Money talks: the language of transaction

Money talks: the language of transaction

Economic talk pervades our language: our relationships are all about “give and take”, we ask ourselves “is it worth it?”,  when evaluating someone’s value we ask, “what do they bring to the table?” (and if it’s not “enough” we feel we got a “raw deal”) and when we want to be let into someone’s deep meditations we offer “a penny for their thoughts”. We define our own worth in economic terms – we “feel like a million dollars”. We rarely take things at “face value” and when we mess up we like to “pass the buck”.

“The bottom line” is that a language of transaction permeates our relationships and interactions. We don’t only talk using money phrases but we interact with others with a transactional mindset, keeping a balance sheet of rights and wrongs. Our relationships often look like little black books of debits and credits.

Or as Micah Bales puts it in Money is our Language and our Love, “It has emerged as the communication system of an entirely new way of seeing the world: The entirety of God’s creation becomes capital to be exploited and property to be owned by individuals and corporate entities. As a natural outgrowth of this worldview, today every square inch of the earth is theoretically owned by someone. Every living thing, every natural feature – every rock, bird, mountain and forest – can be quantified in terms of economic value. Even people are measured in dollars and cents.” 

Where do we find ourselves when almost everything around us has been monetized, when our mindsets are transactional and our language steeped in economic metaphor? Micah goes on to ask, “What effect does this all-pervasive economic worldview have on our lives? How are we affected by living in a society where virtually all of our activities are assigned monetary values? What are the long-term effects of a system that aims to operate entirely on the free market principles of calculated self-interest, where even human love is reduced to a transactional exchange?” Our relationship to money is a choice, and so too is our interaction with a transactional culture and language of relationship.

Valerie Anderson

Valerie Anderson coordinates Operations at Common Change. She received her MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town and has spent the last 6 years establishing and maintaining a range of community development projects both in her home country, South Africa, and in low-income urban areas in the United States. She is a writer, problem-solver and strategist and loves to create environments in which others can thrive. Valerie and her husband, Brett Fish, have recently returned to their beautiful home city, Cape Town. You can find more of Val’s writing at

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  • Jeff

    Absolutely true! I especially liked the statement “…when evaluating someone’s value we ask, “what do they bring to the table?”’ I have seen this too often in others and have been quite guilty of this myself in the past.

    I do not believe Jesus evaluated value and worth when He encountered someone but rather proactively loved them regardless of what they could bring to the table. We find that many if not all of those who follow or have followed Christ to do not have anything to offer Him other than themselves.

    The economic mindset of our culture and the cultures before us have indeed permeated into our very relationships. As noted this is proved by the language we use but as with all economic systems they degrade and become devalued. This in turn allows for people to devalue their relationships based upon economic importance rather than intrinsic value. That intrinsic value comes simply from the fact that God loves them!

    Nice Piece!