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Everyday Theology: Money is the root of all evil

As we continue to look at some of the more common ideas we have about, or relating to in some way, God, I wanted to address the following:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

The origins of this one are fairly easy to trace, as it is a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV), which says “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.”

Four Missing Words

Some might wonder, what’s the big deal? Does a misquotation change the meaning in any significant way? In this case, yes. In the saying, “money is the root of all evil,” money itself is given moral value, and is determined to be all bad, all the time. This attitude, in many ways, is the heart of poverty theology — an overreaction to prosperity theology that essentially says, “if you’re financially poor, God loves you more than if you had money.” It is a demonizing of money.

Is money bad? Nope. We need money for groceries, for our mortgages or rent, for paying our church leaders, for helping the poor… None of these are bad things.

But the love of money is a very bad thing indeed.

1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) says, “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.” A love of money can cause people to wander away from the faith because the object of their affections is not Jesus, it’s cash.

It is idolatry.

The Idol of Cash

Back in the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the heart of all His commandments (there are somewhere around 600+ in the Old Testament). Notice the first two:

  1. I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me (Ex 20:2-3)
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20:4-6)

It’s been said that if you don’t break the first two commandments, you won’t break the others. God being your only object of worship invariably leads to the ability to follow the the rest of the commandments. Because we love God, we will set apart time for focused worship of Him (keeping the Sabbath). We won’t take His name in vain, nor will we murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, dishonor our parents, or covet.

So what happens when we chase the idol of cash? What happens when the love of money supplants the love of Christ?

We make sacrifices to get more money.

Because we covet money, we will sacrifice time, perhaps signing up for extra overtime or refusing to manage our work schedules to allow us to maintain and care for outside relationships and family.

We may commit adultery in the process because we sacrifice so much time in the name of “getting ahead,” we can often become emotionally and physically involved with a co-worker.

We will steal, maybe fudging an expense report, or stealing from our parent’s purse/wallet, downloading music/movies illegally so we don’t have to pay.

We will lie, which goes hand-in-hand with stealing.

All this because we love money, instead of Christ. Because we forget that it’s God who gives us whatever wealth we have; it’s His to give, and His to take away. This form of idolatry is the heart of the prosperity gospel, which states that if God loves us, he’ll make us materially wealthy. It uses Jesus as a means to getting rich.

The Idol of Poverty

Conversely, when we truly see money itself as the root of all evil, we reveal in ourselves an idol of a different sort: The idol of poverty. This is the attitude that having money is a bad thing, and that no good can ever come from it. At the heart of this idol is the belief that God will see us as being more righteous if we’re poor. And just like the idolatry that comes from loving money, this one causes us to forget that all money is a gift from God, to be used for His glory and purposes. This idol appears to be at the heart of the social gospel, currently espoused by many suburban middle-class white guys with plastic glasses.

Using Money, Serving Christ

Money in and of itself is not the root of all evil, but loving it is the root of all kinds. So, how do we respond?

A healthy starting point is asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. How often do I think about money?
  2. Do I demonize money? Do I believe God will find me more righteous if I’m poor?
  3. Do I believe that I’m more righteous in God’s eyes because I have money?
  4. What am I sacrificing in order to get more money? Time, relationships, principles?
  5. Does the thought of giving money away fill me anxiety?
  6. What are some practical ways I can use the money God has given me to further His work in my community and the world?

When we’ve honestly examined our attitude toward money, we can begin to properly use it to serve Jesus, rather than use our time to serve money.

6 thoughts on “Everyday Theology: Money is the root of all evil”

  1. Pingback: My Memory Moleskine: Panting and Provision | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

  2. Consider what the bible says in Acts 2;

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.

    Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

    When people are more important then money, we will not need to continually monitor the moral compass of others.

    When Love becomes more important then money, there will no longer be inequality in the world.

    When Jesus become more important then money, we will not need 38,000 Christian denominations arguing for the souls of men as if they could offer a salvation equal to God.

  3. In these times, many people sell the souls just for riches and famel They may have not taken the time to think about is there a place better than down here. It is. Here, Christ came so that we may have life and have it more ubundantly. Yet, God’s created are supposed to be on a vacation. That is, you are enjoying yourself but this is not your home. We should never get too comfortable down here. If we do, we might find ourselves dong evil acts just for the love of money. So our time here is precious. We must use it wisely, not on what we can obtain but on what we can give in the cause of Christ. Have fun once and a while during the journey. Check out a mind is a terrible thing to waste at ladycliche.com. You have permission to play!

  4. Yes, I do agree. The love of money is the root to all evil. I expressed briefly in regards to Michael Jackson’s death. What do you really think? Was this act a deliberate act out of love for money? Check out my little take on this: http://www.ladycliche.com. “What Goes Around Comes Around”

    1. It’s a tough question; I think it’s highly likely that the love of money may have been behind how Jackson’s father treated his children, forcing them into the spotlight long before they would have been mature enough to handle it.

      Good thoughts at your blog. Thanks for coming by today.

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