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.