On several occasions, I’ve heard this expression from others: “Money is the root of all evil.” I’ve heard it from Christians, from irreligious people, in the media, and lots of others places. Some seem to think that money is inherently evil, and we should find no delight whatsoever in money. Is this a biblical concept?
I think where the misunderstanding lies is a simple misreading of a popular Bible passage. In the letter of 1 Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy and 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” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Like all Bible verses, this verse must be read in its original context. One way we can better understand this verse is to read the verse before it, where Paul says:
“. . .those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmless desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9).
I once heard David Platt give the observation of the word “desire” in this verse. Paul says that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation. How much more for those who are already rich?
With a quick glance at these verses, you may think money is bad. You may start to feel guilty and wonder how you can give all your money away and seek to be poor like all those other godly Christians. But when we examine these verses closely, we see several nuances.
The Love of Money is A Root of All Kinds of Evil
Paul does not say that money is the root of all evil. He says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” The difference is the word “love.” In the original language, the word that Paul uses to describe the word love can be “an affection for money.” Words like “covetousness” and “greed” can be used as synonyms. Amazingly, this is the only occurrence of this word in the entire Bible.
So we conclude: money by itself is not the root of all kinds of evil, but an unhealthy affection and desire for money is.
My fear is that this common misconception that money is the root of all evil will lead to poverty theology. If prosperity theology means to come to Jesus and he’ll make you rich, then poverty theology means that if you come to Jesus you should be poor. Poverty theology says that money and ambition and material possessions are a bad thing. But this can’t be true since in the same exact letter Paul says that God “. . . richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
Like a good Father, God provides good gifts for his kids to enjoy — including money.
Asking the right questions about money
When we speak about money, we have to ask the right questions.
The question is not, “Do you have a lot of money?”
The questions should be, “Do you love God more than money?” And, “Are you stewarding your money wisely for God’s glory?”
Having a lot of money is not a sin; loving money more than God and people is.
Being a millionaire is not a sin; looking down on those who aren’t is.
Seeking to make a lot of money for the right reasons is not a sin; not living generously is.
Material possessions are not the problem; greed and covetousness and pride are.
The difference lies in the desire and motive. Why do you want more? And what are you going to do with it once you get it?
Answer these question and you’ll have a better grasp of where you stand on money and material possessions.
The proper view of money should be stewardship. As Randy Alcorn points out in his excellent book on money, you don’t own anything. God owns everything. You are not the owner of your things; you are the manager. God is the owner. Your job is to steward it well. When you do this, you get the joy and God gets the glory. This is the aim of all things in the Christian life.
As long as you have the right motives, you shouldn’t feel bad for saving and investing your money, taking a job for more money, or seeking to make more money for the right reasons. As you think about money, ask yourself: how can I make as much money as possible and give away as much money as possible for God’s glory? Those who do this can make big impacts for advancing God’s Kingdom.
Money is a tool. But that’s it — it’s just a tool. Feel free to enjoy it, but also seek to steward it wisely. And check your heart to see whether you’re the kind of person that has an unhealthy desire for more money. Paul says it doesn’t end well for those that do.
You may also like:
- How to Witness at Work
- How to Stay Christian When You Hate Your Job
- Tim Keller on The Three Biggest Idols in Western Churches Today