Blockchain enthusiast developer and writer. My telegram: ksshilov
Many are surprised to learn that the Bible makes so many references to the topic of money. To be specific, the Good Book contains about 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 on faith, but more than 2,300 on money!
Financial dealings are mentioned more often than “salvation”, “redemption”, “faith”, and even “love”. And certainly more than “heaven” and “hell” (combined). In fact, the only topic to which the Bible dedicates more page space than that of money is the “Kingdom of God.”
With all this source material, then, can we take a guess at what Jesus would have thought about Bitcoin? Let’s explore the implications of three Biblical excerpts found in the New Testament: the Cost of Being a Disciple, the Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
The Cost of Being a Disciple
In the Book of Luke, Jesus is traveling with a large crowd. He turns to them and says:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”
From this quote, we can infer that Jesus understood the importance of accurately estimating costs before embarking on a project, and the inevitable ridicule that would result from failing to do so.
image via Word On Fire
So how does this relate to Bitcoin?
An aspect of cryptocurrency that doesn’t get much press is its enormous cost of development. Competent programmers make up only a very small percentage of the world’s labor force, and an even smaller portion of them are fluent in the programming languages used in existing cryptocurrency implementations.
So it should come as no surprise, then, that the average annual salary for a single Bitcoin developer is over $103,000. And that’s just one person! This six-figure sum doesn’t cover any of the other personnel costs associated with development like management, human resources, legal, or testing infrastructure.
Early Bitcoin enthusiasts assumed that development costs would either be altruistically borne by volunteers, and/or be subsidized by companies that use the Bitcoin ecosystem. And it turned out that they were right, except the results weren’t what they hoped for.
Beginning around 2014, various companies with competing visions of Bitcoin began ponying up the dough to hire their own Bitcoin developers, write their own supplemental whitepapers, and run their own public relations campaigns. These well-financed, competing entities created deep splits within the Bitcoin community. Years later, the result has been hard forks, a failure to scale, and an abrupt rebranding from “electronic cash” to “digital gold.”
If there had simply been an accurate calculation of costs from the beginning—and a plan made to internally finance these costs—it’s possible that none of the ugly splits and mission-failure would have happened.
Luckily, other cryptocurrencies took notice of the problem early-on and developed internal financing models to ensure they could afford to independently build out their visions. Dash and BitShares were the first networks to do so in 2014, creating “treasury” models that have since been utilized by countless other projects including Cardano, Zcash, and maybe even Bitcoin Cash.
When it comes to financial planning, it’s likely that Jesus would not have approved of Bitcoin’s disastrous dependence on volunteers and third parties, and would have looked instead to a project that covers its ongoing costs via internal financing.
The Parable of the Talents
In Biblical times, a “talent” was not an innate skill, but rather a unit of value based on weight. In Matthew, Jesus tells about a landowner who’s about to go on a journey. The landowner gathers some talents and calls three of his servants to him. “[T]o one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one.”
After a time, the landowner comes back, and he checks what each of his servants has done with the talent(s) received:
The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
image via St. Michael Catholic Church
We can conclude from this parable that Jesus approved of putting money to work, so to speak, resulting in a person having more talents at the end of a time period than he started with.
The parable of the talents is reminiscent of the staking model that many cryptocurrencies run today, in which holders of their tokens of value are able to generate additional value in exchange for providing necessary node infrastructure and/or governance services.
But Bitcoin doesn’t have any such thing. Within the Bitcoin system, the best that a token holder can do is “hodl”—an action that makes him quite similar to the servant who “dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
We can conclude, then, that as opposed to just holding Bitcoin, Jesus would have instead preferred to make a return with any number of the cryptocurrencies which practice staking today, like Tezos, Dash, and maybe shortly Ethereum.
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders
Now to our third and final account: a story Jesus told in both Matthew and Luke about what happens to differently-built houses when storms inevitably strike. Jesus says that the individual who puts His teachings into practice is like a wise man who “built his house on the rock”:
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
The parable continues that the man who does not heed Jesus’ teachings is like a foolish man who “built his house on sand”:
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
In cryptocurrency, 51% attacks can be seen as violent storms. Similar to the destruction of a home by wind and water, a 51% attack destroys faith and longevity in a cryptocurrency by proving that its foundation is insecure.
image via Reformed Baptist Blog
Such attacks have successfully been carried out within networks like Ethereum Classic, Bitcoin Gold, Vertcoin, and—more controversially—Bitcoin Cash. Some have even questioned whether 2016’s Ethereum DAO “rollback” was, in fact, a 51% attack. Such a question arose again in 2019 when the leader of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange stated that he’d discussed a “re-org” of Bitcoin’s blockchain with miners who possessed the power to pull it off (though unlike in Ethereum, a Bitcoin rollback/reorg was not then executed).
That these credible threats are present within such large networks has inspired more nimble networks to build protections against 51% attacks. The most notable attempt has come from Dash, which released a technology called ChainLocks in 2019. The technology has subsequently been integrated into companies like Coinbase, KeepKey, and HitBTC, and scheduled for addition to the protocols of networks like Zcoin.
Given these considerations, we can safely conclude that Jesus—clearly a big fan of building on rocks—would prefer the solid foundations of coins like Dash and Zcoin over sandy ones like that of Bitcoin.
So…What Would Jesus Do?
Stories and parables from the Bible can give us a decent idea of what Jesus would think about Bitcoin, but less an idea about what he would actually do (buy, short, trade, something else?) Given that the best course of crypto action is entirely dependent on an individual’s circumstances, as well as precise market conditions at the time, we can probably only answer the question with: It depends.
So regardless of how, precisely, Jesus would have interacted with the current cryptocurrency market (if, indeed, he would have interacted at all), we can feel fairly confident that he would have preferred a coin which 1) has a self-funding mechanism, 2) allows for user returns via a system like staking, and 3) has protocol-level protection from 51% attacks.