Alma 11 is the chapter in which we learn how much each unit of Nephite money is worth, relative to other units of their money. For example, if you were living in Zarahemla at the time, you would want to know that a senum of silver is equivalent in value to a senine of gold and that either can be used to purchase a measure of barley or any other type of grain. A seon of gold is worth two senines and a shum is worth twice as much as that, and so on.
Although on the surface, U.S. money is easier to understand than Nephite currency — a $10 bill is worth twice as much as a $5 bill, and a $20 bill is worth twice as much as that, etc. — we can easily find ourselves having to do mathematical exercises with currency values when we visit other countries. For example, when I visit Central America, I keep in mind that $1 in U.S. currency is worth $2.60 in Dominica, 8 quetzals in Guatemala and 20 pesos in Mexico.
Doing these monetary calculations helps me to determine whether the price on a particular item is a good price or if I’m being ripped off. For example, gas in Dominica is about $21 E.C. per gallon — even after converting to U.S. money, it’s still $8 per gallon — yikes! On the other hand, a small loaf of bread can be purchased for $1 E.C. which is only 40 cents in U.S. money — pretty good. In Mexico, I was able to buy a bottle of water for 20 pesos, which is only about $1 — definitely cheaper than buying a single bottle of water in the U.S. So, it’s not about how much money I have in my pocket but more about what that money can do.
God asks us to give Him money, and we might well ask ourselves, what does He use it for? After all, if I’m out of gas somewhere, He can just say the word and I’m on my way. If I ask for bread, He’s not giving me a stone. If water is in short supply, He can make it rain. There’s nobody there with their hand out, telling God He needs to fork over some cash for these things. So, exactly how does God use money?
It’s important to understand that God uses money to grow our relationship with Him such that we learn to trust in Him for all things. It’s not really about the money; it’s about the decision to give or not give. When we give money to the Lord, we are telling Him that we trust Him to provide for us. When we hold back, we are telling Him that we don’t trust Him to provide for us, that we need to take matters into our own hands and provide for ourselves. Which position is more likely to build a strong relationship with God?
With all due respect to the financial needs of the Church, our primary motivation in giving should not be to help the Church pay its bills. We should give because God wants us to build a trusting relationship with Him — it’s a spiritual responsibility more than a secular obligation. Yes, the Church will use the money that is received to pay the electric bill, send out missionaries, and help the poor, but we are giving to God, not to the electric company or the airlines or the grocery store.
I want to stress that by giving to God, you are not trying to buy His favor; you are learning to trust Him. There are numerous experiences of people who trusted in God in this way being blessed with just the right amount of money provided seemingly out of nowhere at just the time it was needed most. Again, it’s not about the money; it’s about the trust.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
This is how God uses money — as an investment in His relationship with you. Definitely a worthwhile investment, if you ask me.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.