About a month ago, I preached – The Endless Unfulfilled Desire of Greed. I focused on God’s blessing of contentment and how our greed can block us from experiencing the blessing of contentment. Before I dive into this week’s study, I do recommend that you read, watch, or listen to that sermon because this week’s study is a spin off of that sermon.
Money is Evil?
As we all know, we live in a world and society ruled by money and those who have a lot of it. You and I have to have money in order for us to be able to live. We need money to put food on our tables, to pay bills, utilities, and pay back loans that we are obligated to pay. So, having money is something that is essential – a must have – in our society or else we would be without. So, the question that can come to mind is how can money be considered evil? There are many people that wonder why scripture paints a picture that money is the root of all evil when it is seemingly an essential to have.
Clearing up a misquoted and misunderstood verse
So, let’s first make it plain and clear what Paul actually wrote in scripture about the root of all evil. Here is the scripture:
I am of the belief that this is one of the most misquoted verses in the bible. If we look closely at what Paul wrote, we will see that he does not say that money is evil but that the “love” of money is the root of evil.
Let’s make this clear that Paul had no issue with money in and of itself. Just as having money is essential in our world today, the same held true back then. Paul is the same man who wrote that we should work to make a living. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote that we should aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind our own business, and to work with our own hands (1 Thess. 4:11). In the book of Acts, we will see that Paul labored like anybody else when he worked with Aquila and Priscila; they all shared in the same trade of being tentmakers (Acts 18:1-3).
So, to be clear, Paul was not stating that money is evil. There is a drastic difference between saying “money is the root of all evil” and “the love of money is the root of all evil”. So, before we can truly dive into this study, we must clear up the understanding of this often misquoted verse of the bible. Once we can understand that Paul was speaking of the love of money, we can then work to understand why Paul made this statement.
In the context of this passage of scripture from 1 Timothy 6:3-10, Paul was focusing on error, greed, godliness, and contentment. We will see that he stated, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Let us note that Paul wrote to Timothy, “having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8). Again, let us consider how we go about getting food and clothes in our world – we or someone else has to buy those things with money.
Greed is the true evil
To take another look at the context of what Paul was writing in this chapter of his first letter to Timothy, we will see that Paul’s issue was with greediness (1 Tim. 6:9). Dictionaries define greed/greediness as a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed
Greediness is a major problem in our society; people seem to have no idea when they have gained enough. For example, some of us have a closet full of shoes, some we never get around to wearing, and we still go out and get more and more. This same thing holds true when it comes to several other things that we try to gain and possess. Paul, I believe, did not get the point in having so much, and he wrote, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out (1 Tim. 6:7).”
Straying From God
In his mind, and I share this same thought as well, he viewed that those who are greedy do not know how to be content. This is a major problem because the Lord desires for us to be content (satisfied and happy) in our soul.
So, by coming to that conclusion, Paul wrote the verse of our focus in this study. Again, Paul stated, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” The greedy soul simply cannot be filled (satisfied and content) with the gains of this world. The reason being that it is impossible for our material world to ever satisfy our soul which is of the spiritual.
Now, I have underlined the part of great significance that I want us to focus on. Greediness, the love of money, Paul wrote, had caused some to stray from their faith in the Lord.
As sheep, we are to follow the Lord wherever He takes us (Ps. 23:1-2; John 10:2-3,14). It is incredibly dangerous for us, His sheep, to stray from following behind Him. When we stray from the Lord, it leaves us vulnerable to our great adversary. Let us remember from our recent series of studies on Satan, that our great adversary, Satan, will offer us the riches of the world (Matt. 4:8-9).
Satan desires for you to be overcome in greed for the riches of the world because he knows that the love for those riches can pull you away from God. When we stray so far away from the Lord, it can become very hard for us to see Him – this is to say that it may become hard for the sheep to get back to Him and become lost. There are several lost people in our world today and that is exactly how Satan wants it. It is much easier for Satan to consume those that are lost than those that are under the watchful and caring eyes of God.
The rich young ruler
Let’s take a look at a few examples of three rich men who were overcome and ruled by their greed. I want you to see how greed can cause you to turn from the Lord.
In the gospels, there was a rich young ruler that came to Jesus and he was seeking what he needed to do to inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:16-22). This young man of great wealth told Jesus that he had kept all of the Lord’s commandments since his youth. He was checking with Jesus to see if there was anything that he lacked that would keep him from inheriting heaven (Matt. 19:20). Again, this was a man that was confident that he was going to go to heaven; he believed he was righteous.
So, Jesus responded to the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect (righteous), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me (Matt. 19:21).” The rich young ruler was to sell his possessions (riches/wealth) and give to the poor.
When the rich young ruler heard what Jesus said about giving his wealth to those who were in need, I want you to notice the rich young ruler’s next action was not an act of genuine faith. We are told that he went away sorrowful. You see, he was not willing to give away his riches because he wanted to hold on to them for himself (Matt. 19:22). At this moment, the rich young ruler showed that he loved his riches more than he loved the Lord or anybody else – he was greedy.
