Money Is The Root Of All Evil
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People do many evil things in order to get rich. (Biblical. Compare this with Idleness is the root of all evil.) Fred: I know I could make more money if I just knew the right things to invest in. Ellen: Don’t worry so much about money. It’s the root of all evil, after all. As the newspapers continued to report the dastardly things the wealthy young banker had done to become even wealthier, people shook their heads and remarked, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to his young disciple, Timothy, had this to say: “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” (1 Timothy 6:10). Now this verse is often misquoted as saying, “Money is the root of all evil.” Notice how “money” is substituted for “love of money” and “the root of all evil” is substituted for “a root of all kinds of evil.” These changes, while subtle, have an enormous impact on the meaning of the verse.
The misquoted version (“money is the root of all evil”) makes money and wealth the source (or root) of all evil in the world. This is clearly false. The Bible makes it quite clear that sin is the root of all evil in the world (Matthew 15:19;Romans 5:12;James 1:15). However, when we reflect upon the correct citation of this verse, we see that it is the love of money, not money itself, that is a source of all different kinds of trouble and evil. Wealth is morally neutral; there is nothing wrong with money, in and of itself, or the possession of money. However, when money begins to control us, that’s when trouble starts.
With that said, let’s consider the question before us: Why is the love of money a root of all kinds of evil? To help us answer this, we must look at the passage in its greater context. Near the end of the letter (1 Timothy 6:2-10), Paul is exhorting Timothy regarding the need to “teach and urge these things” to his congregation, “these things” referring back to earlier material in the epistle. Paul then warns Timothy about false teachers who will seek to warp and pervert the content of sound doctrine for their own greedy gain (vv. 3-5). Now notice what the Apostle says at the end of v. 5: “Imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Paul wants to steer Timothy away from that trap. In doing so, he tells him the real source of “great gain;” namely, godliness with true contentment (v. 6). Contentment, in a biblical sense, is the recognition that we come into the world with nothing and that everything we have is a gift from God’s hands (vv. 7-8). Yet those who desire to be rich (i.e., those who have the “love of money”) are the ones who are led into temptation and fall into a snare (v. 9). Paul concludes the passage by telling Timothy that the love of money leads to all sorts of sin and evil.
Simple reflection on this principle will confirm that it is true. Greed causes people to do all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally do. Watch any number of TV courtroom dramas, and the crime under consideration is usually motivated by jealousy or greed, or both. The love of money is what motivates people to lie, steal, cheat, gamble, embezzle, and even murder. People who have a love for money lack the godliness and contentment that is true gain in God’s eyes.
But the Bible makes an even stronger statement about the love of money. What we have discussed thus far simply describes the horizontal level of the love of money. In other words, we have only mentioned how the love of money can lead one to commit greater sins against his fellow man. But the Bible makes quite clear that all sin is ultimately sin against God’s holy character (Psalm 51:5). We need to consider the vertical dimension to the love of money.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). This verse comes at the end of a passage in which Jesus tells us to “lay up treasures in heaven” (v. 19). Here, Jesus likens a “love of money” to idolatry. He refers to money as a “master” we serve at the expense of serving God. We are commanded by God to have “no other gods” before the only true and living God (Exodus 20:3; the first commandment). Anything that takes first place in our lives other than our Creator God is an idol and makes us guilty of breaking the first commandment.
Jesus had much to say about wealth. His most memorable conversation about money is his encounter with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). The young man asks Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life, and Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. When the man tells Jesus that he has done all that, Jesus tests his ability to obey the first commandment and tells him to sell all his possessions and give it to the poor and to follow him. The young man couldn’t do this; his wealth had become an idol—it was his master!
After this encounter, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24). This is a hard saying, especially for 21st century people living in North America. Jesus is saying that wealth is one if the biggest obstacles to coming to faith in Christ. The reason is obvious: Wealth becomes a slave master in our lives and drives us to do all sorts of things that drive us farther and farther away from God. The good news is that what is impossible for man, entering into the Kingdom of God, is possible for God (Matthew 19:26).
