So you think the money you have in the bank belongs to you, huh? Does it really? The Europeans who have money deposited in their banks thought the same thing. Now that the continent is a financial basket case and the joint currency is on the verge of falling apart, Europeans are learning who controls their money. Will Americans be far behind in learning the same thing?
As it starts to seem likely to Greece will pull out of the eurozone and go back to its own currency, EU officials are trying to figure out what to do. One of the possibilities that they’re considering is limiting the amount of money that people are allowed to withdraw from banks. Another is instituting border checks and “capital controls.” (That’s a polite way of saying that people can’t move their money out of the country.)
If someone can tell you that you can’t have access to your money, is it really yours? If someone can tell you that you can’t spend your money out of the country — or send it to a bank account somewhere else — is it really your money?
So whose money is it? There’s a story in several of the New Testament Gospels in which Jesus addressed this question. It’s been used by many people to say that Jesus told people to pay taxes, but let’s look at what it actually says. This account is from Mark 12:13-17:
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
Look at whatever money you have, whether it’s U.S. currency or cash from any other country. Whose pictures and words are all over it? It belongs to the people who designed it, printed it and control it — whatever government or bank that the government designated to control it.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He said to give to Caesar the things that belong to him. The coins that the people were using came from Caesar, not from the people themselves. In the same way, the dollars or euros or yen that we believe are ours belong to governments. They manipulate their currency and they create more of it out of thin air. I don’t see anything in Jesus’ words to indicate that He was instructing His followers to give some arbitrary portion of whatever they produced to Rome. (I don’t have time to go into more about Jesus’ words here, but if you’re interested, here’s an article with some interesting thoughts about it.)
We frequently hear about the separation of church and state. I’ve talked before about the need for a separation of marriage and state. It’s time for us to consider, though, the separation of money and state.
Why do we need governments to create money? The truth is that we don’t. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be left up to the market. If some of us want to use gold and silver as a medium of exchange, why not let us? If others want to accept money created by some bank they trust, why not let them? Why not let the market figure out which medium of exchange works best — without any government interference or control?
As long as the coercive state has anything to say about it, this won’t be allowed, of course. Because money is their ultimate way of controlling us.
In the meantime, just start thinking about why you need pieces of paper or coins issued by a government to represent value that you have earned. Think about why you shouldn’t just trade with others without governments and government-controlled banks having the power to manipulate the money.
One day, the time will come when government-backed money will go away. Something has to take its place. Whether it’s gold and silver or bitcoins or some other form of digital currency, it needs to happen without politicians and bankers controlling it. The money we carry with us should be ours, not theirs.