By Greg Grandchamp, Crosswalk.com
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 (1 Timothy 6:10).
Let’s be honest, each one of us has heard the expression, “Money is the root of all evil.” What many don’t realize is that this is not the teaching of Scripture. The Bible is quite clear that sin is the root of all evil — but the love of money is a sin that serves as the root of all kinds of evil.
Sometimes it feels as if the generalization is true. After all, throughout history, the love of money has been the catalyst for so much evil. That greed has served as the motivation, the spark, for people to lie, steal, cheat, gamble, embezzle, kill, and go to war…just to name a few.
But what is it about money that causes “all kinds of evil?”
Addicted to Money and Wealth
We, of course, live in a society addicted to money. It seems our entire system of living is built on the power and prestige of the rich.
The more money you have, supposedly the easier life is and the greater influence and seeming respect you are given. These factors too often serve as a driving force for how we live our lives and set our goals in life.
Marketing campaigns are built around the societal desire for more and better. And, of course, to obtain more and better means the need for money — and then more money. For wealth — and then greater wealth. We are obsessed with wealth and the image of being wealthy.
If we don’t have the money, too many want to at least portray the image that they do. Bigger house; better car; expensive clothing; high-end cell phone; fancy, expensive vacations…you name it.
Even our political system — our very government — is corrupted by the undue influence of wealthy campaign contributors and corruption.
Our society is addicted to money — to wealth — and to the image of wealth.
Jesus warned us about the love of money. In the Sermon on the Mount, he made clear that “no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Jesus had been teaching us to “lay up treasures in heaven” (v. 19). He then likened the love of money to idolatry, referring to it — to any idolatry — as a “master” who is served at the very expense of serving God.
Yet, perhaps his most memorable conversation, and subsequent teaching, was with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30, as well as Mark 10:17-27. The man inquires of Jesus about what he must do to obtain eternal life, and Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.
The young man replies that he has done that since he was a boy. Jesus then tests the truth of the man’s statement — and his ability to obey the first commandment — and tells him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him.
The young man was deeply grieved and walked away. He knew he could not do what Jesus asked because his wealth had become his idol. It was now his master.
After this, Jesus turned to his disciples and says, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.” “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
This is a difficult teaching for the 21st century here in North America. We tend to live as though money, lots of money, is a necessity for the lives we choose to live. Whereas Jesus teaches that wealth, the love of wealth, is perhaps the biggest obstacle to coming to true faith.
Wealth becomes an idol, a slave master, and drives us to do things that push us further from God, keep us from drawing closer to him, or simply allow us to slowly drift away as our attention is drawn elsewhere.
Warnings against the love of money can be found, too, in the Old Testament, particularly from Solomon — who was perhaps the wealthiest king Israel ever had. The Book of Proverbs, of course, has multiple verses about the rich, but in Ecclesiastes, Solomon was clear and direct (Ecclesiastes 5:9-11).
Paul’s oft misquoted verse about the “love of money” is in his letter to Timothy, where Paul teaches about the desire to get rich:
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. 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 (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
And for good measure, in his second letter, Paul warns Timothy that difficult times will come in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
The author of Hebrews admonishes us to be content with what we have and to trust that the Lord will take care of us (Hebrews 13:5).
What Is on the Throne of Your Life?
Let us be very clear, this is not about money or wealth in and of itself. It is about our hearts. It is about the love of money — and where that fits into our lives, our priorities.
At this point, you may very well be thinking — “hey, I don’t lie, steal, cheat, gamble, or embezzle. I certainly would never kill anyone over money. I just want to give my family a good life, so I work hard to be able to give them what they want. Oh sure, sometimes I overspend, and our credit cards are a bit charged up, but that’s kind of all a necessity to survive today. I’m no different than anybody else.”
In the Gospel of Mark, one of the teachers of the law was prompted to ask Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which one is the most important?” Jesus answered:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28 -31).
My question to you, then, is this, do you?
Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength? Do you surrender every part of your life to Him? Or does your pursuit of money — your pursuit of giving your family a “good life” — interfere with your relationship with the Lord?
Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Are you generous with what you give to those in need? Or do you cling tightly to what you have because you’ve worked hard for it? I’m not simply talking about tithing, either. I’m talking about giving according to your means.
Indeed, there is a great multitude of examples or tests through our daily lives that reflect on the who or what sits on the throne of our lives. They all fall on the test of how much importance we place on achieving wealth — or the appearance of wealth.
The bottom line is, does your pursuit of wealth interfere with your relationship with the Lord? Have you allowed that pursuit to cause you, your faith, to drift? Or to never grow strong in the first place?
In other words, is the Lord first and foremost in your life — or is “church” just one of your spheres of influence? How much time do you spend with him every day to grow closer?
How much time do you spend at work — or thinking about work? None of this is to say we shouldn’t work hard. But…what truly comes first — the Lord or your job? You desire for just a little bit more?
How much time do you spend reading the Word of the Lord every day? Or spending time in His presence, trying to grow closer? Trying to learn to trust?
After Jesus’ words to his disciples about how hard it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, they were greatly astonished, asking, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
So…if Jesus called to you today to give away all you have and follow him…would you follow? Or would you walk away?
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Greg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected] and on Facebook.