Last week, three of my sisters and I were having a discussion about our various savings strategies—one of them has begun using an app to make automatic deposits into her savings account—when my middle sister said, laughing a little, “I realized that my brain thinks cash is free money.”
Our sister who saves compulsively and has a cash jar with almost $150 in it squawked at her comment, but myself and the fourth sister agreed that we know what she meant: cash monies have already left our bank accounts and thus, our financial reckonings. With a little more discussion, we started using the word “real” instead—cash doesn’t feel like real money. Buying things with it means we aren’t touching, the money we need available in our bank accounts when we wave our plastic cards or click a digital button. The physical twenty-dollar-bill floating around my purse doesn’t have the same power. Real money is imaginary.
In my opinion, the rise of cryptocurrency only proves that my sisters and I aren’t alone in this. Cryptocurrency, like cash, only has value because someone says it does; unlike cash, cryptocurrency really only exists in the imagination, because you can’t turn it into something physical. It proves, yet again, that in the modern era money is only worth the value someone places on it.
I would despair at yet another example of how we as a culture have removed ourselves from reality, except that this mindset actually falls in line with Biblical teaching. Money is Caesar’s, earthly treasure rots—we use it to live, but it doesn’t have intrinsic value. Money will fall away with everything else when all things are made new. The only created thing we know will last in the world to come is people.
Money’s buying power can provide for our needs, but even those are finite. The rest may as well be coins in the couch cushions. Keeping it for no reason but to watch our bank accounts grow has no purpose; turning it into physical goods will do us no good in the end. The only way to give money a real, lasting value is to use it for others.
With this mindset, it becomes much easier to loosen the tight grips holding our wallets shut. If the choice is “keep fifty dollars in my bank account” or “send my grandma flowers for her birthday,” the choice is obvious. If the choice is “let that three bucks sit in my cupholder” or “give it to the man on the corner”, the choice is clear. If the choice is “leave that stimulus check in the bank to draw interest” or “give that stimulus check to my church’s helps ministry,” the choice is no choice at all!
It makes me feel comfortable to have a plump bank account, but the truth is that all that imaginary money will just sit there until, maybe, at some point, I need it. Far better to turn it into blessings for other people, making it “real” by giving it an eternal value in ways both big and small.