Greed may be the root of all evil, but money isn’t. It’s important to understand this often misquoted verse about money, because it keeps people in poverty and idolatry.
Idolatry? Yes, you can idolize ideologies. Read on to see what I mean.
First, let’s look at the infamous 1 Timothy 6:10:
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.
We can’t forget to add the love of in front of money here.
Money builds churches, hospitals, and homeless shelters. We shouldn’t be anti-money, but we should be against loving money.
Money isn’t evil on it’s own. No inanimate object is evil on it’s own. Objects can only become evil through our intentions. Take the golden calf in Exodus 32 for example. It’s idolatry to worship a metal cow, but the golden calf isn’t an evil object. It’s the same with money. What you do with it makes all the difference.
So how are people staying in poverty and idolatry by misreading this verse? Actually, I doubt people are “mis-reading” this verse. It’s plain and simple if you actually read it, but when you’ve just “heard it somewhere before,” it’s easy to misquote. I think we could all use some more time actually reading our Bibles.
Let’s start with some context on 1 Timothy 6.
1 Timothy 6:10 in Context
To get proper context for anything in the Bible, you simply have to read the surrounding text, and understand when/why the phrase is being said. We’ll back up to verse 6 here:
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 rich 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 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 6:6-10
This entire verse is directed towards greedy, rich people who love money.
If you love money, you become a slave to it, just like borrowers are slaves to lenders.1
Some people literally love money. Take Warren Buffett for example. He is open about the fact that he loves money. He actually loves money more than anything else, which may contribute to his marital issues and it’s the reason he doesn’t spend money on anything, ever.2 It’s not only that he’s frugal, but he truly loves money.
Poverty and Idolatry
It’s easier to make excuses about why you can’t do something than it is to actually do it. That’s why 1 Timothy 6:10 is commonly misquoted. Because it’s easier to stay poor, and stick with money problems. These are the two primary reasons I see people sticking with the money-is-evil mindset:
- They aren’t sure if they’re allowed to have money. If someone thinks obtaining money may be a sin when they read verses like Mark 10:25 about rich people not getting into heaven, they just stray away from taking that chance. It’s easier to just not worry about “being rich.”
- They don’t know what they’re doing with their finances. If someone can’t make ends meet, and doesn’t want to reach out for help, it’s easy to just stay where they are. They can stay poor and use a chopped up Bible verse to back themselves up as if it’s their choice.
This can lead to idolatry, with the idol being “spiritual safety” or personal image.
In the case of lazy theology, like in the first point here, Paul speaks to that in Romans 14. Paul refers to the vegetarian as weak, not because they are a vegetarian, but because of the reason they’re a vegetarian. These people wanted to “play it safe,” so to avoid eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, they just didn’t eat any meat. That’s the same as staying poor to avoid being rich, just in case you’re “now allowed to be rich.”.
But what does rich really mean?
If you’re an American with a job, you’re probably in the top 10% of the global population, for wealth. Does that mean you are rich? What if you own a $300,000 house? Or is it $350,000 that makes you rich?
I did a quite calculation,3 and found out how my wealth compares around the world:
Am I rich? I don’t feel rich, but in the above comparison, it seems that I must be rich. So does that make me rich? Is that going to hinder my salvation?
None of that makes the determination. It’s a matter of your heart.
Paul lays this out, where he talks about circumcision of the heart:
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.Romans 2:25-29
Your net worth doesn’t determine whether you’re the rich man Jesus is talking about in Mark 10:25;4 your heart does.
Money Magnifies Motives
As Dave Ramsey likes to say: “money makes you more of what you already are.”
If you’re greedy and you become rich, you’re going to turn into a money-loving prude who only cares about himself. If you’re a strong giver and you become rich, you could become a major lifeline for charities and non-profits around the world.
Whatever you already are, you + money = more of that.
You have to become who you want to be now. Don’t wait until you’re rich. Start giving generously now, and watch your finances explode into success. It’s ok to have money. It’s not un-Christian. Think of how many people you could help if you had more money.
Now, instead of dwelling on that and being sad that you can’t help more people, do something about it. Start getting your finances where they need to be. Start thinking big!
The Magic of Thinking Big
It’s apparent that plenty of people in the world think big. Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, to name a few. But what about the Christians? We need more Christians to think big. It’s easy to think small and even make it sound spiritual or Biblical. But what’s truly in your heart? Again, don’t use “Christian” excuses to think small?
What have Christians accomplished by thinking big? We’ve branched out to the entire world, created thousands of hospitals, and brought millions of people to salvation by thinking big. Here are a few more names: Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, and Paul the apostle. These Christians had astronomical thinking. Paul the apostle didn’t create Microsoft or build a multi-billion dollar investing enterprise, but it’s apparent that he thought big.
Writing most of the New Testament trumps owning a billion-dollar business. Sorry, Bill.
Of course, a Christian owning a billion-dollar business could be a great thing for the Kingdom of God as well.
Pulling it All Together
Money is not the root of all evil; the love of money is. That means greed is the root of all evil.
What separates a righteous rich person from an unrighteous rich person is greed. It’s not a certain amount of money.
We need to stop using the Bible as an excuse to stay poor. We can be better stewards of our finances, for the Kingdom. If you’re in financial troubles right now, it’s a great time to take a step towards fixing it.
Start with our list of recommended books. Just pick one. It’s the first step on a journey to financial freedom and freedom to serve God and others through your finances, both by being a good steward of God’s resources, and by helping the people who can’t help themselves.
Let’s start thinking big.
Further Bible Study
Further Book Reading
- The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Last Updated: May 29, 2020
- “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
- Smith, L. (2017, December 17). Warren Buffett’s Frugal, SO Why Aren’t You? Investopedia
- Soure: Global Rich List – See how your wealth compares globally. (website no longer active)
- “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25