How you think about money has the ability to either enrich or impair your life.
Very few people understand it’s significance and power in our lives.
So I will ask you… What is money? If you had to define it, how would you? Seriously. Before you read any more, I want you to take 30 seconds and write (or type) a definition of money…
My thoughts of money have changed a lot in the last 10 years. When I first entered college, I was swept away by the utopian ideas of socialism. Therefore, I saw money as an obstacle to progress. A better world meant equalizing the income gap. But, after experiencing a microcosm of socialism on a college campus, I realized it was a terrible system (a story for another time).
Then, being a good Christian, I began to treat money with guilt. I didn’t deserve to keep it (or have nice things) because of the suffering and poverty in the world. Every dollar I didn’t give away was another dollar that could have saved a life.
But there are 3 things I have learned about money that have radically changed how I understand wealth. I hope they are as powerful and liberating for you as they arefor me.
1. Money makes society super efficient.
Many people believe money makes the world a bad place. Some people have it, while others suffer under poverty. They believe things would be better if we could get rid of money altogether (and possibly use some sort of barter system in its place).
But that would actually make things worse. Let’s think through this.
Without money, you would need to trade your specific service or product for whatever you needed.
Let’s say you’re an apple grower. If you needed milk, you would need to trade your apples with a farmer for his milk. But what if he needs cotton and not apples? Then you would have to go to a cotton grower and see if they needed apples. If they did, you could trade. And then you could go back to the farmer to get your milk. You see how difficult and convoluted this system gets? Now imagine a city of 2,000 trying to work this way. Or 200,000. Or 2,000,000.
Fortunately, we figured out a genius way to solve this problem: money! Money allows us to trade our specific skill set for something that everyone else considers valuable. Then we can trade that item (whatever it is) for whatever we need/want. Money can be anything. It can be (and has been) butter, salt, and purple die. But most of the time it is gold or silver. Or pieces of paper with pictures of dead Presidents.
Money is nothing more than a trade medium. It allows you to trade your skill or service with anyone else for anything you might need.
In this since, money is brilliant. It is to a barter system what an iPhone is to a telegraph machine. And going back to a barter system would be just that, going back.
2. Money is your life.
That may seem odd (and even offensive) to many, but it is. Lets use an apple tree as an illustration.
An apple tree in the woods belongs to no one. If you stumble upon it and pick an apple, no one considers it stealing. But, if you pick that apple, and then someone takes it from you, we would consider it stealing. Why? Why was it okay for you to pick it, but not okay for someone to take it from you? Simply, you picked it. Your time and energy went into picking the apple made it yours. This reveals an important fact: Labor = ownership.
If you own an apple orchard, then all of the apples on those trees belong to you. Unlike the tree in the wild, someone cannot just come along and pick one. Why? Because your time, energy, and labor went into tilling the land, planting the trees, and cultivating the orchard. Without your labor, they would not exist. You spent a portion of your life to produce those apples.
This means that your apples represent a portion of your life.
And if we combine that with what we already know, this means that money (for which you traded your apples, i.e., you sold them) constitutes a piece of your life.
This is powerful. This means that every dollar, euro, or ounce of gold we use as money represents a piece of someone’s life. When someone gives you $20, it is a piece of their life they will never get back. When you sell a service or product to someone, they are trading a portion of their life for what you are offering. This should radically change how you think about money.
It is weighty, and has substance. It is life.
3. Money can only change hands in 1 of 2 ways: Trade or theft.
This is where things get interesting. Money (which merely represents a piece of your life and labor) can only change hands in 1 of 2 ways. Either you can trade with someone (presumably for something mutually beneficial). Or someone can take it at the barrel of a gun. There are no other options.
This really questions how we think about socialist utopian ideas. Those systems require that we tax some people in order to help others. But what you are really doing is forcibly taking money from some to give to others.
This is theft. You are forcing someone to expend a portion of their life in order to support someone else. This is akin to slavery and serfdom.
We may not like the inequality in the world, but stealing is never right. And in any compromise between right and wrong, it is only evil that can profit anything.
As A Man Thinks…
Money is powerful. In many ways money is your life. You are not defined by how much money you have. Your identity is far more than that. But money does represent your time, energy, and labor that others thought valuable. This should change the way we think about work, charity, welfare programs, and wealth.
When you are sitting at your desk for work, you have made an agreement. You have said that this portion of your life (time and energy) is worth the paycheck you are getting. This begs a certain question: Is it really worth it? For many it is. For others, it is not.
This also changes how we think about charity. When you give money away, you are saying that you want to give a portion of your life to help others. This is a powerful statement. At the same time, the poor and needy have no demand on your money. Otherwise, you are saying that their need means they have a right to your life. So, you should never feel guilty for the wealth you keep.
I’ll leave you with this…
Look at your definition of money you wrote out earlier.
- How do the ideas in this post change what you initially wrote down?
- What are some ways that you need to change how you think about money?
- And finally, are you happy with the trade you’re making (your job)? Is it worth it? If it isn’t, do you need more money to make it worth it (a raise)? Or do you need to find another trade?
I hope you found these insights as powerful and transformative as I have.
I would love to hear what you think about them in the comments below (and if you’re brave enough… leave your answer the questions above!).
Originally published at www.seanedwards.com on August 7, 2014.
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