Is Money Truly The Root of All Evil? (Article 18-14)
Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to be wealthy, that being having more money than you could spend? I remember as a child desiring to have enough money to buy my Mother a house, who as a single parent provided for three children on a waitress’s income. In fact, I suspect most having experienced the burden of having to live from “pay-check to pay-check” have had fantasies of what it would be like to never having to worry about making enough money to live. On a different front, we also see how money affects people’s personality, attitude and behavior, indicating that money or the lack of it, can have a dramatic impact on how one sees and feels about him or herself in the world and sense of self-worth. As American Christians, living in a nation where the making of money and the accruing of wealth is a mainstay of our existence, we become preoccupied with the pursuit of money. So, the question is whether the pursuit of money is bad. What does scripture say about the pursuit of money? To answer this question, we must carefully consider scripture tells us. In 1 Timothy, scripture tells us, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Many are quick to conclude that Paul is telling us in this scripture means that the pursuit of money is bad or evil; however, we need to give a little more consideration to its meaning.
What The Bible Wants Us to Understand. Let me offer some insight to what Paul intends for us to understand regarding money and its pursuit. Paul doesn’t intend for us to conclude that the pursuit of “money” in itself is evil. He intends us to understand that the “love” of money is a root of evil. See money is not the problem, but rather our attitude toward it. While accrual of money is not necessarily bad, we do need understand the pursuit of money can be dangerous. To further understand the significance of Paul’s point, we need to break the scripture reference down into its smaller components. First, note that Paul says “But those who desire to be rich” (v.9) and “love” money (v.10) is "a" root of all kinds of evil. What Paul points out that for those who pursue money above God and their love for it is greater than for all things, more specifically one’s love for God, will give rise to evil. Second, note that Paul states that the love of money is "a", not "the" root of evil. This means that money alone is not the root of "all" evil, but rather, can be a contributing factor to evil doings. Third, Paul points out that one’s love for money “snares” (v.9) man and causes him to “stray” (v.10) from God. When you take a step back and look at what Paul is saying is that when one’s love for money is so great that it becomes the center of one’s desires and ambitions, it causes one to put his trust in money instead of God. As such, one falls away from God and can no longer can be (or is) one with Him, for money becomes one’s God and master. When this happens, Paul states their “faith (trust)” in their greediness (lust or passion)” for money will “pierce (wound)” them, causing much pain and suffering.
Understanding the True "Root" of Evil. In man’s frailty, we can see that the love of money can be either a deliberate decision or a desire that hasn’t been carefully thought through. The goal may stem from a lack of contentment, which in turn may be due to not having the purpose of godliness or the perspective of eternity. It may stem from “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16), which tempt us all. But when love of money is our aim, a goal, a focus, we can expect an emotional element to it. Often this desire for wealth stems from pride, which the Christian world now erroneously labels “low self-esteem.” What pride means is one's lack of understanding or acceptance of who he is in relation to God and belief that he does not need God for all things. As it relates to pride, one pursues money to seek affirmation and status that wealth brings. He needs to prove to himself and others that he really is somebody, and one way to do that is to make a lot of money, live in luxury, and impress people, for prideful people see themselves as a God with expectations of being treated and living as one.
Understanding The Meaning of "Root". Finally, let’s focus on Paul’s use of the word “root”. The root of anything, whether it be a plant or the “root” meaning of a word, means the most basic part of something. The “root” gives way to an ultimate direction and outcome. If the “love” of money is at the “root” of our desires, then we should expect it to yield a certain type of fruit. Likewise, if being one with God and the pursuit of His will for our lives is the “root” of our intentions, it too will yield a certain, but different fruit. The main point Paul is making is that the root of our intentions determines the type of fruit which we will bear. In saying this, understand that man, in scriptural terms, can bear “good fruit”, “bad fruit” or no fruit at all. If we love money and put our faith (trust) in it, then the fruit it bears opposes God, thereby is a sin (disobedience to God). It is from this point of reference that we can see that the love of money is a sin. However, one’s love for money is not the root of evil. The root of its evil as I stated earlier is pride. That is to say, it is our pride which lies beneath the surface and nourishes our love of money to please our flesh and satisfy our need to be our own God that is the root cause of the sin.
You Can Choose the Root, But You Cannot Choose The Fruit It Bears. The root bears several kinds of fruit. But whatever the variation, the root determines the fruit. Remember, that although God gives us the free will to choose the seed to form the root, He does not give us the power to decide what fruit it will bear. In other words, we are free to plant any kind of seed we want in our yards; however, once the seed takes root, we cannot alter the type of fruit that springs from it, nor the impact on those who see it and consume it. The question that Paul invites us to all meditate on as believers in Jesus Christ is to determine what type of seed do we desire to plant and to take root in our lives. If the origin of the seed and the root which it gives rise to comes from the Spirit of Christ, then we can expect fruit that is entirely different than fruit which is rooted in our flesh.