Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is the Love of Money the Root of all Evil?

The answer many would give to my question is "Yes, of course, that's what the Bible says!" But is it really? Some KJV-Only teachers have in fact castigated the modern versions for this "change" to the Bible - Gail Riplinger (NABV Pp. 171-2) to name just one. But this is to miss the point. The quotation is the first half of 1 Timothy 6:10; it is not an isolated proverb but part of a larger argument that begins in verse 3. The argument is not that all evils are a result of the lust for money, but that the lust for money leads to all sorts of other evils which are not, in and of themselves, rooted in that lust. Paul's argument is that the love of money corrupts the soul and leads to further sin. R.Martin Pope in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles notes on 1 Timothy 6:5: "The meaning is thus that these men viewed the spiritual life as a commercial investment; it paid as a profitable speculation." Paul's point isn't to tell us that all evil in the world comes from the love of money, but that the love of money leads on to all sorts of other evils. This is why the NKJV translates the passage, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" - it fits the context better.

When one thinks about it, the common interpretation of the text is clearly wrong. There are many evils that are not rooted in the love of money and lead to - and can lead to - no financial gain. Rape is all about power and control, and by its very nature can lead to no financial gain - especially in the case of those men who rape women totally unknown to them. Honour-killing does not proceed from a financial desire, but from a twisted view of honour. Osama Bin Laden was a wealthy man who actually spent his own money to finance his Jihadist organisation.

But Paul doesn't mean that. He means that love of money has a corrupting tendency, and where it is allowed into the soul, and religion is interpreted in its light, the corrupted soul is laid open to "many foolish and harmful passions" in addition - for the love of money and the desire to be rich is in and of itself a foolish and harmful passion. He's not telling us that behind all the evil men do is the love of money, he's telling us that the love of money leads to much evil besides.

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