Is Money the Root of All Evil?

Category: Bible/Christian Worldview 51

“For the love of money is the root of all evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

One of the most sensitive subjects to discuss is money. Many people will do almost anything for it and many lives have been ruined because of it. Whether it is greed or something else, a lot of evil has been committed because of money. This has led many people to quote the verse: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” This is perhaps one of the most misquoted and misunderstood verses in Scripture. There are some who truly think that money, and only money, leads to all the evil in the world.

However, the translation of this verse is from the King James Version (KJV). The New International Version (NIV) translates 1 Timothy 6:10 as “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Which translation is the correct one? Let’s take a look at the context of the verse.

“9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men 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.” (NIV)

Looking at the broader context, we should notice that Paul is warning Timothy about the “love” of money and the temptations and harmful desires associated with wanting to get rich. The Bible never teaches that money is in itself evil. It does, however, warn us about the problems that money can have on a person. A large amount of money requires a lot of responsibility and generosity on the part of the one who has it. Quite simply, “Paul is talking about the desire to get rich (which many false teachers have) and how easy it is to fall into temptation.”[1]

Eric Bargerhuff comments, “But Paul is not saying that any and all desire is bad, or that all desires lead one’s life into ruin, but ‘many’ desires do. So there is a principle here that is working its way through the text. It is not all desires, but many desires. It is not all money per se, but the love of money; and it is not all evil, but many kinds of evils.”[2] People can commit sins whether or not money is even in the picture. Many sins have nothing to do with money whatsoever.Understanding this passage in its context shows us that the KJV translation of the verse has given a meaning to the passage that it really does not have.

This goes right along with what Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve both God and money.” The point is that money cannot be the love and focus of our lives. What is interesting about the love of money is that it does not only affect the rich, but also the poor. Proverbs 30:7-9 says,

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

The love of money can affect anyone regardless of whether they are rich or not, and as this passage is pointing out, being poor can cause evil just like being rich can. Both can lead people into temptation and sin. Whether you have a lot of money or none, the Bible teaches us to be content with whatever we have (Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:10-13. We are to trust in God. Most people who love money are trying to fill their hearts up with material possessions, but this always leads to disappointment. Only God can fill that hole in the heart, and he does so through Jesus Christ.

What do you think? How do you interpret this verse?

[1] Eric J. Bargerhuff.  Most Misused Verses in the Bible (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012). 89.

[2] Ibid., 90.

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