You may have heard, “Money is the root of all evil”
But is that true?
What does the Bible say?
“Money is the root of all evil” is a misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10, taken out of context. A literal, word for word translation from the Greek would be: “Root for of all evils is the love of money.” A better arrangement for English would be: “For a root of all evils is the love of money” or “For the love of money is a root of all evils.” This Bible study will examine this famous Bible misquote and explain what 1 Timothy 6:10 really means.
1 Timothy 6:10 – Word Study
It should be noted that while the King James Version (KJV) places a definite article before the word “root” (rendering it as “the root”), there is no definite article in the Greek text. Greek has no indefinite article, so the choice as to whether to add one (i.e.: “a”) is based on the context and what reads most naturally in English. Most English versions include the indefinite article, making it “a root.”
While most English versions (including the KJV) translate this word as singular (i.e.: “evil”), the word is actually plural in Greek, so “evils” is a more literal translation. This passage is not referring to moral wickedness in general (i.e.: evil). It is referring to the multitude of ways that wickedness can be expressed (i.e.: evils). Most English Bibles supply helping words that convey this distributive idea but many still translate “evils” as singular (e.g.: “all kinds of evil”).
The Love of Money
The misquoting of the Greek word, “philarguria,” may be the biggest cause of confusion. The word does not mean “money.” It refers to avarice, miserliness, greed. All English Bibles I checked (including the KJV) accurately translate it as “the love of money.”
Based on the word study, the best translation for this statement in English would be something like: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” This is vastly different in meaning from the improperly quoted expression, “money is the root of all evil.”
Money is non-moral; it is inherently neither good nor evil. It is merely a tool, a medium of exchange to simplify the process of trading when buying or selling goods or services.
The problem is not with money itself. The problem is with an excessive desire / lust for money and all that can be done with it.
Money is NOT the root of ALL evil
God revealed the origin of sin and evil for us in His Word, and it has nothing to do with money.
Satan was created as Lucifer, one of the highest angels, an anointed cherub that covered the throne of God. He was given beauty, wisdom, and power, but he was not satisfied with his position in heaven. He wanted an exalted throne of his own. He wanted to be like the Most High God. (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-17)
As far as we know, Satan was the first to sin after creation. Satan’s fall had nothing to do with money. He just was not content with what God had given him. He was proud; he wanted more power and glory. He wanted to be God.
Money had nothing to do with the origin of evil
The next sin we know of is described in Genesis 3:1-6. The devil used a serpent to tempt Eve to sin by questioning God’s Word, goodness, and motives. He used the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) to offer her what he wanted (to be like God).
When the devil deceived Eve, he deposited doubt and discontent in her heart. When she stepped into Satan’s snare, Eve learned about sin by becoming evil. While innocent, Eve had been good like God. Now she became sinful like the sinister snake.
Like the Serpent, the first thing the woman did with her new knowledge was to tempt an innocent to join the rebellion. After eating the forbidden fruit herself, Eve convinced the man to eat it with her. So, Adam ate the fatal fruit, plunging all of humanity into sin and death.
Neither Adam nor Eve sinned because of a love for money. Eve simply wanted to eat the forbidden fruit as food and to gain knowledge so she could be like God (Genesis 3:6). The Bible does not explicitly say why Adam sinned, only that he was condemned because he listened to the voice of his wife and ate fruit from the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:17).
It is clearly inaccurate to say,
“Money is the root of all evil.”
The First Murder
Genesis 4 reveals the extreme discontent of Cain (Adam and Eve’s first child) because God rejected his offering the fruit of his labor instead of the blood of a lamb as God had commanded. Rather than repenting, Cain rejected God and angrily shed the blood of his righteous brother Abel. Again, money had nothing to do with this evil act.
As can be seen in these examples, money had nothing to do with the origin of evil, so it is clearly inaccurate to say, “money is the root of all evil.” Instead, the root of all evil appears to originate in pride, discontent, and a lust for more.
Money is not the problem. The problem is with our attitude toward money. Avarice, greed, and the love of money originate out of discontent with what we have, coveting what others have, and pride that thinks we deserve more. This follows the pattern of evil’s origin as described above.
Money itself is not the root of all evil, but an inordinate lust to get more of it spawns many evil thoughts, intentions, and actions. Greed and avarice motivate many to wicked ways and the idolatrous worship of money.
Context of 1 Timothy 6:10
Proper interpretation requires that we consider the Biblical context in which a passage occurs, so let’s look at the verses which precede the source of this famous quote.
1 Timothy 6:6-10
- But godliness with contentment is great gain.
- For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
- And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
- 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.
- 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 context preceding this passage (1 Timothy 6:6-8) stresses the importance of our attitude toward the things of this world. Specifically, we must be content with what we have. We should not strive to amass material goods or wealth in this world because we cannot take it with us when we leave.
Discontent with what God has given us is an enemy of godliness. We are instructed to be content as long as we have food to eat and clothes to wear.
The immediate context of our quote is a warning against discontent, and the damage that lusting after riches can bring.
“They that will be rich” refers to people who make getting rich a goal in of itself, because they have a lust for money and “the things of the world” it can buy (1 John 2:15-17).
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with money, wealth or riches
Prosperity in Proverbs
It should be noted here that there is nothing wrong with being rich. Proverbs teaches that prosperity is a natural result of wisdom, diligence, hard work, giving, and trusting God.
- “Riches and honor are with me (wisdom), enduring wealth and righteousness.” (Proverbs 8:18 / ESV)
- “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:15 / ESV)
- “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23 / NIV)
- “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25 / NIV)
- “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.” (Proverbs 19:17 / NKJV)
- “An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25 / NASB)
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with money, wealth or riches. The problem comes when there is a greedy heart attitude that lusts for money and “the things of this world” (1 John 2:15-17), which is a form of idolatry. Chasing money just to be rich often leads to ruin and has caused many to err from the faith.
The Sermon on the Mount
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but rather to lay our treasures up in heaven because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). No one can serve two masters. So, don’t let “the love of money” come between you and God.
Don’t let “the love of money” come between you and God
Jesus continued His message on the mount, saying not to worry about the physical necessities of life as the Gentiles do. Instead, we are to trust our Heavenly Father to take care of us and provide what we need. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Rather than chasing after money and the things of the world, Christians are commanded to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first. Jesus promised that God will give us all we need if we just keep Him first. (Matthew 6:33)
- Money is NOT ‘the’ root of all evil
- The love of money is a root of all evils (1 Timothy 6:10)
- But “the love of money” is a form of idolatry, the pursuit of which can result in many evils
- Money is merely a tool, neither good nor bad
- Prosperity is the natural result of wisdom, diligence, hard work, giving, and trusting God
- But ‘the desire to be rich’ results in ruin
- You cannot serve both God and “the love of money”
- Serving God’s kingdom and righteousness brings His blessing
- So, love God first with all your heart
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