The first Bitcoin ATM was installed this summer in the Spokane Valley Mall. From the automated teller a person can buy and sell cryptocurrency. Most of us don’t even know what cryptocurrency is, so why would we buy it? A Bitcoin isn’t even something you can see, it has no existence outside of a digital world. It’s not like stock in a company where you can see, use, or experience the company’s product. Bitcoins produce no product. It’s not like a dollar bill that has government seals and signatures attesting to it’s authenticity. So where does it get its value? Its value exists simply because people want it.
In the past US currency had value because there was something physical behind it. For most of our country’s history our monetary system has been based on some form of the gold standard. That changed in 1971 but the value of our currency is still tied to governmental authority and the US economy. New currencies like Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies represent nothing but the likes and dislikes of people.
That’s a trend not only in the value of commodities, but it’s a popular place for people to look for their value as well. Often we look for value in the eyes of others. Whether that means we’re counting the likes on our Facebook post, waiting for accolades from guests who attended our last backyard barbeque, or hoping that people will vote our yard as the most beautiful on the block, if we’re tying our value to the likes and dislikes of other people we’re investing in a volatile market.
The state of Washington requires companies like CoinMe that own and have installed the Bitcoin ATM in town to warn their customers of the risks associated with investing in Bitcoins: that their value is volatile, there are no deposit guarantees or assurances, if the digital wallet is hacked, or an exchange shuts down, the investment may completely lose its value.
Jesus once spoke of our value relative to the economy of his day. Evidently Bitcoins were not a hot commodity but people were more likely to trade in sparrows. Yet the market was down on sparrows at the time; Jesus notes that they weren’t worth much at all. He said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” Yet he went on to explain just how much worth they had before God “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6). Jesus was reminding us of the volatility of this world’s like and dislikes. What has value today loses it tomorrow, but not when the value is backed up by something that never changes. That’s not true when the value is substantiated by God. So while we are counting likes on our social media posts, God is counting something else; “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered” said Jesus. “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). Let him be the source of your value. After all he was willing to make the costliest transaction in the world for you, and me too; “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Our value is determined by not what people like or dislike about us, but by what our God likes and Jesus death insures it for all time; he loves you and me.