What words come to mind when you think of this phrase: The love of money is the root of all evil. Greed? Corruption? Vanity? What about when I simply say the word money? Do those descriptors still come to mind or do you think of ways that money can be useful – payment for hard work, tool for doing good, a transfer of value.
The truth is that money in itself isn’t evil. The phrase “money is the root of all evil” is a misinterpretation of the scripture in 1 Timothy 6:10.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Paul was explaining to Timothy that pursuing wealth and ignoring contentment is a recipe for disaster. He goes on to tell Timothy that trusting in money is unreliable, a truth that we can still relate to today. But it seems so obvious, right? Of course we don’t ever think that we trust money more than we trust God – that sounds absurd. But here’s Paul, training another leader in the church, sharing how the love of money has turned even the most knowledgeable teachers into corrupt pursuers of money. Timothy needed the warning just as much as we need the warning because the love of money can affect every one of us.
Money Vs. The Love of Money – Which one is evil?
Money isn’t any more evil than a car or fire is evil. Let me explain:
- Car accidents claimed 32,708 deaths in 2010.
- House fires claimed 2,640 deaths in 2010.
Cars and fire aren’t evil in and of themselves. I haven’t found anyone who believes that all cars are evil because they cause accidents, or that fire is evil because it can hurt people. The reasons behind the car accidents and house fires may be caused lack of judgment, poor safety precautions, or pure accident. The point is that a lot of things can be misused and cause tragedy, but they’re not evil in their very nature.
Money in itself is not evil. Paul even tells Timothy to encourage people to use their money to do good things (1 Timothy 6:18). Cars and fires are used every day to do very good things – the same is true about money. The problem comes when we start to love money.
The Love Of Money
How we view, pursue, treat, use, and think of money will help us to understand if we love money. But what does it mean to love money?
First, think about what it means to love someone.
- You make them a priority in your life.
- You would do anything for them.
- You’d go out of your way for that person.
- You trust in them, and rely on them for comfort and support.
When Paul says that love of money is the root of all evil, he wasn’t kidding. A few verses earlier, Paul shared about people who used their knowledge of scriptures as a way to become wealthy – similar to a modern day prosperity gospel evangelist. Paul was showing how even the godliest of people could become corrupt when they make money their god.
So How Do We Keep From Loving Money?
I like how Chuck Bentley addresses the issue in his book The Root of Riches. He introduces what he calls the Me Trees and He Trees.
Me Trees love money and can often have these characteristics:
- They run after things. (Matthew 6:31-32)
- They are greedy for money. (1 Peter 5:2)
- They are eager to get rich. (I Timothy 6:9)
- They think godliness is a means to financial gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
- They place their hope and security in wealth. (1 Timothy 6:17)
- They lose all contentment. (Hebrews 13:5)
A He Tree has roots founded in God’s Word and becomes transformed from someone who loves money into someone who loves God more than anything. Characteristics of a He Tree are:
- They believe in God’s Word. (Psalm 1:1)
- They believe it’s more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
- They believe in serving God only. (Matthew 6:24)
- They realize they are small compared to God. (Luke 14:11)
- They are faithful with the small things. (Luke 16:11)
- They believe in eternal rewards. (Luke 18:29-30)
The Me Tree / He Tree characteristics challenge us to think about the phrase The love of money is the root of all evil. It causes us to really look at our roots and ask the tough question – do we put money above everything else in our lives?
I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think Paul was saying when he told Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil?