Is Money The Root Of All Evil?
Do you know the easiest way to annoy a Bible major? It really is simple: Misquote the Bible in such a way that it becomes painfully obvious that you didn't even read the passage you are quoting. It seems that I am finding more and more instances of people who quote the Bible, yet clearly haven't read the passage they are quoting. If the Bible is one of the more misunderstood texts in our culture, and if it is important to understand a statement before offering a critique of it, then it should follow that it is important to read the Bible before commenting on it. Or, at least, read the passage that you are quoting, in context. Yet it seems like people consider the Bible the exception to this rule.
This was made even more clear to me today when I ran across this statement from a group on Facebook:
This sign gives us some insight into the difference between what the culture at large believes the Bible says compared to what the Bible actually says. The passage that this sign is attempting to allude to is 1 Timothy 6:10. In this passage, Paul is writing to his young protege, Timothy, and providing advice for the young pastor. In context, Paul is warning Timothy about the dangers of pursuing temporal things instead of pursuing Christ. That is, Paul is warning Timothy not to become so worried about his wealth that it overshadows his commitment to Christ. Paul even warns Timothy that some who have gone down this path have abandoned the faith! This is an important warning, indeed!
So what exactly did Paul tell Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10? I'll give you a hint: It is not that money is the root of all evil. The NIV is typical of a translation of this passage. It reads, "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." In short, Paul is not telling Timothy that money is a bad thing. Paul is essentially giving Timothy the same advice that James did to those to whom he wrote (see, for example, James 2:1-13). The point that Paul is making is that wealth isn't really all that important in comparison to the Gospel of Christ. Paul is warning Timothy about the dangers of focusing on money rather than focusing on Christ. In a word, Paul was warning Timothy about the dangers of greed. It is greed, not money itself, that is the focus of this passage. How do we know this? There are two indicators.
First, as I mentioned above, Paul makes it clear that there are many who have made shipwreck of their faith because of their pursuit of money rather than their pursuit of Christ. There just isn't a way to divorce this verse from this context. Attempts to do so will inevitably result in interpretations that do not match the message that Paul was sending to Timothy.
Second, we understand that the passage is talking about greed because of the way this particular verse itself reads. That is, if we did not have the book of 1 Timothy, and all we had was a scrap of paper with this single verse on it, we should still be able to tell that Paul was talking about greed. How do we know? Because Paul makes it clear that it is the love of money that is the problem. The passage doesn't say anything about money itself, but rather speaks about the desire of some people for it. Second, Paul doesn't actually say that the love of money is the root of all evil. Instead, most translations render Paul's statement as something along the lines of "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." This is likely the most accurate way to translate this verse.
If anything, I hope that this short post will help my readers understand the importance of reading what Scripture says rather than simply believing that culture quotes Scripture correctly. In most cases, it doesn't.