‘The love of money is a root of every kind of evil’ or ‘money is spiritual kryptonite’: some thoughts on contentment and dissatisfaction this Christmas

This verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 is probably one of the misquoted texts in the New Testament.  The popular shortened version – ‘money is the root of all evil’ – makes two errors:

i. It wrongly identifies money itself as the problem when it is human attitudes to money that is in view – love of the green stuff.

ii. It also wrongly lumps all causes of evil to money. While it is very likely that the vast majority of evil is linked to love of money, the text says ‘a root of every kind of evil’ – not the root of evil per se.

Now, having said this, these clarifications in no way lessens the force of what is being said in this verse. Money is spiritual kryptonite – it’s highly dangerous stuff. To be treated with extreme caution.

I started listing evils associated with the love of money. It started to get pretty long pretty quickly.

Here’s an invitation – what evils do you see today that are the direct consequence of love of money?

Here’s the immediate context in 1 Timothy 6:6-10:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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.

The dangers of the love of money are unpacked in 9-10. Look out for key words around the human heart – what drives us:

‘want’

‘temptation’

‘foolish and harmful desires’

‘love of money’ (philarguria – a rare word in the NT with the sense of craving or greed for more)

‘eager’

Those desires are powerful but utterly destructive. ‘Plunge’ has the sense of drowning, being overwhelming and sinking without hope into ruin and destruction.

Those motivated by love of money have wandered into apostasy, abandoning the faith. Now lost, it is as if they have impaled themselves and are in agony. It is graphic imagery.

money trapThey have fallen for the oldest temptation of all – greed for more. Their dissatisfaction meant that they were lured into a trap. The bait was money. By taking the bait they are imprisoned in harmful and foolish desires.

Has this convinced you yet that money is a dangerous substance? Perhaps our Euro notes should have a skull and crossbones on them.

Yet I suspect that there is little Christian teaching on the toxic dangers of love of money – especially in a culture of turbo-charged consumerism where ‘greed is good’ and ‘more’ is never enough.

Gordon Fee comments, if this is the case

‘Why would any one want to be rich?’

The desire for more is foolish because money is a transitory and powerless thing. It could not bring us life nor is it any value in death (7). To pursue it and love it is to chase after something that cannot deliver.

By falling to its temptation we are like rats in a trap – we follow its allure and can’t escape.

What then is the only ‘protection’ or inoculation against the toxic poison that is love of money?

Two words:

Godliness (eusebia) : love for God. In him is our source of identity. Hope. Purpose. We do not need to pursue false gods of money and its illusionary promises.

Contentment: Satisfaction with ‘enough’. Simplicity of lifestyle (8). Rest. Gratitude. Contentment is the most radically counter-cultural attitude possible in a consumer society.

It is quite literally ‘heresy’ in a culture of ‘never enough’.

This combination of godliness and contentment constitutes real riches. Note the irony and the polemic – this is the only place where ‘great gain’ is to be found.

Do we really believe this?

What do you think?

Comments, as ever, welcome.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “‘The love of money is a root of every kind of evil’ or ‘money is spiritual kryptonite’: some thoughts on contentment and dissatisfaction this Christmas

  1. Patrick, I really enjoyed your post and completely agree. I started a blog today which is a small attempt to get people together who aren’t happy with the culture of greed we live in today and who want to say ‘no to greed’. Maybe you and your readers might be interested https://lifeb4profit.wordpress.com All the best, Stephen

  2. Thank you Patrick for this entry which is so relevant. We are being shaped all the time, even without noticing it, by the powers and principalities as Marva Dawn says. The world of economics rules all the time and at the heart of economies is money.
    The antidote as you said is contentment, gratitude.
    I remember many years ago reading a commentary on the book of Genesis by Francis Schaeffer, where he said that Adam and Eve’s sin was: lack of gratitude. If they would have been really grateful for what it had been given to them, they wouldn’t have desire anything else.
    I think as Jesus followers we need to practice gratitude in big and small scales.
    The Benedictines have a lovely way to look at their work, once they finish one task they pause to give thanks before moving the next one. This is a simple but powerful way to acknowledge that whatever one has been able to accomplish has been so because God helped us.
    If we start to look for the many gifts that we receive in a day: being alive, having strength to work, having food, shelter, a moment to sit and relax, etc. We will become more and more grateful people, finding joy in simple things. As a consequence we will be freer in ourselves, carrying whatever we have to carry in a light manner that it will become attractive to others.

  3. I’ll practice a bit of gratitude now Ana 🙂 thank you for your comment, thoughtful as ever. If gratitude, like love, is a virtue to be practiced, then it takes intention to become a habit ..

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