Isn’t money the root of all evil? This common misquote is based on Paul’s words to Timothy. Note, however, the full statement:
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 6:10 ESV)
Money in and of itself is nothing more than a medium of exchange. It is a practical and simple way to exchange my labor or knowledge or property for your labor or knowledge or property. Rather than bring you a truck load of bread to get you to mow my lawn I hand over dollars (or in today’s world I electronically transfer digital representation of money from my PayPal account to yours). As such, money is not moral. It is neither good nor bad any more than a can of paint or a candy bar is good or bad.
Money or profit or wealth is not the problem. We have poorly read the Scriptures and taken an intellectual shortcut to make it the problem.
The heart is the problem. My heart. Your heart. What Paul warned against is the love of money. It is the headlong pursuit of and infatuation with wealth that is the problem. Why? Because of the money itself? No. Because in transferring my love and pursuit and affection to money I transfer it away from God. I prove myself to be an idolator, a worshipper of gold and a transgressor of the First Commandment.
Why love money? What is it about money and wealth that can be so deceitful? (Mark 4:19) I suggest (at least) three things:
1. We make money a means of measuring our importance and personal value.
Since the Fall, man intrinsically feels worthless. That is the essence of shame–a corollary of guilt. Most of life is about trying to fill up the bottomless bucket of self worth emptied by sin. Money is a common way for men to try to establish a sense of value. I am not worthless because I am worth so much money.
2. We make money a means of establishing our uber-importance relative to others.
Comparison and competition are two of the ugliest forms of pride. I am better. I am smarter. I am prettier. I am richer. In this sense, the “er” of money becomes a measurement not so much of my importance but of my relative importance. In other words, it is a scoreboard that shows where I stand in relation to you. I have more; you have less. All is right with the world.
3. We make money a means of security and safety.
The great fear that keeps people awake at night is often the fear of not having enough to pay the bills, to send our children to college, to retire, to live. Of course there is no such thing as enough to the human heart so we must have more and more and more in order to feel secure and safe–which we never do for more than a few seconds.
Think carefully about each of these. What do you see in common? Each is a substitute for God. Only in Christ can we find worth and the answer to our shame; yet we seek it in accumulating money. Only in Christ can we feel solid about who we are relative to others because we are all equally loved in Him; yet we seek our one-ups-manship in property. Only in Christ is there temporal and eternal security; yet we see safety in our bank accounts.
The answer to the love of money is ultimately the love of God. To know Him and to make Him the King and Deity of our lives. No other formula will do.