“In God We Trust” has been engraved on our coins since 1864. Somewhere in the intervening years, however, it seems we’ve shifted from trust in God to trust in the coin itself. This isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s been happening for a long time.
King Solomon, in his book of wisdom known as Proverbs, puts it this way:
“The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall” (Prov. 18:11).
There are many people today for whom wealth is their unscalable wall. They truly believe if they acquire enough of it, build up a high enough wall of it, the cares and concerns of the world will not be able to climb over. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that cares and concerns have very creative ways of mounting siege ramps against the walls of wealth and breach even the highest parapets. Insecurities also find ways to tunnel under the strongest edifices.
Money, quite simply, is not a secure thing to put your trust in. Again, from Proverbs:
“Do not wear yourself out to get riches, and have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (23:4-5).
Money is a fluid, dynamic entity, and its worth is based upon factors out of the control of most people. A person’s wealth can be made and lost within a single year.
How many people have won millions of dollars on a lottery one year, only to wind up losing it all within a short span of time? How many people put their trust in the wealth they committed to Bernie Madoff, only to lose every cent in his billion-dollar Ponzi scheme? Money is not an appropriate place to look for security.
Money can be made and even more money made … and still not enough. This is especially true if money and acquiring money have become an excessity.
Revisit the Solomon quote in Ecclesiastes:
“Whoever loves money, never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Eccl. 5:10).
Solomon was the wealthiest person of his day, above all the other kings on earth. He was incredibly wealthy and incredibly wise. He knew that wealth and acquiring wealth can become a black-hole, Gotta Have It! excessity. Perceiving money as security can create an obsession with money and the things money can buy. And because money can, quite frankly, buy a great deal, there is a tendency to assign it more power than it’s due; there is a tendency to trust it more than is wise.
Money is not permanent because it can be lost in a blink of an eye (or in the crash of the stock market, or in the devaluation of currency, or through theft or malfeasance or cooked books). It is not permanent in the here and now, and it’s absolutely irrelevant in the hereafter. Money can get you some tract when you’re alive, but it is useless to you when you’re dead:
“Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him” (Ps. 49:16-17).
In cruder, present-day language: The hearse doesn’t come with a trailer.
Money promises to provide security, but it often creates the opposite:
“A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat” (Prov. 13:8).
The more stock you set in the things you have, including money and things money can buy, the greater the threat of losing it all. Those who have much have much to lose. Those with little, sleep under a lesser threat of loss and can feel more secure.
Money can be a source of security, but it can also be a source of heartburn:
“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep” (Eccl. 5:12).
If you put all your security eggs in the money basket, then you must perpetually worry about eggs breaking and losing both.