“A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore” Yogi Berra
What is inflation?
Before we get to inflation in scripture, what does inflation even mean? It’s a term mentioned often, but many of us were never taught in school. Inflation is the rise in prices over time. Think about when your parents told you about what a Coke or snack cost when they were growing up compared to the current price. This is an example of inflation. You’ll probably do this with your own kids too.
“a continuing rise in the general price level usually attributed to an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods and services” Inflation as defined by Merriam-Webster
Was there inflation in the Bible?
Without question, there was documented inflation that occurred at the same time Biblical events took place. This is well documented throughout the Bible but also in numerous other historical texts. One of the most notable examples is Augustus Caesar. Would you be upset if the money with your face on it was having problems? At one time, he was angry about the money situation and took it very personally.
Know your weights and measures
An important piece of context for mentions of currency in the Bible is how money worked for thousands of years. Money worked very differently from today. Today, if you want to validate your American dollars are real you can look for fancy holograms, strips embedded in the paper, and other anti-counterfeiting tactics used by the US Treasury. For ages, money was made of precious metals like gold or silver. People of the day would sometimes file off a small amount of the metal from the side of the coin before buying something. This tactic, called clipping, was a problem and did cause a great of inflation. There was also, sometimes intentionally by the Roman mint, tampering with the currency. At times, cheaper metals were mixed with gold and silver to make a coin that was cheaper to produce but had the appearance of a coin made entirely with the preferred metal. Would you want a coin that is 95% silver or 75% silver?
The idea of using weights on a scale to validate whether a coin was truly worth what it was supposed to be worth came into practice. This anti-counterfeiting tactic worked in many cases, but clever tricksters soon found they could tamper with weights in scales to get the same results. When you hear scripture references to weights, measures, and fairness, this is the literal or metaphorical reference.
By the way, have you ever noticed the tiny ridges on a coin? These ridges are called “reeding.” The practice was started to avoid the practice of shaving coins the Romans dealt with.
What Does the Bible Say About Inflation?
These passages are a selection of Bible verses about inflation.
“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.” Leviticus 19:35 ESV
“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 25:13-15 ESV
“All King Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver; silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon.” 1 Kings 10:21 ESV
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11:1 ESV
“A just balance and scales are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Proverbs 16:11 ESV
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10 ESV
“Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them.” Isaiah 1:22-23 ESV
““Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God. “You shall have just balances, a just ephah, and a just bath. The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure, the bath containing one tenth of a homer, and the ephah one tenth of a homer; the homer shall be the standard measure. The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.” Ezekiel 45:9-12 ESV
“Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?” Amos 8:4-6 ESV
“Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights?” Micah 6:10-11 ESV
“You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.” Haggai 1:6-7 ESV
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16 ESV
“Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.” James 5:3 ESV
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.” James 5:1-2 ESV
“When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”” Revelation 6:5-6 ESV
As we can see from across the Biblical narrative, inflation has been around for a long time. It was, as the verses above recognize, a part of life then and always will be. One of the best defenses against inflation in your family is to make sure your money grows with interest and investment to preserve value over time.
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