We live in a world that values wealth. The emphasis is placed on us by society that to be successful we must be able to accumulate enough financial stability to care for ourselves and our family, and also be able to afford much more than our true needs in life. This is not necessarily wrong, but the dangers of trusting in that wealth can lead to a form of idolatry (Luke 18:24). When you look back in the Bible, this has been the case for a very long time. In fact the way we think about “wealth”, many Bible individuals thought of “gold”. Let’s examine the history of gold as it is discussed in scripture.
The origin of gold is somewhat obvious; it was created by God in the beginning (Genesis 1:1ff; John 1:1-3). Specifically the first mention of gold is in Genesis 2:11-12, “The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.” This is a very early reference to gold’s existence and it’s interesting how Moses used this gold as a location marker in a way to describe this river’s location. Nothing is said in this text about gold being used as decoration, jewelry, or currency, nor is it either seen as a positive or negative item: it is just referenced. The second mention of gold in scripture is Genesis 13:2, “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” Now we see gold used to determine one’s wealth. The third reference to gold is Genesis 24:22, “So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold.” So by the 24th chapter of Genesis we have gold established for certain in almost all applications which we have in our day.
Now let us examine a few ways in which gold was used by ancient writers as a symbol. For this purpose let us just examine a few passages in the book of 1 Peter. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). In this passage the emphasis is not placed on the gold, it’s simply used as a reference to things of the world eventually fading away. Although gold does have value in this world, it cannot match the power of faith. “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). In this passage Peter compares the corruptible items of silver and gold with the incorruptible nature of the blood of Christ. The emphasis is placed on the power of the redemption; meaning we are not bought with just gold but with the much more powerful blood of the Lamb of God. “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-5). Here Peter uses gold in a literal way but does so in a figurative context. He compares those who wear fine jewelry and have arranged hair, but have an ugly inside. He commands that the inside be as beautiful as the outside (1 Peter 3:3a, “merely”). Gold is not a mask with which one can veil the heart to God. We should not deceive ourselves about this.
So in this brief survey, we have noted gold’s origin, use, and symbolism in scripture. Remember that it is not money which is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of it (1 Tim 6:10). May God protect our hearts from distraction away from His will.