In an article in the November 19, 2012 issue of Forbes magazine titled “Gold and the Wicked Magicians,” Steve Forbes advocates a return to the gold standard. If major world currencies such as the U.S. dollar were tied in value to gold, he says, the resulting monetary stability would provide a solid foundation for a prosperous economy.
On the political front, for decades Congressman Ron Paul has been advocating a modified form of the gold standard that existed in the United States throughout its rise to becoming the world’s leading economic power in the 1900s.
But this is not a financial or political website. It’s a spiritual website.
And I’ll go on record:
I’m for the gold standard . . . the spiritual gold standard.
Gold is mentioned over 400 times in the Bible. The first mention of gold is in the second chapter of the Bible. The last mention of gold is in the second-to-last chapter. So we can almost literally say that the Bible is full of gold from beginning to end!
Although we humans didn’t come up with the idea of forming metal into coins as a medium of exchange until about 2,500 years ago (see “History of money”), gold has been a sign of wealth for longer than that. In Genesis 13:2 we are told that Abraham, one of the first historical figures in the Bible, who lived over 4,000 years ago, “had become exceedingly wealthy in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” There were no coins in those days. Most of this silver and gold was in the form of jewelry. In those days people wore their wealth!
As the Bible story continues, gold and its companion silver continue to be signs of wealth and value. By New Testament times, gold and silver coins were the primary medium of exchange that kept the economy going. They continued to hold that economic position right up into the mid-1900s—and many believe we never should have dethroned them. Even today, gold and silver are seen as commodities that hold their value when free-floating paper and electronic currencies do not.
In short, when the Bible speaks of gold, it is speaking of great value. Therefore if we think of gold from a spiritual perspective, when the Bible speaks of gold it must be speaking something that has supreme spiritual value.
To get at what that spiritual value is, let’s go all the way back to when people carried their golden wealth in the form of jewelry.
Hold on! We really don’t have to go back thousands of years for that.
Gold jewelry still has a special meaning for us today. When people get married they commonly give one another golden rings as a sign of . . . what? Wedding rings, of course, are a sign of the partners’ love for one another. And the circular shape of the ring is seen as a symbol of eternal love.
Gold had the same symbolism from the earliest Bible times.
Just as it is today, in the Bible gold is a symbol of love. And not just any old love. Gold symbolizes higher loves than, say, love of food and drink or love of fresh air and sunshine—as good and wholesome as those loves are. As the most precious metal known in Bible times, gold represents the most precious kind of love.
What is the most precious love, from a spiritual perspective?
Gold, in the Bible, represents heavenly and spiritual love, which is the love of God and the love of our fellow human beings. These are the loves that Jesus tells us are central to human life:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39)
Now, this love is not just a theoretical thing that we feel in our heart. If we truly love God and our fellow human beings, we will spend our lives doing good things for them. And even though we cannot do good things for God directly, Jesus tells us that if we do good things for other people, we are doing good things for God (Matthew 25:34–40).
So gold is not only a symbol of our love for God and our fellow human beings, it is also a symbol of all the good and thoughtful things we do for them out of love.
With that in mind, let’s look at that first mention of gold in the Bible:
A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides into four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon. This is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good. (Genesis 2:10–12)
These ancient writers loved to use symbolism and imagery from the natural world to speak of spiritual subjects. When they spoke of the gold of the land of Havilah—a gold that is good—they were really speaking of the love for God and for fellow human beings that prevailed in the culture of that land. In the symbolic language of the Bible, these verses are speaking of a human community called “Havilah,” where there is love; and the love of that community is good.
Yes, I’m for the gold standard.
Spiritually, the most valuable “currency” of our lives is all of the ways we love each other and engage in good and useful acts of service for one another. Every act of kindness and service for another human being is like a small but precious gold coin given as a spiritual gift. And the more we exchange our love and service with one another, the greater our spiritual wealth grows.
Now, about that mention of gold in the second-to-last chapter of the Bible:
Revelation 21:21 says that the streets of the heavenly city, new Jerusalem, are paved with pure gold. Translation: the streets of the city are paved with pure love—meaning that in God’s kingdom the roads we travel every day are pathways of love.
James A. Bland (1854-1911), a well-known and highly gifted African-American composer of the late 1800s, imagined walking those streets of gold in his classic sendup of an earlier spiritual, titled “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers”—a toe-tapping tune reproduced here from an early recording: