Money is the root of all evil.
This saying is obviously derived from I Timothy 6:10 (“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”), but there are several flaws in it. The most obvious flaw is the missing phrase at the beginning; it is not money that is intrinsically evil, but “the love of money.” If money was evil, then one would have to become poor and use some type of barter system in order to practice Christianity. Greed, however, is most certainly evil because it focuses on material things and ignores eternal matters. Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Another flaw in this saying is the exclusivity of evil that it claims. The love of money is at the root of many kinds of evils, but it is not THE root – or the one and only root – of evil. Many evils are rooted in other vices including lust, hatred, selfish ambition, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). So why do some translations say “the root” rather than “a root”? Short answer: because in the original language, it can be translated either way since the article was left out. Usually the absence of an article means the indefinite article (“a” or “an”) should be used, but sometimes the article is omitted because it is implied by its context.
My translation of I Timothy 6:10 is as follows. “The love of money is a root of many different types of evil.” Notice the difference. It is not THE root of ALL evil, but A root of MANY kinds of evil. The love of money can lead to many different kinds of evil such as hoarding, withholding from someone in need, lying, robbery, prostitution, gambling, and sometimes murder. To be clear, though, the love of money is not responsible for ALL evil. For example, if a married man has an affair with another woman, how could the love of money be traced back as the root of his problem? If anything, he is risking losing more than half his money from divorce and lawyer fees if he is caught!
NERD ALERT: I have tried to avoid this situation so far, but I feel that the complexity of this verse warrants a more technical explanation. Please avert your eyes if big college words make you nauseous or give you the overwhelming urge to give someone an atomic wedgie.
Although the Greek word in question is usually translated “all,” most translations interpret it as “all kinds of” because of the context. The previous verse states “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Since Paul uses “many” rather than “all” in verse nine, it is reasonable to conclude that he intended the ambiguous term in verse ten to agree with his premise in verse nine. In other words, “all sorts of evil” makes more sense in context than “all evil.”
We now return to common vernacular. (Whoops, I did it again! Please, let me empty my pockets before you give me a swirly! My pocket protector wasn’t made to defy gravity.)
My intention in writing this blog is not to lessen the significance of greed, but to allow the Bible to be understood for the truth within it. Greed is a sin, but so are hatred, divisiveness, and selfish ambition. Don’t let a common saying blur the truth of Scripture: the love of money can root its way into our hearts and cause us to commit all kinds of evil, but our love of self is just as dangerous if it is not equal to our love of others. So what is the root cause of most of the sin your life? In other words, who or what do you love more than God? Is it money? Sex? Entertainment? Yourself? Allow God to pull out the roots rather than just working at the surface.