by David Murray
Although almost everything we buy comes with government health warnings, one of the most dangerous things in the world carries no warnings: the dollar (or whatever currency you use). However, in 1 Timothy 6:10, God puts a divine health warning on the dollar. He says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”
The Root of All Evil
Having money — even lots of money — is not evil. Rather, evil germinates when we love money, trust money, and exalt ourselves by money (v. 17). A poor person may be more guilty of this than a rich person. In fact, it’s possible that the Occupy Wall Street protestors have more love of money than many of the “fat cats” they berate.
To simply want money is not evil either. God has given us a natural and healthy desire to earn money to fund provisions for ourselves, our families, and the church. A certain kind of desire for money is the root of evil. The love of money above all else and at all costs, a love that dominates and drives us, a love that justifies getting it by fair means or foul — this kind of money-love is the root of all kinds of evil.
The Fruit of All Evil
Most addictions are obviously evil. For example, the fruits of drug, alcohol, and food addictions are clear and revolting. But, strangely, most money addicts are admired and praised.
Let’s change this bizarre inconsistency by examining what evil fruits are produced by this evil root: jealousy, theft, fraud, debt, workaholism, selfishness, gambling, political corruption, underpayment of diligent workers, overpayment of lazy bosses, environmental carelessness, and marriage breakdown. (Money causes fifty percent of all relationship problems.)
With such a bitter harvest, is it any wonder that God puts a divine health warning on the dollar? Notice in 1 Timothy 6:9–10 what Paul says should be written on every note of currency:
Money-love softens. “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation.” The desire for money softens us up and leaves us exposed and defenseless before the Devil’s skillful seductions.
Money-love traps. If we knew that we were walking through a forest full of traps, how carefully we would go. Yet by loving money too much, we wander down paths full of snares that can grab, damage, and kill us (v. 9).
Money-love fools. It leads us into “foolish and hurtful lusts” (KJV). “Foolish” here means irrational and illogical. Satan makes covetousness and greed seem reasonable, logical, and normal. But it’s an illusion; money-love is irrational and leads to irrational behavior.
Money-love drowns. We may think that money raises us up and promotes us in the world. “No,” says Paul, “money-love is drowning you, it’s plunging you into destruction. It’s suffocating you; it’s sucking the oxygen out of your life, and you are slowly dying.”
Money-love misleads. Many have “wandered away from the faith” (v. 10) because they were guided by money-love, not the compass of God’s Word. Yes, money-love may reveal an unbelieving heart.
Money-love impales. The end result of money-love is a person “pierced” with many painful sorrows, almost like a self-crucifixion. Yes, dollars are dangerous in the hands of money-lovers, becoming like stabbing knives in our lives, both here and hereafter.
Imagine if we picked up that dollar and it said all these things before we wanted it, before we got it, and before we spent it. That would make a difference in our desire for it and in what we did with it when we got it.
The Weed-Killer of All Evil
You may be saying: “Excessive money-love has become a root in my life, and these are the evil fruits in my life. Is there a weed-killer?” Thankfully, in 1 Timothy 6 Paul not only issues warnings, but also provides us with two weed-killers:
The passive weed-killer: contentment (1 Tim. 6:7–8). There is nothing wrong with praying for outward sufficiency (Prov. 30:8). But Paul emphasizes an inner sufficiency and contentment, regardless of our finances. We may think, “Gain is godliness,” but Paul says: “No, you’ve got this upside down. Godliness equals gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). To build contentment, he urges us to meditate especially on our empty-wallet departure from this world (v. 7).
The active weed-killer: godliness (1 Tim. 6:11–12). Contentment kills the leaves and stems of covetousness, but godliness reaches the roots (vv. 11–12). “Flee,” “pursue,” “fight,” and “take hold” are active and aggressive imperatives. If we are energetically and enthusiastically engaged in building Christ’s kingdom, the weeds of covetousness will not find friendly soil in our hearts. Contentment develops best in the light of eternity. So does godliness (vv. 13–15).
What a blessed (and safe) formula: godliness + contentment = great wealth.