The Root of All Evil?
1 Timothy 6:10 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.
Over the years, I have heard this verse preached innumerable times. C&YA recently had a Biblical Finance Series taught by one of our teaching elders Larry Smith and once again, this verse was presented to me. “For the love of money is the root of all evil” is crucial insight for understanding that money itself is not evil but our love for it. We shouldn’t love money. We shouldn’t fear money. We shouldn’t fear the lack of money. Money itself is of no consequence but our heart towards it is of consequence. God has called us to steward our finances the way we oversee all God’s blessings (Mat 25:14-30), investing in a way that promotes the gospel. God’s concern in 1 Timothy is exceedingly clear, when we grow to love money we are on a path to “many sorrows”.
But I have something to confess, over the years whenever I read or hear this verse I have had questions as it concerned the words “all evil”. It’s such an ominous and emphatic statement about the nature of sin. It’s fascinating to consider that evil itself can have a "root"; sin isn’t just the affect, it’s a symptom of something deeper, something lurking. To my bewilderment, 1 Timothy declares that; beneath the foliage of sin, beneath the stalk of our depraved actions, just below the surface of sin resides the root...humanity's love of money. I never doubted God’s Word to us, but I had never fully understood how the “love of money" could possibly be "the root of all evil”. Throughout my life I have committed many sins, some of which were related to money, but as I consider the whole of my fleshly decision making I don’t see money as the the primary root. Pride yes, but money?
In light of what I know about Lucifer, the Ultimate Evil, an initial examination seems as though he rebelled because he loved power (Isa 14:13). In my understanding of Adam and Eve, it appears they sinned out of a desire to have God’s insights, their lust was for hidden knowledge (Gen 3:5). As I look at Jonah I find that his rebellious spirit was related to his devout prejudice and hatred toward Gentiles (Jonah 4:1-3). Even Judas, a type of the anti-Christ, betrayed the Son of God not because he desired thirty pieces of silver but because he was zealous as it concerned governmental power and the “Kingdom of Heaven”. As I looked at sin as a whole it seemed to me that the roots of sin went beyond “love for money”. Sin seemed much more nuanced. My lack of understanding led me to dig a little deeper and seek out exactly what 1 Timothy 6:10 meant.
...it seemed to me that the roots of sin went beyond the “love for money”. Sin seemed much more nuanced.
In chapter 6 Paul is wrapping up his letter to Timothy by reminding him that it is crucial for people to submit to one another and honor the authorities in their lives. Paul goes on to discuss how necessary it is for us to submit to the true doctrines that were handed down by Christ, and not be enticed by the appealing words of heretics and false teachers. He describes for us in verses 4-6 the sinful outcomes of submitting to teachings that appeal to our flesh. In verse 5 he gives us some crucial insights helpful to my doctrinal inquiry.
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
Paul is pointing to something very important, those that aren’t submitted to God’s word eventually draw a false conclusion about godliness. Heresy and pride are manifested when we suppose that “gain” is the height of godliness. This is clearly wicked, we know that material gain is nothing to God, in fact he promises us that earthly wealth is temporal and fleeting (1 Cor. 3:11-15). But look closer at what is being said; sinful men believe that “gain” (a general term for acquisition) is equal to “godliness”. For Lucifer this was true. He believed that power and dominion were in God’s nature and in order to be “godly” or “god-like” it was necessary that one acquire God’s throne. For Adam and Eve, perhaps desiring hidden knowledge was only a reflection of their true desire, to “be as gods”.
Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
For Jonah, his fear of loss exemplified his belief that “gain is godliness”. If the Ninevites, who were the ultimate economic and political authority in the world at the time, received the God of Israel as their own, then what would Israel have? He wanted to withhold truth in order to retain what he thought was godliness - personal gain.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Paul flips the worldly man’s perspective on it’s head then turns it inside out: Godliness has nothing to do with what you can gain on earth or in heaven, but has everything to do with a spirit of contentment as it concerns who you have been made to be and what you have been given to steward. Think about it this way, if contentment is the root, the fruit can only be godliness. If “gain” is the root, then the fruit will ultimately be sorrow.
Now we approach our main verse...
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 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.
The statement, “the love of money is the root of all evil” is less about “having cash” and more about one's economy or system of value and worth. The love of money is the love of gain and is the root of all evil. Consider Judas again, though he had some serious money issues, the narrative makes it clear, the betrayal of Jesus was related to his zealous obsession with power. Money was only related in that it was a catalyst for his true desire, to have authority. Keeping the purse (the accounts for the disciples), cultivated in him and reflected his belief that “gain is godly”(John 12:4-8). To Judas, money was equivalent to power, the power he believed he deserved.
“The love of money is the root of all evil” is...about one's economy or system of value and worth.
When I was young, I confess, I loved worldly music (I will repent of that in a future post). There was a rap song I used to listen to by The Lox called “Money, Power, Respect”. The lovely and talented Lil’ Kim (*cough) introduces the song by stating:
See I believe in money, power, and respect.
First You get the money.
Then you get the power.
After you get the power, people will respect you.
This has always been the path for the worldly person. They desire to find fulfillment in an economy that says “true godliness is to have power and respect, just like God has”. This wicked conceptual framework is pervasive in our society and in our churches today. People have adopted and cultivated a system of gain that serves to rob God of his glory and draw attention to self. Many Christians see church ministry through this lens, an opportunity to gain respect and be acknowledged as important. God forbid.
After studying this verse I have come to realize that the root of all evil is absolutely the love of money, but that isn’t the full exposition of that truth. The truth is that Satan has instilled in our world the notion that “gain is godliness”. All evil in this world stems from his economic perspective, “money, power and respect” (1 John 2:15-17). Praise God he has given us his Spirit and his Word so we can war against this dark thinking. We have been empowered to choose contentment. We can choose to accept and rest in what God has called us to. We can find our contentment in obedience and in so doing have the greater gain. (Romans 8:9-11)
The rich young ruler in Mark 10 comes to Christ wanting to attain godliness. Jesus love this man but realizes that in order for this young man to find salvation he must first re-evaluate his economy, or reconsider his understanding of godliness. He tells the young man that he must abandon his worldly economy in order to find contentment in God alone. What do I value that is in danger of usurping Christ’s authority? Can I find contentment in just knowing I belong to him? If so, I have gained the greatest thing, God’s