The Root

“Money makes the world go ‘round.” Figuratively speaking, that seems true.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” True.
“Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Not on its own, but it has the potential to in an indirect way.
“More money, more problems.” Probably true, although it doesn’t seem like it.
“Money is the root of all evil.” Inaccurate.

The inaccuracy in saying that money in and of itself is the root of all evil offers some comfort to us. This comfort derives from a couple of different places. For people who don’t have a lot of money, it makes us feel better about not having much of it. For more optimistic people, it makes us have a little more faith in humanity, as if money is the problem and not the people who have it.

However, it’s people who are actually the problem. Let’s look at another sort of currency system – trade. Before people gave money for goods and services or when money is rare and low, people will swap their goods for someone else’s goods. History has proven that people can’t even handle that. Peace treaties all over the world are made and broken because someone gets greedy and doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. So relationships, be it between individuals or countries, are torn apart.

There’s a short story by the fantastic Ron Rash called “Back of Beyond.” It’s about a region and a specific family during an economic depression. The main character owns a pawn shop, and his business is really one of the very few that are prospering because people are going so far as to steal other people’s things to get cash so they can either buy meth or buy the ingredients to make meth themselves. No one really has much money, so it’s not about keeping up with the neighbors or using money as an idol on its own. These acts are driven by addiction, selfishness, and greed.

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10, NLT)

We don’t even extend this verse the courtesy of finishing it before we twist it around.

The issue with money, like so many other problems that pop up in our lives, is our hearts. Money is a necessity, but we develop such a liking towards having it or using it that money takes the throne in our lives. It becomes the end to which all of our means strive for. It changes our moods, motivates us, and validates us (or so we think). If we let money affect us to the point that we legitimately love it, we’re bowing to the Almighty Dollar.

The love of money is a form of idolatry. Since God is supposed to be foremost in our hearts and lives, it follows that trouble comes when we give that coveted, prestigious position to another god. Thus “money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Many terrible habits or events can come from loving money. Not from earning money. Not from needing money. Evil comes from enjoying money more than enjoying God.

Paul explains quite beautifully that this love of money, this “craving,” is what has made many people stray from their faith in God. Because their faith then rested in money. It’s what they worked for and hoped for above all else.

Which is also the general context around this scripture. Paul is writing to Timothy, the incredibly young pastor of the church in Ephesus, to tell him not to listen to anyone and everyone coming to him with different doctrines that contradict the doctrine that Timothy is preaching and knows to be true. Paul identifies these people as corrupt troublemakers who will put on an act of godliness as a way to gain riches. It is this desire to be wealthy that leads people to do such things. (To read Paul’s words, go to 1 Timothy 6:3-10.)

And they’ve “pierced themselves with many sorrows.”

This isn’t typically how we view people who pursue or flaunt wealth, is it? Yeah, they may have different problems than the rest of us. They may have some issues that can’t be fixed by the amount of money they have, but isn’t that true of all of us? “Sorrows”? How do they have so “many sorrows”?

Simply put, they don’t understand what they’re missing.

Wonderfully put, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, NLT)

The NRSV translation states that last bit as “so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”

True life? That’s the life found when our love for God is greater than our love for anything else.

People who make money their god miss out on God’s provision, protection, and peace. Money can disappear, be spent, be stolen, but God can’t. And through Him, we leave a legacy around us that is much stronger and impacting than those who live and die for money. To serve God is to give all that you can – time, energy, money – to those who need it. To serve money is to give all you have for a substance that just won’t last. But God is steadfast, and His love is too. When all else fades, God remains.

By Carrie Prevette

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