Monday, June 29, 2015

Not THE Root . . . But Definitely A Root of Evil

“I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor – and I’m here to tell you, bein’ rich is much better.” No, I didn’t say that. I’ve never been rich – in a savings account or stock portfolio kind of way. Although I would say I’ve been rich, and still am, in ways that don’t show up on a bank statement.

But honestly, while money can’t buy everything, it can buy lots of things. And if you don’t have money, you have little choice but to do without things you’d like to have. Not having money can present real problems. So why do some people say, “Money is the root of all evil”?

This image which has been circulating the Internet
makes a creative statement, but isn't quite accurate.
If you answered, “Because that’s what it says in the Bible,” cue the buzzer: BUZZZ! You’re wrong. Similar to sayings like “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and “God helps those that help themselves,” this oft-used quotation doesn’t appear in the Bible. Not quite.

The Scriptures do declare, For the love of money is a root of many kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). There are numerous other “roots” of evil, sometimes related to money and sometimes not – jealousy, envy, anger, laziness, lust, gluttony, and more. All of them, as C.S. Lewis observed, are anchored in what he considered the ultimate sin, pride.

That being said, it’s amazing how much evil the act of loving money can stir up. There’s greed, leading to conclusions such as “too much is never enough,” as well as answering the question, “How much is enough?” with, “Just a little bit more!”

There’s selfishness, the unwillingness to share one’s abundance with others for fear economic collapse or global catastrophe or unexpected personal setback could transform that abundance into a shortage. So, the miserly rationalize, it’s better to keep a tight grip on what you’ve got and let other people find theirs somewhere else.

How about unbridled ambition? The quest for a bigger paycheck can motivate people to accept work less fulfilling than their previous jobs or turn them into Peter Principle participants, putting them in job roles beyond their levels of competence and capacity. We sometimes do nonsensical things while grasping for more money.

Then we have the unholy alliance of lust and envy, wanting the latest and greatest high-tech device, a newer car with more awesome accessories, or a bigger, showier house. Not because we need them, but because someone else has them and we feel equally deserving – or just want to keep pace.

In mentoring men over the years, I’ve found they will speak freely on virtually any topic. Except money. When financial issues come up, more often than not they clam up. “My money is none of your business” is their implied message.

Money issues, more than any other cause, are blamed for divorces, with the stress of bills and overreaching lifestyles proving more than the bonds of marriage can endure. And when financial obligations mount, to the point where resolution seems hopeless, desperate decisions can be made, ranging from gambling to high-risk loans.

So no, money really isn’t the root of ALL evil. But it’s often involved in many of its forms. Jesus spoke frequently about money and financial issues, not because it consumed His thoughts but because He understood how devastating money’s temptations and abuses can become. He devoted a substantial portion of His so-called Sermon on the Mount to the subject.

For instance, Jesus warned against unhealthy preoccupation with riches. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21-24).

Even charitable giving, according to Jesus, can be tainted by wrong motives. We might wish to be recognized for our “generosity,” and even feel annoyed if it’s not sufficiently acknowledged. “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men…. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4).

As for our own daily needs, which usually require money to obtain, Jesus again urged His followers not to let that become their focus. Closing out a lengthy discourse on the topic, He said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear/’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:31-33).

The Bible doesn’t denounce money, or condemn people that have it. But in hundreds of passages it emphasizes it can indeed become the root of many kinds of evil. It has a diabolical tendency to become an idol, even a god unto itself.

And when God declared, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), He was including the almighty dollar, peso, pound, Euro, and any other form money takes around the world. The old saying advises, “Buyer beware.” It’s also wise to be wary of what you’re using to buy things with.

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