As we continue to look at some of the more common ideas we have about, or relating to in some way, God, I wanted to address the following:
“Money is the root of all evil.”
The origins of this one are fairly easy to trace, as it is a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV), which says “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Four Missing Words
Some might wonder, what’s the big deal? Does a misquotation change the meaning in any significant way? In this case, yes. In the saying, “money is the root of all evil,” money itself is given moral value, and is determined to be all bad, all the time. This attitude, in many ways, is the heart of poverty theology — an overreaction to prosperity theology that essentially says, “if you’re financially poor, God loves you more than if you had money.” It is a demonizing of money.
Is money bad? Nope. We need money for groceries, for our mortgages or rent, for paying our church leaders, for helping the poor… None of these are bad things.
But the love of money is a very bad thing indeed.
1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” A love of money can cause people to wander away from the faith because the object of their affections is not Jesus, it’s cash.
It is idolatry.
The Idol of Cash
Back in the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the heart of all His commandments (there are somewhere around 600+ in the Old Testament). Notice the first two:
- I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me (Ex 20:2-3)
- You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20:4-6)
It’s been said that if you don’t break the first two commandments, you won’t break the others. God being your only object of worship invariably leads to the ability to follow the the rest of the commandments. Because we love God, we will set apart time for focused worship of Him (keeping the Sabbath). We won’t take His name in vain, nor will we murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, dishonor our parents, or covet.
So what happens when we chase the idol of cash? What happens when the love of money supplants the love of Christ?
We make sacrifices to get more money.
Because we covet money, we will sacrifice time, perhaps signing up for extra overtime or refusing to manage our work schedules to allow us to maintain and care for outside relationships and family.
We may commit adultery in the process because we sacrifice so much time in the name of “getting ahead,” we can often become emotionally and physically involved with a co-worker.
We will steal, maybe fudging an expense report, or stealing from our parent’s purse/wallet, downloading music/movies illegally so we don’t have to pay.
We will lie, which goes hand-in-hand with stealing.
All this because we love money, instead of Christ. Because we forget that it’s God who gives us whatever wealth we have; it’s His to give, and His to take away. This form of idolatry is the heart of the prosperity gospel, which states that if God loves us, he’ll make us materially wealthy. It uses Jesus as a means to getting rich.
The Idol of Poverty
Conversely, when we truly see money itself as the root of all evil, we reveal in ourselves an idol of a different sort: The idol of poverty. This is the attitude that having money is a bad thing, and that no good can ever come from it. At the heart of this idol is the belief that God will see us as being more righteous if we’re poor. And just like the idolatry that comes from loving money, this one causes us to forget that all money is a gift from God, to be used for His glory and purposes. This idol appears to be at the heart of the social gospel, currently espoused by many suburban middle-class white guys with plastic glasses.
Using Money, Serving Christ
Money in and of itself is not the root of all evil, but loving it is the root of all kinds. So, how do we respond?
A healthy starting point is asking ourselves the following questions:
- How often do I think about money?
- Do I demonize money? Do I believe God will find me more righteous if I’m poor?
- Do I believe that I’m more righteous in God’s eyes because I have money?
- What am I sacrificing in order to get more money? Time, relationships, principles?
- Does the thought of giving money away fill me anxiety?
- What are some practical ways I can use the money God has given me to further His work in my community and the world?
When we’ve honestly examined our attitude toward money, we can begin to properly use it to serve Jesus, rather than use our time to serve money.