Marcus Licinius Crassus was the richest man in Roman history. Even though he spent enormous sums on his personal army and on the private citizens of Rome, he still had a fortune of 200 million sestertii (roughly equivalent to 50 million days’ wages). That’s why the expression is still sometimes heard, “rich as Crassus.”
So how did the man make all his money? Some he took as the spoils of war; some he took from fellow Romans after he got them denounced; some he made buying and selling slaves and silver mines. But most famously, he made his fortune buying up real estate at fire sales. No—really—he bought houses when they were on fire.
If a house caught fire he bought it and all the adjoining houses from their terrified owners. Then he had his men put out the fire and added the properties to his growing fortune. He did this so many times that by the time of Julius Caesar, Crassus was said to own most of the city of Rome.
The Greek word for buying up valuable commodities is exagorazo (ex ah go RAHD zo). It originated in the agora, the Greek marketplace. With the prefix added, and a suffix to make it a verb, it meant “to buy up all you can of precious stuff.”
Now let’s follow the word into the New Testament. Paul used it in Eph 5:16 and Col 4:5 to encourage his readers to “make the most of every opportunity,” (literally, “buy up time”). Since time is so valuable, we should seize it and use it every chance we get.
Paul also used the word twice in Galatians, but in a different context. He said that Christ redeemed us (bought us up) from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). Christ seized the opportunity to buy up the fallen race of man, so that he might give us the full rights of sonship (Gal 4:5). With his own blood he bought up the commodity he loved the most—mankind.