Money, money, money – money!
Such are the first words to the top-ten soul hit “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. First popular in the early 1970’s, the song was resurrected and later used as the musical theme to Donald Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice”. It’s a catchy tune, and Americans love it. The tune, that is. Well…maybe the lyrics too.
There’s something about money that tends to consume American culture. We happen to be the richest country that has ever existed in the history of the world, for better or worse. So in looking at one of the more popular misused verses, our attention now turns to money.
There are two things wrong with the title of this study, and it is on purpose. The first thing to note is that the statement “money is the root of all evil” is the one that most people recite when they try to recall what the Bible says about money. The impression (which is clearly false) is that God despises the rich and that money in and of itself is the source of all the evil that exists on this planet. Neither idea is true.
For starters, it would be helpful to recite the entire verse in context and quote the verse with greater accuracy! So let’s do that. One of the clearest translations of this verse comes out of the English Standard Version:
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. – 1 Timothy 6:10 ESV
Notice that Paul doesn’t denounce money in general per se, but instead he warns us about the “love of money.” There is a significant difference here. Nowhere does the Bible teach that it is wrong to possess money or that it is wrong to have large quantities of it. Being rich is not a sin.
What is your definition of “love of money”?
The bible does warn us about the many stresses, pressures, and temptations that come with having lots of money, and it instructs us to be responsible, generous, and benevolent, especially to those in need. Furthermore Jesus taught in one of his parables that our possessions (or money) should not possess us (or be our master) in such a way that we become consumed by them and serve them above God.
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 ESV
Notice it says that “You cannot serve God and money.”
What’s interesting is that those who have much and those who have very little can both be consumed with a passion for money so that it masters them. It is this that Jesus warned against. Only Jesus our Lord should be our master!
Can you illustrate how the poor and rich alike get consumed with money, even though they have different amounts?
The first problem rests with the love of money, and the second, Paul says the love of money is “a root of all kinds of evils.” Notice the difference here. The popular phrase that people recite usually stems from the King James Version, which reads:
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. – 1 Timothy 6:10 KJV
The KJV seems to suggest that any and all evil, irrespective of what it is, has its roots or place of origin in the “love of money.” But this does not accurately convey what Paul is saying, and this translation is flawed due to context. Let’s put the verse into context by starting in verse 9.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. – 1 Timothy 6:9 ESV
Have you ever fallen into the temptation of money?
Notice that Paul is talking about the desire to get rich (which many false teachers have) and how easy it is to fall into temptation. This desire or craving for wealth often leads people to embrace senseless and harmful desires that end up ruining lives. In fact, at the end of verse 10, Paul says it is because of this craving that many have wandered away from the faith (the Christian life with all of it spiritual pursuits), and as a result many are self-inflicted with unnecessary hardships, or griefs.
But Paul is not saying that any and all desire is bad, or that all desires lead one’s life into ruin, but “many” desires do. So there is a principle here that is working its way through the text. It is not all desires, but many desires. It is not all money per se, but the love of money; and it is not all evil, but many kinds of evils.
Paul is avoiding sweeping statements and generalizations in the context of his argument. Therefore, the better translation that accurately captures the original Greek in its context is this:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils
This changes the overall picture then. Money itself is not evil, and all the evil that exists is not to be completely tied to money (or even the love of money), though to be fair, much of it can be.
Many have suggested that a major source of human evil is pride – human beings striving to be their own god (which seemingly was Lucifer’s temptation as well). This inward bend came as a result of disobeying God and giving in to temptation in the garden of Eden, the place where Eve was tempted to “be like God,” or in essence, to be “her own God.” The sin of disobedience that Adam and Eve shared compromised the moral law of God and ushered in the fall of creation, infecting the entire human race.
No matter if it is greed, lust, lies, or any list of vices on might come up with, the sins of humanity are rooted in the cravings of the sinful flesh and the pursuit of one’s glory (in opposition to the glory of God). Though there is such a thing as a healthy self-interest (like self-preservation and the stewardship of one’s body), humanity has tragically fallen into a twisted love of self, with an insatiable appetite to please the fallen sin nature to one degree or another.
This, in many cases, is the major root causes of all sin (though the essence of sin itself is lawlessness), and it is an offense to the holy God who alone is worthy of being glorified, worshipped, and obeyed. The only cure for this disease is the transformation and new spiritual life that is received through repentance and faith, believing in Jesus as the One who was crucified and raised from he dead, making full atonement for our sin.
What are some other cravings of the sinful flesh that can be considered healthy, dangerous and need to be monitored?
So it is no surprise to hear Jesus say that the essence of discipleship is that each man should “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Jesus), Matthew 16:24. This seems to put things back into their proper order, where obeying God and turning away from the fleshly desire to be your own God is the name of the game.
So it is the love of money – rooted in humanity’s pursuit of its own glory – that is the source of tremendous amounts of wickedness. We are repulsed by war, murder, rape, and heinous crimes against humanity, and rightly so, but I believe we should be equally disgusted with the wickedness of individual and corporate greed that has devastated countless lives and is assuredly the root of all kinds of evil.
There is a wonderful book by Paul David Tripp that puts a lot of the context of our consuming desires into biblical perspectives. Now you might declare, I don’t have an addiction to sex or money. Hallelujah! But that does not mean you won’t be tempted, or that the inner desires you have are more than dormant. The book digs into the motivations behind what we do. You can check out a video clip he has a read a little bit more about his approach by visiting his blog on Sex and Money.
Pleasure. We live in a world obsessed with finding it, passionate about enjoying it, and desperate about maintaining it.
Chief among such objects of affection are sex and money – two pleasures unequaled in their power to captivate our attention and demand our worship. In Sex and Money, Paul David Tripp pulls back the curtain on the lies of our flesh and the ways we distort God’s good gifts, examining the insanity of our culture and exposing our tendency to fall prey to the hollow promises of this world.
In exploring how God’s grace frees us from futile pursuits, Paul David Tripp directs readers to the wisdom of God in Scripture and the liberating power of the gospel, offering practical guidance on finding true joy and enduring satisfaction.
You can also get the audio version of the book for free during the month of November from ChristianAudio.com with their monthly offerings: Free Downloads each month. I have used ChristianAudio for years and you can build a nice library by adding just one book a money and they have some good deals on other books as well.
We will see the full-on consumption of greed and money this coming week as we experience “Black Friday” and people will be flat out consumed in addictive rage. They will actually fight over and do crazy things for the concept of getting a good deal on something they would not normally buy, and sometimes will not even use. They will spend hours planning and hours in the pursuit of that one great deal. It will inevitably all over the news about the craziness and insane things that occur. During this season watch and pray for those consumed by the evil of their desires. Watch your own motivations and stay connected with your accountability partners and battle buddies.
One final thought: In addition to reading Scripture carefully in context – looking for words, phrases, and ideas before and after the text to help you better understand what the author is truly saying – when someone quotes Scripture, make sure they are quoting it accurately. As we have seen this week, the words “the love of” give the often recited phrase a completely different meaning.
As we watch the political campaigns, we can wonder if we are hearing the whole story or a sound bite taken out of context and strategically edited. Inasmuch as this is done in politics, is is also done in religious circles (even well-meaning people). We would do well then to heed the words that Paul gave to Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[a] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
The lesson this week is from the book: “The Most Misused verses in the Bible” by Eric J. Bargerhuff
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.