If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone call money the root of all evil, I’d…well, I guess I’d have enough to prove whether or not money is the root of all evil.
What’s interesting is that the phrase “money is the root of all evil” never appears in the pages of the Bible. It often gets quoted that way, but what the apostle Paul actually said was “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
The two versions of the quote differ only on a couple words, but those words make all the difference in the world. The first, misquoted version we looked at suggests that every incarnation of evil in this world can be traced back to money. The second version more accurately explains that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil—that in valuing riches more highly than we ought, we expose our lives and the lives of those around us to all kinds of evil.
Lately, though, I’ve been coming to realize I’ve been reading a few extra words into that scripture. In my head, I’ve always read that verse as saying, “the love of money that you have is a root of all kinds of evil.” I think of it as referring to a Scrooge McDuck-type character who spends his evenings swimming through an olympic pool filled with gold doubloons. My wife and I live in a one-bedroom apartment, and our bills tend to walk off with whatever extra money we think we’ve made, so I usually see this verse as important, but necessarily relevant to me in my current situation.
But those words I add in to the verse aren’t there. It’s not about the love of money you have, it’s about the love of money—and if you think it’s impossible to love money you don’t own, then you’ve never experienced the joy of bills. There’s nothing quite so disconcerting as having one eye on a dwindling checking account with another on a stack of a bills whose collective due dates are steadily marching toward you. Believe me, it’s not difficult to develop a very powerful love of money in times like those.
And that love will eat at you and eat at you and eat at you. Because you need that money. You have to have that money, because the bills aren’t going to pay themselves and they’re only piling up and how on earth are you going to cut any more corners and and and–
And money would just fix it all, wouldn’t it?
Paul wrote a little more than just that famous verse. Now might be a good time to look at it in context:
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
(1 Timothy 6:6-12)
Paul’s admonition about money is couched in the middle of a healthy dose of perspective. The whole passage is a reminder: there are more important things going on in your life than your life. If money becomes our obsession—if we’re busy chasing after bits of paper and pieces of gold rather than pursuing a relationship with our God, whatever our reasons, we’re going to miss out on the eternal life to which we were called…and pierce ourselves through with many sorrows in the process.
God promises to take care of our physical needs as long as we continue to seek the things that really matter (Matthew 6:33). Is it easy? No. When the staples of our physical life appear to be in jeopardy, it’s hard to focus on anything else—but God promises to take care of it, and we have to learn to trust Him.
Agur, the author of a chapter in the book of Proverbs, once asked God,
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
It’s hard to find that balance. I’m still learning. I probably still will be for a long time. But God has shown me again and again at, however bleak things look from my corner, He has everything under control. He will work everything out in His perfect timing, and it will be better than any solution I could come up with. Loving money isn’t worth losing sight of the incredible things He has in store—the riches He has set aside are worth so much more than anything I could accumulate in this lifetime.
Until next time,