I have a handful of round pieces of metal that could pay for my lunch at McDonald’s if I was in Turkey. As it is, I’m not in Turkey, and the happy faces running the registers here would just look at me funny if I handed them my handful of Turkish lira to pay for a hamburger. They’d say something like, “We don’t take those things,” and then ask whether I had any ‘real’ money.
Money is a peculiar thing. Regardless of the material used, or its physical configuration, its value is always symbolic. Money is a means of trading one thing of value for another thing of value, and its presence blesses and curses every nation and culture on earth. We see it as a familiar and indispensable component of life, and generally wish we had more. But all that has nothing to do with my Turkish lira, does it?
At this point, you’re doubtlessly curious about my foreign money, and wondering whether I’m secretly working for the CIA, and thinking that if they are desperate enough to hire me, maybe you should go ahead and move your family to Australia. I can’t help you with that, but I can tell you that I got the coins by trading some American money for them at a currency exchange place in Istanbul earlier this year. I gave a guy behind a glass window some good hard American cash, and he handed me back some weird colored paper with pictures of strangely dressed people, and some incomprehensible symbols printed on it. Then he threw in some round pieces of metal with more symbols and stamped images of people I didn’t know.
I went away trying to figure out what I really had, because I wanted to buy some gifts to take back home, and my only interest in this strange looking money was what I could trade it for. Eventually, I spotted a scarf that looked like a bargain worth going after. I approached a guy who appeared to be working in the little shop, and we exchanged hand gestures and some vocal noises, and I handed him some of my newly acquired Turkish money. He smiled, nodded, and said stuff I didn’t understand as he handed me back more pieces of paper and a coin or two. I figured he had either thanked me for my business, or possibly said, “You Americans are such idiots—you just paid me three times what that scarf is worth.” In any case, when it came time to leave the country, I was down to this handful of coins, with no time left to exchange them. Now I’m stuck with money that has no value here where I live.
Solomon had to deal with currency and values, too, and offers us an expanded perspective. He said,
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom … for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 3:13-18 NKJV), and again, “…Wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11 NKJV)
Solomon treats ‘wisdom’ as a commodity of value in the same sense that gold and precious gems are of value. He declares that wisdom can be compared to those recognized mediums of trade, and even exceeds their worth. If we were to take Solomon’s words at face value, and considered God’s wisdom as a unique kind of currency, I think I would find myself in a situation similar to my predicament as I left the exchange window in Istanbul. “What do I really have here, and what can I trade it for?”
Capacity for trade and exchange is vitally important in dealing with money, because its worth, in any form it takes, is only symbolic and measured in terms of its desirability in trade for other things of value. Currency is not the thing it represents any more than a picture of a car is the actual car. Though money itself cannot be directly ingested as nourishment, it is much more than colored paper or pieces of metal, because it can be exchanged for our necessary food and nourishment. In the same sense, then, that currency is more than colored paper, so ‘wisdom’ in all its forms is much more than mere words. As with other currency, words that describe wisdom are only symbolic representations of the attitudes and behaviors that express and define them. If there was no place to trade our dollars for food, we could have boxes full of them and starve to death. Similarly, if the words that describe wisdom do not become behavioral exhibitions, then we can have books full of them and die as fools. Two things, then, are vital when choosing our currencies. Where is its value recognized, and what can we trade it for?
Ultimately, there are only two ‘economies’ available to us, and neither recognizes the currency of the other. If we present the ‘wisdom currency’ of God in the world’s marketplace, they will only mock us and reject it. Similarly, if we seek to acquire what God offers by presenting superficial trinkets treasured by the world, He will sadly turn us away.
But here’s the kicker that gets overlooked in the transactions of both economies. In our lifetime here, they only deal in rental privileges, not ownership. Those in God’s economic system already know that. Those in the world’s system don’t. There is a day coming for each of us when all our currencies will be presented for final exchange. Those in the world, who thought they owned all those possessions they traded so much of their lives to obtain will discover that they must all be turned in, and hence will have nothing. Those who have invested every value of their life in the ‘wisdom currency’ of Jesus Christ will have already relinquished ownership of everything, except their personal faith in Him. At the final exchange, they will be granted ownership of the full reality of what that ‘currency’ represents—eternal life, residence in His house, and all that goes with it.
Dealing with the world’s ‘funny money’ isn’t fair. The stuff is overpriced, the ads are deceptive, and you don’t even get to keep what you get. Jesus, on the other hand, is straight with us. You let Him have everything now, and He’ll invest it for you and pay out with incredible returns later. Hey… I’d trade some rubies for that. How about you?
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
To follow this blog for more ‘Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World’, sign up just below the ‘Search box’ in the upper right sidebar for regular email notifications of new posts.