It’s perhaps the most misquoted verse in the Bible: People love to go around saying that “money is the root of all evil.” Of course, the Bible doesn’t actually say that. But what it does say on the subject is incredibly important.
Money is a pretty powerful force in our society. If we don’t handle it right, money can make slaves of us. And if we let money infest our hearts, it can lead us to do some pretty horrific things. If we don’t intentionally develop the right attitudes toward money, a quest for riches can lead us down some very dark roads.
That doesn’t mean, however, that money is all evil. In fact, God has given us resources to manage for Him, and He wants to see us succeed financially. So how do we make sure that we succeed with money in a way that is not evil? First, we need to take a close look at what God says about money. Then, we need to take a close look at our own hearts.
Let’s return to that misquoted verse about money being the root of all evil. The passage that people are referring to when they say that is I Tim. 6:9-11. Here’s what it actually says (with my added emphasis):
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 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.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
First, notice the difference between the misquoted version of this passage and what it actually says. Although people say that money is the root of all evil, they’re missing a key phrase. What the Bible actually says is that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” You may think that this is splitting hairs, but it’s actually an important difference.
You see, God doesn’t have anything against money. Money, after all, is just an instrument of exchange. It is neither good nor evil; it is amoral. What He does have a problem with is the love of money. We’re supposed to be masters of the money that God entrusts us with. But when we become enchanted by money, and thirst to get more of it, this can lead us into things that are evil.
Humans were created to love. But God intended for that love to be directed at Him and at other people. We’re supposed to love our spouses, our children, our families and our friends. We’re called to demonstrate love to people that we have a hard time getting along with. God even expects us to show love to strangers. But He never created us to love money.
You see, the things that we love take a special place in our hearts. And when we love something inappropriate, it takes a place in our hearts that it is not supposed to have, and it begins to corrupt us. We always give preference and priority to the things that we love. If we love money, we’re going to end up giving it an inappropriate priority in our lives.
So what does it mean to love money? It means to give money a place in your heart that rightfully belongs to God. Do you worship money? Do you trust in your money? Do you desire money above everything else? Our worship, trust and desire belong to God; when money takes that place in our hearts, though, it displaces God. And that’s when the love of money starts to lead us to evil.
Love of money can manifest in our relationships with other people as well. Does money take a place in your heart that should belong to your spouse or children? Does money come first in your priorities? Do you spend more time pursuing money than you do building relationships with them? If so, then you may love money more than you love your family.
When we love money, we give it a place in our hearts that it should not have. In order to do that, we must remove something or someone that does have a rightful place in our hearts. God wants to guide us throughout our lives, but when we give money a place that should belong to God, money begins to guide us. Instead of having God as our moral compass, money becomes our conscience. Right and wrong begins to be defined in terms of money. Anything that earns us money becomes acceptable to us. And that is how we enter into the world of evil.
As Christians trying to handle our finances according to God’s principles, we spend a lot of time looking at and talking about money. We’ve got to do this in order to make sure that we’re being good stewards and effective masters of our money. But along the way, we must always be vigilant to make sure that money doesn’t take an inappropriate place in our hearts. We do that by following the admonition at the end of the passage above: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
If we give money a place in our hearts that God deserves, we begin walking down a road that destroys us and the people around us. When we master money, though, we make it serve us, and we can use it to make the world a better place.
Photo by Liz West. Used under Creative Commons License.