Is Money Really the Root of All Evil?
“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” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Paul warned Timothy of the correlation between money and evil. Expensive and flashy things naturally capture our human craving for more stuff, but no amount will ever satisfy our souls.
Though we are free to enjoy God’s blessings on this earth, money can lead to jealousy, competition, stealing, cheating, lying, and all sorts of evil. “There is no kind of evil to which the love of money may not lead people, once it starts to control their lives,” says the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Let's take a moment to study what the Bible has to teach us about money and how it leads to evil.
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What Does This Verse Mean?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
There are two schools of Biblical thinking about money. Some modern translations of Scripture suggest that only the love of money is evil, not money itself. However there are others who hold to the literal text. Regardless, anything we worship (or value, or focus on, etc.) more than God is an idol. John Piper writes that “It is possible that when Paul wrote these words, he was fully aware how challenging they would be, and that he left them just as he wrote them because he saw a sense in which the love of money is indeed the root of all evils- all evils! And he wanted Timothy (and us) to think down deep enough to see it.”
God assures us His provision, yet we strive to earn a monetary living. No amount of wealth can satisfy our souls. No matter what earthly wealth or object we are looking for, we were made to crave more of our Creator. The love of money is evil because we are commanded to have no other gods besides the one, true God.
The author of Hebrews wrote, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Love is all we need. God is love. He is our Provider, Sustainer, Healer, Creator, and our Abba Father.
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Why Is It Significant That the Love of Money Is the Root of All Evil?
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” Scripture tells us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Jesus, Himself, said to give Caesar what is Caesar’s.
God commands us to tithe as an issue of heart loyalty, not a number to religiously check off our to-do list. God knows the tendency of our hearts, and the temptation to hold onto our money. In giving it away, it keeps the love of money at bay, and God on the throne of our hearts. When we’re willing to let go of it, we learn to trust He provides for us, not our astute ability to earn money. “It is not money that is a root of all kinds of evil, but the ‘love of money,’” the Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains.
What Does This Verse NOT Mean?
“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possession and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
The man Jesus spoke to could not do what His Savior asked. Sadly, his possessions were seated above God on the throne of his heart. This is what God warns us of. He doesn’t hate wealth.
He tells us His plans for us are abundantly more than we could ever ask for or imagine. His blessings are new every day. We are created in His image, and we are part of His family. Our Father has good plans for our lives – to prosper us!
God hates anything we love more than Him. He is a jealous God! Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
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What Is the Context of 1 Timothy 6?
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be right fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the 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 6:6-10).
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, one of his best friends and brothers in the faith, however he intended the church at Ephesus (left in Timothy’s care) to hear the contents of the letter, too. “In this passage, the apostle Paul tells us to desire God and all the things of God,” wrote Jamie Rohrbaugh for iBelieve.com. “He instructs us to pursue holy things with great passion, rather than setting our hearts and affections on wealth and riches.”
The entirety of Chapter 6 addresses the church at Ephesus and their tendency to fall away from the true core of Christianity. Without a Bible to carry with them as we have today, they were swayed back and forth by different attributes of other faiths, Jewish law and their society.
Paul writes of obedience to God, contentment being rooted in God, fighting the good fight of faith, God as our provider, and false knowledge. He builds up and then scales down to de-root them of the evil and lopsided love of money, reminding them it is in Christ we find true contentment, and God provides for us – not only what we need, but He blesses us above and beyond!
“The modern reader who reads these 2300-year-old portraits of defective characters will find many familiar themes,” the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament explains, “and confirm Paul’s statement about money being at the root of broken friendships, shattered marriages, a bad reputation, and all kinds of evil.”
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Are Wealthy People More at Risk of Leaving the Faith?
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
A person doesn’t have to be wealthy to give in to the temptation of the love of money. “The love of money works its destruction by luring the soul to forsake faith,” explains John Piper. “Faith is the contented trust in Christ that Paul referred to.” Those who are poor, orphaned and in need depend on those who have the resources to share to give them.
Deuteronomy 15:7 reminds us that “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.” Both time and money are important, for to reach those in need with the gospel their physical needs to survive must be met.
Marshal Segal wrote for Desiring God: “A lust for more and more money and to buy more and more things is evil, and it ironically and tragically steals and murders the life and happiness it promises.” On the contrary, those who have very little may be the most content, because they know the secret to contentment is life within the love of Christ.
Whether we are wealthy, poor, or somewhere in between, we are all faced with the temptation that money presents to us.
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How Can We Guard Our Hearts from the Love of Money?
“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it” (Ecclesiastes 7:12).
We can guard our hearts from the love of money by making sure God is sitting on the throne of our hearts at all times. Wake to spend time in prayer with Him, even if it’s brief. Align schedules and goals with the will of God through prayer and time in God’s Word.
This CBN article explains that “Money has become so important that men will lie, cheat, bribe, defame, and kill to get it. The love of money becomes the ultimate idolatry.” His Truth and Love will guard our hearts from the love of money. And when we fall into temptation, we are never too far gone to turn back to God, who is always awaiting us with arms open to forgive and embrace us.
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Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at Joy Overflowing and Sunny&80. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as Editor of Christian Headlines. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.