1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
In discussing the failed proverb “Money is the root of all evil” and the misunderstanding that it comes from the Bible I have briefly discussed the word love and root since they are important words when attempting to understand 1 Timothy 6:10. There are many misquoted verses of the Bible and many times they are perpetuated by Christians simply out of ignorance or assumption that is why I have taken a little time for us to look at this verse. I have been guilty many times of assuming the teaching or quote of another is legitimate and correct and that is why the story of the Bereans encourages me to do better. In Acts seventeen the Bereans remind us of the importance of studying and double checking the things we hear in conversation and even in sermons and blogs like this one! Now, we’ll address the rest of the verse and hopefully cut out this false teaching once and for all; at least for you and me.
There is no doubt money has the potential to mislead the person who possess it, giving a sense of security where there is none. If there is one thing I have learned in economics it is money ebbs and flows and it is not to be trusted. Not only can money potentially bring a person to a sense of false security but it also poses the threat of breeding greed and idol worship in the one who possesses it or the one who is reaching for it. As a matter of fact Luke 12:13-21 reminds us of this truth:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
It is clear at this point money is not the root of all evil, sin is. It is also clear that money is not evil, but when you love it and it becomes your passion in this world it is then money has the potential to take root and choke you out…physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. To nail this truth in I want to borrow words from J.C. Ryle, who said “The history of the Church abounds in illustrations of this truth. For money Joseph was sold by his brethren. For money Samson was betrayed to the Philistines. For money Gehazi deceived Naaman, and lied to Elisha. For money the Son of God was delivered into the hands of wicked men…It overthrew an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not overthrow us. One leak may sink a ship. One unmortified sin may ruin a soul.”
It is the love of money that is so malicious. When we live our life with the ultimate goal of having things, being comfortable, and building our empire—when health, wealth, and prosperity are our goal in this world we have lost sight of not only our purpose, but our God and Creator. When the love of money takes root in our hearts our priorities shift and it is only a matter of time before we tip over. The Bible reminds us of the failures of men and women who followed God because we too face the same danger. Stories like Ryle mentions are there to prod us, to poke us, to wake us up to the dangers that wait ahead. The verse says some by longing for [money and possessions] have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. We see that truth displayed time and time again throughout Scripture.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to pay your bills or hoping that something works out so money is made. Like I said in the previous parts to this discussion, it comes down to where your heart is. After all, if you do well in an endeavor you will have more to share with others who need it. The problem comes when you love money, when you long for it, and when you greedily store it up or collect it. When you long for something it fills your mind, it is what you think about, plan about, and what you reach for. Ultimately we are to live a life in which we long to live for God and love Him and others as He has called us to. When we long for money or we reach for it we are at danger of losing sight of the true goal of this world. When greed and a yearning for wealth fill our heart it leaves little room for much else. God has called us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength and to love our neighbor as our self. No other commandment is greater than these (Mark 12:30-31). If in life we are overcome with a longing for material things and our sights are set on obtaining riches we will end up running over others to get to it and even begin to believe we do not need God. I think of Scrat in Ice Age when I talk about this, if you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up on YouTube.
You may be saying right now “I wouldn’t forget about God” but realize the moment we put money or anything else in front of our calling to love others as our self, we have already abandoned Him and His purpose for our life! Greed or love of money causes people to do horrendous things, all we have to do is turn on the t.v., check out a news article, or open up our favorite novel to be reminded of this truth. People will lie, cheat, steal, even embezzle or kill if their lust for money takes root deep enough in their heart. You say “Jimmie, I would never do any of those things.”
I once heard a preacher say something along the lines of this: At one point something is unimaginable, but then it becomes imaginable. Then that thing that was once unimaginable is now unthinkable but then it becomes thinkable. Only to find that the same thing that has become thinkable will then become laughable then it is only a matter of time before it is doable. I say that to say this…don’t think you are immune to this nasty root, this love of money. It is easy to let it creep in. The wind plants the seed and our friends feed it, media waters it, and the sin in our heart nourishes it…then we find ourselves longing for material things, wealth, and all the other comforts that come as a result. Still, some of you are saying “No, I’d never.” Maybe you won’t kill or cheat to obtain riches but let me ask you something, how much do you have? Do you buy new clothes because they are merely out of style or you are sick of them, even though the clothes you have aren’t wore out. Can you find the money to buy things you use once a year? Do you find the money to go on vacations, getaways, day-cations, or the like? Are you able to go out to eat? I could go on forever but I won’t, you get the point. Too often we live in luxury and don’t even know it, we live a life of indulgence and comfort when others are hurting, starving, and in great need. But we justify our “little” pleasures and our “little” money when others have literally nothing. Enjoy life and the blessings God has given you, but remember to ask if there is room to share those blessings with others. Reevaluate what is a need and a priority in your life, the life of a Christian.
Do not let the love of money creep into your heart. If you have money use it to glorify the Giver. If God has blessed you with riches, great! Use them wisely and do not forget where they came from. Be grateful for a job that pays, work hard to take care of your family but in the midst of this do not lose sight of you purpose to love God, love others, and love yourself. Do not forget that we are urged not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). I am not saying to live the life of a beggar, to cast out all your money and the things you work hard for. What I am saying or better yet, what I am pleading for you to do is to reevaluate money. How you use it, for what it is used, and how much stuff and comforts you need? Remember where the money really comes from. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. We must be willing to suffer literally physically, mentally, and emotionally like Jesus did. But even more difficult I believe, is being willing to die figuratively, denying certain pleasures of life so that someone else may experience the grace and love of God through the blessings He has given you. Love God with all you are and love others as yourself…
So, to those who say “If money is the root of all evil then why do churches ask for it?” Money is not the root of all evil, sin is. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and logic will not allow you to deny that. Common sense tells you why churches ask for money…there are electric bills to pay, hungry people to feed, church grounds to be mowed, immigrants to help clothe, broken families to mend, an inner city to aid, and Good News to share with the world. Money is needed to do these kinds of things. God can operate without money, He always has and still does. But God does not always speak in a burning bush, a parted sea, or miracles…God more often than not speaks through the hands, feet, and hearts of those who serve Him. Money is a tool to serve Him, we’d be silly not to use it when we can.
The image above is not my own, it belongs to 20th Century Fox.