In a world filled with technology, innovations, and services for nearly every conceivable situation, there is one thing uniting them all. We place a value on each, and that value is manifest in the form of money. The more we think something is worth, the more we’re willing to spend to make it our own. In the third episode of Origins (Nat Geo, Mondays 9 PM/8 CT), host Jason Silva discusses this subject and brings to light the importance of value over the centuries.
At first, when no money existed, there had to be a form of communication whereby groups of people could find common ground; otherwise, there would always be tension and bloodshed. Value was placed on certain goods and trades began to occur. Eventually, the Greeks came up with a marketplace where people could trade goods with each other—smart idea, guys! But corruption did occur, as people soon realized the concept of trading could also mean turning people into commodities via slavery.
At some point (in this case, Turkey in 500 BC), the idea that coins of metal could be used in exchange for payment began to become a reality. Countries used different types of coins, but the purpose was the same: to impart physical value to something people desired. It was in the 13th century that Kublai Khan made paper currency work—and it still exists today. However, physical paper is quickly giving way to a cashless society where digital numbers representing money are stored on a plastic card or bank account. We’re also beginning to get to the point where information in real life or online is being valued in the same way as goods (think of all those microtransactions for smartphone apps).
The biggest takeaway of the episode, for me, is that value is incredibly important in society. The cost of something isn’t necessarily the price tag; it’s simply what a person believes it is. Just stop by an auction house to experience it for yourself. And yet there are some things in life that cannot be purchased (such as more time; we all get the same 24 hours each day). In the Bible, Simon the sorcerer saw Peter place his hands on new followers of Jesus, whereby they received the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this as extremely valuable and attempted to use money to buy the ability. Peter’s response was swift and poignant: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart” (Acts 8:20-22 NIV). In the case of Jesus, the value of a person was worth dying on a cross for. The gift he offers—forgiveness of sin and eternity with him—is one that cannot be purchased—it must simply be claimed.
The question of money is simply one of value. As economist Adam Smith noted, “All money is a matter of belief.” So where will your beliefs take you in the upcoming weeks and years?