All things cryptocurrency can be difficult to understand and some time ago I received a question about its suitability for the Christian. I found this to be a very good question because it tests:
- The question we’re really asking
- Our decision-making logic
- Our motivations
What is Bitcoin?
Without taking up too much space here, Bitcoin is one example of a relatively new type of “money” called cryptocurrency. This money only exists in the digital world, and there are hundreds of others like it (Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, etc.) A cryptocurrency is not backed by the reputation and resources of any government or country, but it does have other positive attributes and questions (I’ve included a link to a more thorough description at the end of this article).
Point of confusion – Blockchain is not the same as cryptocurrency. Blockchain is the recordkeeping technology that is needed to make a cryptocurrency possible, and this recordkeeping has many uses in other areas as well.
While the concept of cryptocurrency is finding its way in the world and hoping for broad-based acceptance, there has been and likely will be vast amounts of volatility in its pricing. This means the possibility of significant gains for those in the right place at the right time. This also means losses for those who are on the wrong side of this value fluctuation. At this point buying a crypto must be seen as almost pure speculation.
Just to be clear – using a cryptocurrency for a transaction is not the same as investing in a crypto in hopes of capturing gains in its price change.
Investing in Bitcoin for the possibility of price increase is not like buying stock in a company that has assets and creates ongoing profits from its business activity. Crypto is a digital thing that doesn’t generate sales or cash or profits. Its value is simply based on what people are willing to pay for it.
Some will say that that’s true about companies like 3M or Johnson & Johnson or Walmart as well – the stock is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. While that is technically correct, there is a world of difference in what you’re buying. 3M or Johnson & Johnson or Walmart you are assets that have a long history of creating profits from the sale of needed and proven products and services.
The question we’re asking is very important.
The full and transparent question we’re asking is very important because sometimes we abbreviate or construct questions to improve the odds of getting the answer we want. So, because investing in a crypto is speculation at this point, I think the question is; As a Christian, if I have extra money that I can afford to lose, is it permissible to speculate on cryptocurrency? That is the question, right?
3 questions about investing in a cryptocurrency:
Do you have money you can afford to lose?
One cornerstone under good financial decision-making is stewardship. Everything we have – children, time, talent, money, etc. is from God and belongs to God. God has entrusted these things to us for his purposes and his glory. So, the first part of the question shows wrong thinking. I don’t have any money that I can simply afford to lose because my money is not my money – it’s God’s money.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. – Romans 11:36
…all things were created through him and for him. – Colossians 1:16
Are you greedy or discontent?
Sometimes – probably more often than we think – we just want to “roll the dice”; If I lose, I probably won’t lose everything I invested, and if I win, it could be big. So, what exactly is the motive here? Is it greed? Is there a lack of faith in God’s provision or lack of contentment in your situation?
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. – Hebrews 13:5
Should you be doing something else with the money?
If you really do have money that you don’t need for your living expenses, why wouldn’t you invest it in the CEMEB (Christ-Exalting, Maximum Eternal Benefits) plan instead of Bitcoin? (I just made up that abbreviation) Why risk losing it when you can put it where it can grow the Kingdom and you can better live out your mission. With this money you can spread the gospel, help the needy in your church, feed the poor, etc.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matt 6:19–20
In Money and the Gospel, I list four questions you can ask yourself to find out if a purchase is appropriate. They are:
1. Does this purchase directly support my life’s purpose? If I want my life to be all about loving God and my neighbor, will this purchase help?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
2. Does this purchase bolster my ego or pride or self-centered ambition?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3‑4)
3. Will this purchase cause others to question my values and priorities? As we live our lives and make spending decisions, we communicate our values and beliefs. Does this purchase send the right message?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
4. Would this purchase align with the choices other faith-filled believers might make? Would I recommend that others follow my example?
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)
As I think through this question, I found that many of the critical components of living a Jesus-exalting life quickly connect to this situation:
- Focusing on the mission/purpose of my life
- Making a false spiritual/secular separation
- Seeing Jesus as my all-satisfying treasure
In my opinion, speculating in a cryptocurrency is not appropriate for those who are attempting to be focused disciples of Jesus.