A man’s honesty, a woman’s virtue, the liberties of the slave, the purity of justice, the sacredness of the pulpit, the claims of Christ’s cause and humanity, and the love of God and man are all sucked in and swallowed up by this roaring, devouring whirlpool (Guthrie 337). This whirlpool is greed, avarice, covetousness. We see every kind of evil imaginable committed in the pursuit of money. Our society has an inordinate regard for wealth and pursues it to its own destruction.
In First Timothy 6, Paul addresses men resembling the televangelists of today. He describes them as men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain (1 Tim 6:5). To the honest and seeking heart, it seems unthinkable to use religion to get rich. But this problem is indeed one of the heart and not one of money.
Money is Not the Root of All Evil
Money is neither inherently evil nor good. Ayn Rand wrote, “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” Money is merely something of value. It can accomplish great good or tremendous evil depending on how it is handled. When faithful Christians give and spend money to promote the spread of the gospel, much good is done. However, money in the hands of the selfish and greedy can destroy their souls.
The following verses and many more should make it clear that God does not view money as evil: God expects us to labor and earn money (Eccl 3:9, 13); if anyone is not willing to work, neither shall he eat (2 Thes 3:10); one who does not provide for his household is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8); and the laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10:7). Whether you have a little money or a great sum, money does not prohibit one from being righteous.
We have numerous examples in the Bible of varied wealth and righteousness. We see Job (Job 1:1-3; 42:10), and Abraham (Gen 15:6; Gen. 24:35) as examples of being both wealthy and righteous, the widow (Luke 21:1-4) and Lazarus (Luke 16:20-22) being both poor and righteous, and the rich young ruler (Mk 10:21-25) and the Laodiceans (Rev 3:17) being physically wealthy and spiritually bankrupt. Money is not the problem; it is the misplaced affection toward money that is the problem. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil.
Paul explains starting in First Timothy 6:6 that godliness with contentment is great gain, and that we cannot take our earthly possessions with us when we die. Prefaced with this thought he gives a grave warning: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:8). Notice that Paul warns that the problem begins, like all sin (James 1:15), with desire. How many of us desire to be rich? Seldom is found an individual who wants to be poor and uncomfortable.
In 1 Timothy 6:10 we see that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The phrase love of money comes from the Greek word φιλάργυρος (philarguros), a compound word from philos (affection) and arguros (shiny; silver). It is understood that Paul is not teaching that each and every instance of evil is motivated by greed. The drunkard’s motivation is not greed. Paul is saying that the love of money is at the root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim. 6:10 NASB). Evil men will commit any and every sort of imaginable evil to obtain money. This love affair with money has caused many in the church to stray from the faith and pierce themselves with many sorrows. Often, one’s love of money is excused away as them being a hard worker and successful in business.
The world views money as the primary measure of success. This view, unfortunately, has permeated the church as well. When worldly success is valued over spiritual success souls are lost. Examples of this behavior are manifold. When parents value and promote success at school more than instruction in God’s word (Eph 6:4), souls are lost. When an individual values a job more than they value assembling to worship God (Heb 10:25), souls are lost. When contributions to a 401k are valued more than contributing to the Lord’s church (2 Cor 9:7), souls are lost. When planning for retirement is valued more than planning for eternity (Matt 6:19-21), souls indeed are lost. No amount of worldly success (Luke 12:16-21) is worth our soul’s salvation (Mt 16:26).
It may be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is possible (Mt 19:23-26). A Christian can be successful in business and be wealthy (Matt 27:57; Mk. 15:43) without compromising themselves (Mt 27:57; Mk 15:43; Lk 23:51). Knowing that wealth makes it more difficult to enter heaven, why is it so sought after? The Christian should work heartily (Col 3:23) and focus on the eternal inheritance. If then the Lord blesses us with wealth, then we must be good stewards of what He has given us.
A Healthy View of Riches
Wealth has the tendency to make people feel superior to those around them. Pride and arrogance are well-recognized hallmarks of the rich. Paul warns those that are rich to not be haughty and not to trust in their riches, but instead, in the living God who gives us everything (1 Tim 6:17). We must recognize that we truly own nothing. Instead, we are using what God has given us (Deut 8:17-18; 1 Chron 29:12-14). We are merely stewards of God’s blessings.
As a steward, we are to manage and keep that which is not ours but is entrusted to us. The more that God gives, the more He expects from us. When much is given, much is required (Luke 12:42-48). When the Lord returns, He expects us to be faithful in our stewardship (Mt 25:14-30) regardless of the degree to which we have been blessed. He will hold accountable those who waste what was entrusted to them. Those that are rich are to do good, be ready to give, and be willing to share (1 Tim 6:18).
When we love the Lord, we will give liberally (Rom 12:8) of the firstfruits of our wealth (Prov 3:9) and not what is left over. Do not bequeath at death what you would not part with in your lifetime (Guthrie 121). It is not a sacrifice if it is not a sacrifice (2 Sam 24:24). You cannot love and serve both God and money (Matt 6:24 ESV). Love the Lord and keep his commandments, storing up for the time to come that you may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:19).