Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become a hot topic recently, especially among Christians wondering if they should invest in them. NFTs present some interesting implications related to ownership, value, and stewardship that merit examination from a biblical perspective.
What is an NFT?
An NFT is a unique digital asset that represents ownership of a specific item. This item could be a digital artwork, music file, video clip, or even a tweet. NFTs are bought and sold online, often with cryptocurrencies. Each NFT has a unique identification code and metadata that distinguishes it from other versions of the same item. For example, say an artist creates a digital painting and mints 50 NFTs of it. Each NFT would be distinct and trackable via its digital identification code, even though they all look identical.
Unlike most digital items which can be endlessly duplicated, each NFT is one-of-a-kind. This scarcity establishes the NFT’s value. NFTs also contain built-in authentication, which serves as a certificate of ownership. The owner of an NFT has the status of being the official owner of the original item.
NFTs are considered “non-fungible” because they cannot be exchanged like-for-like. This differs from fungible assets like currency and commodities, where each unit is interchangeable. For example, one Bitcoin is always worth the same as another Bitcoin. With NFTs, each token is unique and not interchangeable.
How do NFTs work?
NFTs exist on a blockchain, which is a distributed public ledger that records transactions. Blockchains like Ethereum are decentralized, meaning no single entity controls the data. This allows for transparent and immutable record-keeping of all transfers of ownership. NFT metadata and ownership is recorded on-chain.
To create an NFT, the item must be digitized first. The NFT’s creator then mints tokens on a blockchain platform like Ethereum. Minting tokens involves using cryptographic signatures and codes to generate new NFTs that represent ownership of the item. The number of tokens minted depends on how many copies the creator wants to make available. Each token is assigned a unique cryptographic hash code.
The creator can then auction or sell the NFT tokens directly to buyers. Ownership transfers take place via the blockchain by updating the NFT’s digital records. There are several NFT marketplaces online where tokens can be bought and sold using cryptocurrency wallets. All transactions are public record and visible on the blockchain.
What are common uses of NFTs?
Some major uses of NFTs so far include:
- Digital art – Artists mint NFTs of their digital artwork (drawings, animations, etc.) to sell to collectors.
- Collectibles – NFTs represent collectible items like sports cards and memes.
- Gaming assets – NFTs can be in-game items and characters that players own and trade.
- Music – Musicians can sell NFTs of their songs that give fans special access or royalties.
- Domain names – NFT domain names are human-readable addresses on the blockchain.
- Physical item representation – NFTs can represent real-world items like tickets and deeds.
NFTs are commonly associated with digital art and collectibles because ownership can be definitively proven. For physical items like concert tickets, NFTs provide a digital “certificate of authenticity.” However, NFT use cases are still evolving.
Why do NFTs have value?
NFT values stem from their scarcity, ownership rights, and demand:
- Scarcity – Most NFTs have a limited quantity in circulation. Scarcity drives up values based on supply and demand.
- Ownership – NFT owners have bragging rights and social clout from owning official originals.
- Demand – If many people desire an NFT, values increase, especially for rare collectibles.
- Utility – Some NFTs offer exclusive access or benefits, adding value.
- Speculation – Speculators may buy NFTs hoping to sell them later at a profit.
However, NFT values are highly speculative compared to traditional assets. Their worth depends on shifting consumer demand more than intrinsic usefulness. This makes them risky investments.
What does the Bible say about stewardship and ownership?
The Bible does not directly address NFTs or even modern financial instruments. However, biblical principles about possessions, stewardship, and greed still apply. NFTs basically assert a form of ownership over digital content. But what does God say about ownership in general?
First, Scripture affirms that God owns everything by virtue of creating all things (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:10-12). We are simply managers of His possessions during our lifetimes. This translates to accountability in how we handle money and valuables. Wealth is given to us by God to steward responsibly (Deuteronomy 8:18, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). Wise stewardship means using money and possessions for God’s purposes rather than wastefully on ourselves.
The Bible also warns frequently against greed. Jesus Himself cautioned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). The Apostle Paul wrote, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).
Greed causes us to prioritize possessions over people and God. We must have the right heart motivation when acquiring wealth and valuables. Do we covet them simply to indulge ourselves or show off? The 10th commandment prohibits coveting anything that belongs to our neighbor (Exodus 20:17). So we must examine our real motives in wanting to own rare NFT art or collectibles.
