If there’s a silver lining in our recent earthquake and Hurricane Irene, maybe it’s that at least we’ve been distracted from the nausea-inducing roller-coaster ride of the stock market in the past six weeks. But now that the earth has stopped shaking and we’ve dried out a bit, no doubt eyes again will turn to the Dow Jones and S&P and Nasdaq, and the question will come again: In such a volatile market, should I buy gold?
A lot of people have answered ‘Yes,’ driving the price of gold higher than it’s been before, with each new day seeming to set a new benchmark. This new American gold rush has a lot of people wondering if they should get out of the market and into gold, and others warning that the next bubble is gilded. So is getting into gold a good thing or not? The answer depends on what you’re hoping to secure.
If you want a safer investment, maybe. If you want contentment and security, definitely not. On this the major religions agree, and philosophers and poets through the ages, that if you want to be content, you won’t find it in things that cost money, or ride the whims of any market, or glitter.
While written almost a hundred years ago, the words of the Scottish poet Robert Pollok are presciently relevant today: "Gold many hunted, sweat and bled for–wasting all the nights, and laboring all the days. And what was this allurement, do you ask? Some dust dug from the bowels of the earth–which, being cast into the fire, came out a shining thing–which fools admired, and called a god–and in devout manner before it kneeled–and on its altar sacrificed ease, peace, truth, faith, integrity, good conscience, friends, love, charity, benevolence." That’s a pretty hefty price tag for something measured in ounces.
Presumably, people invest in any market in order to increase their wealth. Socrates would say to that, be happy with what you’ve got, for, “Contentment is natural wealth.”
The Qur’an says for all the good the world has too offer, it is in being with God that is the best of all. (3:14)
An ancient Jewish sage wanted neither too little, or too much, given the dangers of either. So he prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal” (Proverbs 30.7-9).
St. Paul boldly claimed that he’d learned how to be content in any situation, that he’d “learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” The secret, he says, is that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4.11-13) And that’s free
To today’s question “Should I buy gold?” the philosopher and poet say be wary, and the voices of faith say invest in God first. St. Augustine’s famous dictum is certainly not this, “The heart is restless til it rests in gold.”
If a person wants to truly rich, truly free, and finally content, there are better places to turn to than to any market, with the added benefit that the latest ticker price or the number at the closing bell won’t make you so quite dizzy.
The Rev. Bill Haley is the Associate Rector of The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. and Director of Formation for The Washington Institute.