“Love of money”, it is said, “is the root of half the evil in the world; lack of money is the root of the other half.” Both these statements are broadly true. The implications of the first statement are obvious enough the love and lure of wealth generally prompt people to resort to all sorts of malpractices, such as hoarding, black market, deception, miserliness, greed and dishonesty.
Anyone who develops this madness for money becomes, like the greedy Jew and the miserly Slot, a devotee, or rather a slave, of the goddess of wealth. He earns and hoards money by every possible means, denying himself and his wife and children a good living in the attempt to save every penny he can lay his hands upon.
Love of money often compels a person to take to evil and antisocial habits, and consequently he is not tolerated or welcomed in decent. Honest society. Such lure also leads people to commit thefts, resort to cheating in office and company accounts, and in tax returns, in business and industry; in fact, deception spreads in every branch of human activity.
Cases have been known of people whose love of money led them to work all the time without rest and thus ruin their health. They spent the rest of their lives trying to regain their lost and ruined health—but all in vain. Thus they lost both the wealth they had earned by laboring ceaselessly, and the health in the process.
It is rightly believed that the power of the purse is a great power; it brings prestige, influence, friends, flatterers and admirers, just as hone; brings flies and comforts and conveniences of life. When pockets a cherished more than hearts and brains, human bodies, justice and dignity? And deterioration of character and of morals sets in, gradually but surely. The love and possession of wealth also bring in their wake callousness and dislike of the weak and lack of sympathy towards the helpless.
The human factor, which is undeniably vital, tends to be ignored. The rid man is generally found coming in the way of progressive movements. Moreover, large quantities of money do not bring high intelligence. Nor do love of money and greed for gold necessarily ensures culture, his standards and good breeding.
In fact, the knack of earning money and hoarding it for the sheer love of it teaches a person many evil things; it debases and dehumanizes him, thus defeating the very purpose of life and of creation. The quest for money does not ensure happiness and contentment; on the contrary almost always leads to discontentment, constant fear that the hoards money might be lost or stolen; it is the cause of sleepless nights, of illusions and psychological suffering, of cruelty to fellow human beings and a gross distortion of human values, apart, of course, from glaring and heart- breaking economic imbalances which by themselves are a cause of more evil.
The second statement that lack of money is the root of the other half is also true, though saints and philosophers have often said that love money brings in its train more evil than the lack of it. When there is: enough money and there is stark poverty and destitution, people star and starvation prompts them to resort to every conceivable method to some money anyhow from anywhere, regardless of the violations of law and of the principles of morality.
Poor people sometimes commit suicide; kill their children and act in sheer disgust. They commit thefts robberies because of the deep-rooted frustration that the lack of money creates. Many thieves confess in court that it was sheer poverty and deprivation that compelled them to commit a theft or rob a rich person.
Whenever there is misdistribution of wealth, and of the good things of life, there is jealousy and despair in the deprived section of human. And misdistribution of wealth is to be found everywhere; it is only in an ideal society that everyone has the same and equal share of the ma and wealth earned by a country. In the absence of economic equality it is no wonder that crime and criminals flourish.
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his famous book “Discovery of India”: “There was poverty and the innumerable progeny of poverty everywhere, and the mark of this beast was on every forehead. Life had been crushed and distorted and made into a thing of evil, and many vices had flown from this distortion and continuous lack and ever-present insecurity. That was the basic reality in India.”
The sight of half-naked, starving children should move every soul, but it does not; rather, when the sight is common, people tend to become indifferent to all the misery and poverty that stares countless people in the face day after day and ruins their lives beyond measure and beyond redemption.
So the conclusion is, in the words of Goldsmith, “I’ll fares the land to hastening ills a prey, where wealth accumulates, men decay.” But such decay also seems inevitable where there is utter, soul-killing poverty.