How should Christians view NFT speculation?
Currently, most NFT interest is speculative – buyers hope to profit later by reselling at higher prices. But is speculation ethical? The Bible does not prohibit equity investments. However, it does condemn quick riches without work. Scripture praises hard work, warns against get-rich-quick schemes (Proverbs 13:11, Proverbs 21:5), and condemns profit made by deception and abuse of power (Proverbs 22:16, Jeremiah 6:13).
The central problem with NFT speculation is greed for fast easy money. Speculators often aim to exploit trends and hype for big payoffs. But we must ask ourselves – are we showing faith in God’s provision by speculating or just giving in to greed? Do we need to speculate at all if we trust God is able to take care of us through ethical means? Christians should avoid fueling bubbles or profiting from deceptive hype. That reflects poor stewardship and greed.
How can NFT trading become unethical?
While NFTs themselves are ethically neutral, sinful behavior often accompanies NFT markets. Here are some ways NFT trading can become unethical:
- Greed – Obsessively acquiring NFTs signal a love of money over God (1 Timothy 6:10).
- Fraud – Some minters sell unauthorized copies or fake “limited editions.”
- Theft – Criminals steal NFTs through hacking.
- Money laundering – NFTs can be used to hide sources of illicit funds.
- Illegal content – A minority of NFTs represent prohibited content like drugs or pornography.
- Excess energy use – Blockchains verifying NFTs consume vast amounts of electricity.
Christians should be aware of these ethical pitfalls and avoid enabling them. Responsible stewardship means taking the moral high ground rather than ignorantly or intentionally engaging in these behaviors. Sinful conduct ultimately stems from corrupt desires, not just technology (James 1:14-15).
Does buying NFTs signify approval of content?
What is actually being bought with an NFT? Strictly speaking, an NFT conveys ownership over a token on the blockchain, not the actual item it represents. However, the issue gets murky when objectionable content is depicted. For example, does buying an NFT of a racy image signify approval of that content? What about an NFT representing a song with ungodly lyrics?
1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Philippians 4:8 also exhorts us to focus our thoughts on things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. So with NFTs, motive matters. If we are supporting or glorifying immoral content, even indirectly through ownership rights, that would be unwise and unbiblical stewardship.
Christians must exercise great caution here. Acquiring digital collectibles that actively contribute to crassness, objectification, violence, vulgarity, or anything clearly sinful is inadvisable, even if the motives are purely financial. We are called to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14-16). Our stewardship should aim to please God, not indulge sinful appetites.
How can Christians glorify God through stewardship of NFTs?
Rather than completely avoid NFTs, Christians can glorify God by stewarding them in ways that align with biblical values. Here are some ideas:
- Support NFT artists who are creating uplifting, inspiring art.
- Use NFT ownership rights to fund causes that help others and spread the Gospel.
- Leverage the technology behind NFTs for Christian purposes like building decentralized communities.
- Advocate for reforming NFT markets to reduce fraud, theft, and objectionable content.
- Focus on long-term intrinsic value rather than short-term speculation.
Like any technology, NFTs are not inherently good or bad. Their merit depends on how they are used. Christians should aim to transform NFT culture for godly purposes, not just avoid it altogether. However, wisdom is still needed to ensure good stewardship.
What precautions should Christians take with NFTs?
The following precautions help Christians make wise decisions about acquiring and managing NFTs:
- Consider motivations – are we driven by positive purposes or unchecked desire?
- Research carefully – verify legitimacy, utility, and chain of ownership.
- Avoid obscene/unethical content – do not enable immoral material.
- Beware scams – only use reputable platforms and sellers.
- Steward wisely – use funds judiciously rather than overspending on hype.
- Remember higher priorities – focus on God, not possessions.
NFTs can become a distraction or stumbling block to many Christians if not approached carefully. We must filter decisions through the lens of God’s principles, not just personal preferences or profit incentives. Responsible stewardship requires research, wisdom, discretion, and constant re-alignment with biblical values. This helps ensure we use emerging technologies like NFTs to benefit others and bring glory to God.
NFTs present new avenues for responsible as well as unwise stewardship. While risks exist like greed and objectionable content, NFTs could allow Christians to affirm authentic ownership, fund ministries, and reform culture. With caution and wisdom motivated by love for God and others, Christians can steward NFTs and blockchain technology as the Lord leads rather than retreating in fear of the unknown.