. For example he would use a large and small ephah in order to steal a little bit with each trade he made. For example, if he was selling grain he would use the small ephah. The other party paid for 1 full ephah, but he was getting a fraction less. If the thief was buying grain he would use his large ephah so that he would receive a fraction more grain than he paid for. This is serious fraud as God is intimately involved in our economic interactions.
"A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight."
"A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern."
Like a Divine Accountant, He is calculating the price for every exchange we make. Then He weighs our souls in His balance. Don't be like Belshazzar whose value came up short.
"25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENĒ’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 ‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 ‘PERĒS’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.” "
Inevitably we all come up short in some way through sin. The solution to that is to trust that Jesus paid for your sin on the cross and was raised on the third day to give you a new life free from sin. Start a relationship with Him today!
One final scriptural example will introduce a principle that is more applicable to today. Then that principle will be applied to the monetary policy pursued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (USDOT) and the Federal Reserve bank (the Fed).
"9 “I bought the field which was at Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle’s son, and I weighed out the silver for him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, and called in witnesses, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 Then I took the deeds of purchase, both the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions and the open copy;"
In this account, Jeremiah buys a field and receives the deed to document his ownership of it. We also observe he paid for it with silver by weighing it out on a scale. As long as the scale was correctly balanced with accurate weights and the metal Jeremiah used was pure silver the transaction was honest and honored by God. If the weights on the scale were too heavy then Jeremiah would have had to pay more than the agreed upon price of seventeen shekels of silver. The scale would say seventeen shekels but he would have had to for example put twenty shekels on the scale. In Jeremiah's day, a shekel was a unit of measure like a gram or an ounce.
This example focused on the weight and measurement of the paid amount of silver. Another way to commit fraud would be to mix in a different, less valuable metal in place of the accepted, more valuable metal. If Jeremiah had made an alloy of silver with something less valuable like copper, then even if he weighed out the correct amount, he would be guilty of theft. He would have paid less silver than what was agreed to. Using silver and copper prices today, the theft would equate to roughly 1% in dollars for every 1% of silver substituted by copper.
Later in history a coin of a certain weight of silver was called a shekel. A similar fraud could be made using shekel coins or another type of coin. Every kind of coin was created to contain a certain amount of gold or silver to provide a specific monetary value. It was possible then to shave off part of the coin, and collect enough shavings to make a new minted coin. This type of monetary fraud was mostly available to kings, other rulers, and banks. The common man didn't have the ability to make their own coins or own enough coins to create new ones from shavings. A person had to go to a minter or a coiner to get their gold or silver turned into a coin. In New Testament times 1 shekel coin of silver weighed 11.4 g. So it was theoretically possible to shave 0.4 g off each coin you owned until you had another 11 g to make another dishonest shekel. Then you would hand out 11g coins instead of 11.4g coins.
For those who held political power or were protected by it, it was a simple thing to mix in a little impurity or shave off a piece of each coin. The affect is that the owner increases his own buying power while handing out coins with less real value. On top of that, the corollary effect is that honest coins lose some of their value due to money supply inflation. As more coins are circulated to buy the same amount of goods, the price per good increases to meet the new ratio of value. Money prices are always a ratio between the currency in circulation and the amount of goods available for purchase. Increasing the amount of currency shifts the ratio to in effect steal more purchasing power from people holding coins, whether pure or impure. The common man loses either way.
Keep this relationship between money supply and amount of goods in mind. It affects your bank balance today. At the beginning, the U.S. Dollar represented the monetary value of a certain weight of gold. The connection to a weight of gold ended in 1971. Now its value is based on nothing other than the decree of the U.S. Federal Government. However, its value changes in the same way as the examples provided previously.
In a common practice today the USDOT issues bonds to the Fed and the Fed buys them with new money they create ex nihilo. You hear about this in the news. It's called "increasing the debt." The process increases the money supply or the amount of U.S. Dollars in existence. Sometimes the U.S. Federal government and the Fed decide together to create money for the Fed to loan to other banks and politically connected people. The news media calls this Quantitative Easing, economic stimulus, or bank stabilization. All these actions taken by the government and the central bank are morally equivalent to the types of theft God speaks out against in the Bible.
They do it in a more complicated manner. They justify it publicly with big words and lofty speech. But let's all be clear. The government and the banks are stealing from us. They are constantly changing the measure of what a U.S. Dollar is. The evidence is before us in the ever increasing debt of the U.S. Federal government and the increasing prices we pay for food, housing, healthcare, and education. Another clue is that stock prices continue to rise even when the economy is stagnant. According to God, it is an abominable act those who govern us are committing against us. In the Bible, God doesn't leave any doubt about how He judges this kind of activity.
In order to have a healthy economy we must have honest and stable money. We must call on our leaders to adopt God's policy of just weights and measures.