Money & Wealth are NOT the Same Thing.
It is amazing to me how often money & wealth are used as synonyms. It is even more amazing to me that God clearly and simply clarifies the difference so that we would not be confused. The reason for our confusion seems to be that we are not developing our understanding of the world from the lens of scripture first; rather, we are looking for truth from the world’s confused perspective (I can say this because I do it too).
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is restating the law that was given to the people of Israel, by God at Mt. Saini, after they were delivered out of Egyptian slavery and before they were established as a free society in the promised land.
In Deuteronomy 14 verses 22 through 27, Moses is speaking about tithing. I am not going to be discussing tithing in this article but looking at financial concepts within the passage that specifically define exactly what wealth and money are.
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.
In essence, this was a big annual festival to not only celebrate the blessings of God, but also the presence of God. At that time God chose to dwell in a tabernacle, and later a temple, where the people could interact with Him, mainly through a priest. Because of Jesus, we as individuals can become the dwelling place of God. God now lives within people. Praise God for His desire to have a personal relationship with us!
Financially though, what is the “tithe”?
A 10th of what a person produced each year; in other words, a 10th of a persons wealth that was increased that year. Wealth is the goods and services that are created by productive people, or acquired from other productive people, to be a blessing for themselves and others. God desired a 10th of the wealth produced to be dedicated to Him. Not because He needed it, but so that the people would reflect on His provision and blessing on their lives, enjoy the blessings, properly thank Him for it, and share it with others.
So, what is money? Let’s continue the passage…
24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. 27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
If God has blessed you so much that you can’t even transport your tithe to the place of worship, “then exchange your tithe for [money], and take the [money] with you” to the place of worship. Once you arrive there, “use the [money] to buy whatever you like…”
In just a few simple verses, God teaches us the financial concepts of wealth and money that economists have been arguing about for centuries.
Silver is a much more convenient object to travel with than large containers of crops or animals. However, God did not say, in fact nowhere in the Bible have I found where God ever said, that silver is money (However, He did say, on several occasions, that the lending/banking function should be controlled by individuals). Silver and gold had all the qualities desired in free market economies for trade and accounting purposes. God simply acknowledged the fact that the people had chosen silver as the ideal money at that time. There was no central government or planner dictating to the masses what is to be used as the object of trade. This passage is a great example of how precious metals naturally became the medium of exchange in ancient cultures (also see Genesis 23:1–20).
Furthermore, God also revealed the amazing results of mutually beneficial free exchange between people. The person going on the trip did not need to force anyone to buy his animals and other goods. The person with the silver did not need to force the traveler to take his silver. The price would be agreed upon by both parties before the transaction took place, therefore, both parties would benefit from the transaction. Each of them would want what the other person had more than what they had. This same relationship would happen again once the traveler arrived at his destination. Now he would have the silver and desire other things that someone else must have produced or acquired (wealth). Once he finds the person that would have what he wants, both parties would simply agree on the price that benefits both of them. Everyone rejoices in a free-market.
To flesh out the concepts of wealth and money further, lets consider our typical financial scenario today. When we go to work for an employer, how do we create wealth? There is a misconception that our income from that job is the wealth we are creating for ourselves, but that is not true. Why would an employer want to hire us in the first place? They want to use our abilities to create wealth for them. We exchange our wealth creating abilities to the employer for money. Just like in this passage. Wealth is NOT money. Money is simply any tool used to exchange wealth between people. For the most part, it really doesn’t matter what the money is (see my article “IT’S MY MONEY!” — Is it?). However, we can further develop skills and relationships in our job, as well as utilize our money, to expand our abilities to create more wealth (goods and services) for the employer, for ourselves, or for others. As we serve bigger needs and/or more people, our income tends to rise with our abilities.
The questions is, are we building a proper “Warehouse of Wealth” so that we can maximally store and deploy money, no matter what it is, to invest in our own, and other peoples, abilities to create and acquire wealth?
Read Building Your Warehouse of Wealth by R. Nelson Nash.