Modern economics reminds us of a valuable lesson from Scripture.
You don’t need a degree in economics to recognize inflation. Just go to the grocery store, retail store, gas station, or online vendor, and you will discover higher prices. You may also notice that boxes, cans, and packages keep getting smaller and containing less product. Coffee cans shrink from 16 ounces to 10 ounces, a half-gallon of ice cream is downsized to 1.5 quarts, 2 liters become 1.75 liters, 56-count is now 48-count, and 90 sheets are now only 80 sheets—all for roughly the same prices as before. Some have dubbed this “shrinkflation”—a reduction in the amount with no reduction in price.
As a teenager—way back in the 1960s—I worked part-time at a local grocery store, stocking the shelves. Occasionally, we had price changes for which we had to manually change the price on each package. Yes, these were the days before barcodes and computerized checkouts, and I am a “dinosaur.” (I won’t bore you with tales of candy bars for only five cents, though I recently delighted in recounting these to my grandsons!) Search online for 1960s prices and you’ll clearly recognize inflation. Some economists believe we may soon experience worse inflation.
As a teen, I learned about the Consumer Price Index and began to track its figures on the dollar’s declining purchasing power. As time went on, I noticed that the base year of the index was moved forward repeatedly, making inflation look smaller and less significant. I suppose it’s important for those in power not to remind people of what their dollar used to buy.
“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure” is a humorous way of saying that numbers can be manipulated to present a better-looking picture. The Bible has much to say about fraud and false measurements. No one likes to be deceived. If we buy a pound or metric measure, we expect to get what we pay for. A consistent valuation—both of the product and the currency—is important. We want our dollar or other currency to maintain value, buying the same amount of goods today as it did yesterday. When it erodes in value, we experience inflation—the decline of purchasing power due to increased money supply, increased costs, and/or increased demand.
In 1965, the United States began debasing U.S. coinage by removing silver content. In 1973, the U.S. government finally abandoned the remnants of the gold standard. Since then, the “monetarist theory” has been in operation, and our dollars buy less and less each passing year. Inflation may be a benefit to borrowers and those who hold physical assets, but it is a hidden “tax” on savers.
One can endlessly argue monetary theories, but it is clear that the absence of standards makes it easier for powerful manipulators to win while the public loses. In the Bible, the Apostle James talks about riches being corrupted and gold and silver corroded, and he condemns defrauding the wages of laborers (James 5:1–6). Proverbs 11:1 speaks of dishonest scales, while Proverbs 16:11 and other scriptures teach God’s expectations regarding honest scales and weights. I remember seeing a Norman Rockwell painting that appeared on the cover of the October 3, 1936 Saturday Evening Post; a woman buying a chicken being weighed was pushing up on the scale pan, while a grocer was pushing down—neither one doing what God would want.
God says, “You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment regarding measures in length, weight, or quantity” (Leviticus 19:35, Modern English Version). He speaks about standards of measurement and money in Ezekiel 45:9–12. God wants just standards and a “love your neighbor” system that cares for all. This will only be accomplished when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom on earth.