…to love money.
No one wakes up in the morning and decides to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. Scores of high school students have been subjected to movies and statistics of lives ruined by drug use (alcohol included). They see the train wreck of a life where star athletes or academic leaders throw their lives, their relationships, their careers, and their families down the toilet. Interview students exiting the auditorium and ask, “Want the druggy life? Want to steal tv’s or sell your body for the next hit? Want to abandon all who love you?” In the moment, they say, “No…of course not!” But yet, many do. It does not happen overnight. They start with a beer at a party. Consequences are avoided. Someone hands them a joint at another party, and they want to fit in. “But I’ll never do anything harder!” they promise themselves. Until, in a moment of stress, a “friend” offers them something to help them feel like they can conquer the world. Just this once. It won’t hurt just once. Months later or maybe even years, they’re being filmed for an anti-drug movie to show in high schools. They never planned life to turn out that way. What happened? Just a few steps at a time. No, not everyone who sneaks a beer from the frig will end up with an arm full of tracks. But, those who end there started with a belief. No wait – they started with a disbelief: It will never happen to me.
The real drug is money, riches, mammon. We all use it and need it. Money in of itself, is not wrong or evil. It’s just a thing. Furthermore, there have been plenty of good yet rich people. There have been evil rich people. There have been good poor people and evil poor people. Jesus used money from time to time. He even paid taxes. The disciples had a treasurer (ok…it was Judas, but he was not evil because he was treasurer). Money can be compared to a drug. On one hand, a prescription drug can relieve pain after a difficult surgery. It’s being used properly and mercifully. On the other hand, if not controlled, that same merciful drug can become an unmerciful tyrant. Someone was not careful with its power. Someone thought, “It will never happen to me.” In the same way, our attitudes on money can lead to great good or slavery. It depends on how we view money.
Paul, not one to sugarcoat, explains it to his young disciple, Timothy. “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 Tim. 6:10). When we say, “Follow the money,” we usually mean to trace money to its original source to discover who is behind some nefarious plot. Paul implies something different. The money addict follows the money. When I go fishing, I bring my collection of bait. I have natural baits, artificial baits, some with sparkles, some that look like little fish, and even some florescent colored baits. I use what works. I want the fish to track down my bait and swallow it whole. Paul is warning: money is bait. Yes, it looks like food too. But, the followers of money remember not and heed not. So, what should we remember, and what should we heed?
Remember: The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
Paul makes a foundational statement. It needs to be remembered. The expression love of money is really one word. It can also be translated as avarice or miserliness. I like how it’s translated in most of our English Bibles…the love of money. Again, Paul is not saying that money is evil. It’s just a thing. A baseball bat can be used for evil or a homerun. Money is like that except that loving it can start one down a vicious trap. What’s the root of all kinds of evil? What’s the start of a heart turning dark? What makes that child who was often called “such a nice boy” have such a lonely funeral? The love of money. We all know about Satan and his demons. But when it comes to the human heart, the deadly core, the source of despotism, the bedrock of cruelty, the footing of all kinds of evil is the love of money.
Really? What about lust? What about idolatry? Racism? Abuse? Eating M&M’s at the same time as a Skittles (try it…you’ll think it’s evil too). Nope. As heinous and harmful those may be, they are not the root of evil. Paul could not be clearer. The question for us is: Do we believe him? When you hold that dollar bill in your hand and determine that you want more, the seed of evil has sprouted. It is lust. It is idolatry. It is even racist and abusive. The problem is not the money but your attitude about it. Do you love it? Quit rationalizing. Paul says you have the origins of evil in your heart. If you just made that step, you’ve just bowed to the peer pressure and slammed down that first beer.
We have to believe this. Why? Paul’s reason is the next sentence. We should heed it.
Heed: You lose the faith and gain pain.
Look again at what Paul says, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The money addicts find two outcomes (Why? Because the love of money is the root of all evil! Listen! Don’t think you’re immune!). First, they wander from the faith. Does this mean they lose their salvation? No, I don’t think so. When we examine Paul’s use of the word faith in First Timothy, he rarely means the saving, belief kind of faith. Rather, he means the faith that we hold; the doctrines we hold as true. As a Christ follower, you will deny your dearest beliefs if you love money. Sounds too far out there, doesn’t it? Yep…it’s just like drug addict stealing money from his own family who once thought it would never happen to him. Second, pain impales the money lovers. They hurt with all kinds of pain…tons of it. They will hurt in places they never thought possible. It could be physical, mental, emotional, relational, or financial pain. It won’t be a scratch either but a piercing through. The ancient torture device, The Algerian Hook, suspended a victim with a large hook around the mid-section. Sounds like loving money.
Every adult has lit a fire on a stove or camp ring. We get fire and understand the danger. We need to do the same (if not more so) when it comes to the loving of money. Where’s your heart? No, we are not talking about moving up in a career or refusing a raise. It’s ok to save, start a 401K, and make a profit. But here are some questions:
- Do you make all your decisions based upon how much money you will gain?
- Have you broken relationships because of money?
- Have you compromised a biblical command or principle in order to gain money?
- Has your desire for money caused you pain?
- Does your desire for money cause pain in others?
- Is it hard for you to be generous?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you likely love money. Will you remember the foundational truth that loving money is the root of all evil? Will you hear the reasons why it’s so bad?
Prosperity Gospel proponents have ignored Paul’s warning about money. Yes, I understand the principles of sowing and reaping. But if I give for the purpose of getting more money, why am I giving? Could it be that I really just love money? I would rather sow love and generosity and have God let me reap what he sees fit. If it happens to be cash, that’s ok. If not, that’s ok too. If I need to be impoverished to advance God’s kingdom, so be it (I’m trusting him for that grace). But I reject this idea of riches by following some kind of so-called biblical formula. It sounds just like money loving addiction to me. In fact, when it comes to loving money, I refuse.