I remind you that this rich young ruler claimed he had kept all of the Lord’s commandments since his youth, yet, it seems he did not truly love his neighbor. Of this revelation, Jesus then said to the disciples, “it is hard for a rich man (those that are greedy) to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:23-24).” We are going to see that it being hard for the greedy to enter the kingdom of heaven is a common theme for those overcome by their greed.
Two greedy rich men
In my second example, Jesus tells a parable about a certain rich man (Luke 12:16-21). Jesus explained that the rich man lived on really good land that was capable of producing an abundance of crops that could last him for years. He had so much crop that he did not have enough space for it! So, what did he do? Jesus tells us that he tore down his barns to build bigger buildings for storage. He was pleased with his doings and said to himself that he could eat, drink, and be merry in his soul for years.
Now, how did the Lord view this rich man’s thoughts and actions? Jesus says in this parable that God said to this man, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided (Luke 12:20)?” God called this rich man a fool, no words minced!
In the third example, Jesus told a parable of another certain rich man and a beggar that was named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This Lazarus was not the same Lazarus that was raised from the dead. No, this Lazarus was a beggar who laid at the gate of the rich man’s house begging for table scraps. Instead of giving from his abundance to the beggar, the rich man was selfish and greedy.
In the parable, we see that the rich man went to torments in Hades while the beggar went to rest in Paradise after they both passed away. The rich man spoke to Abraham in Hades with the desire that his loved ones would be warned to not be as he was. Abraham said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead (Luke 16:31).”
Greediness, the love of money, wealth, riches, is so strong that it can blind the greedy and cause them to go deaf to the word of God. Greed, again, can cause people to stray from the Lord because they go blind and deaf to His word. Another common theme we have seen is that the greedy are unable to fulfill the command of loving God and loving their neighbors. Jesus said that the law and the prophets hung (stood) by the command of loving God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:37-40).
The most tragic case of one that was overcome by greed and literally turned against God is Judas Iscariot. I want you to notice how John the apostle described his former brethren in his gospel. The night before his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus with “very costly oil of spikenard”, and Iscariot was not pleased with what she had done. John wrote that Iscariot argued that Mary was wasting the oil when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor (John 12:3-8).
While this reasoning sounds good to the ear, Judas was simply covering up his real motivation. According to John, Iscariot did not care about the poor. How could the apostle make this statement about Judas?
Well, John tells us plainly that Judas was a thief; Iscariot was the keeper of the money box (their collection box), and he would take (steal) from the box (John 12:6). The money that was in the box was money that disciples had collected as an offering that would help aid them and Jesus while they were ministering. So, how could this greedy man that stole money to help in ministering to those in need, care about the poor?
Then, in the gospels, it is written that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:1-6). Yes, he later threw the thirty pieces of silver away (Matt. 27:3-5) after realizing Jesus was condemned to death, but Judas initially took the money anyway. Scripture paints a pretty clear picture that Judas had a strong love of money. He closely followed Jesus but, again, his love of money caused him to be blind and deaf to Christ.
The Root of All Evil
I believe what becomes clear to us through the study of scripture is that the love of money sets one on a terrible trajectory away from the Lord. Not only can the love of money cause one to stray away from God, but as we have seen, it can cause one to oppose Him, His word, and His way. The love of money can become one’s foundation, and again, the love of money is greed.
The roots of greed are not good roots; you do not want greed to be your foundation. Now, someone may ask, how exactly is greed the root of all evil?
Ways against God’s teachings
I only shared with you four examples of people who were greedy in scripture, but scripture is filled with several more examples of greedy people. In every example of greediness, there is a common theme of selfishness. Selfishness goes against God’s principle which is that He, the Lord, is abundant in all things and He gives of His abundance liberally (2 Cor. 9:8); He expects for us to do the same with what He gives to us.
Greediness is filled with all kinds of works that are of the flesh and not of God. Because these works are works that oppose the works of the spirit, we should consider these works the works of unrighteousness (wickedness/evil). I often share a passage of scripture from Paul’s letter to the Galatians because he spoke clearly of the works of the flesh. Paul wrote plainly, “the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (Gal. 5:19-21).”
Those who are often driven by greed, act with selfish ambition, that is filled with hatred, and can be contentious and jealous of others. Life becomes like a game, a competition, where they must win at all costs. (This is honestly a sad way to view life).
Take note how Paul concluded his thought on the works of the flesh. Paul concluded, “those who practice such things (works of the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21).” Sounds familiar, right? Think of the three rich men and Iscariot that I referenced earlier. So, Paul’s concluding thought was not his own thought but one that he echoed from the teachings of Christ.
Paul then compared the works of the flesh with the fruits (works) of the Spirit. Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22).” The fruit of the Spirit is the total opposite of what we see of greed. Those who are of faith, and live by faith, fulfill the law.
As Paul would write earlier in this chapter of Galatians, “but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:13-14).” Again, this was not a thought of Paul’s own making, but one that he echoed from the teachings of Christ. This is one that I have echoed through this study repeatedly.
Paul then ended by saying, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Gal. 5:26).” These, again, are the very actions of those who have been consumed by a nature of evil and not by a nature of the spirit of God.
Weak-rooted in greed
Those who are filled with greed become rooted in an evil that sees them move against others and this is something that does not please the Lord. We have seen how greed in our society creates a form of oppression that tears and keeps people down. This is not what the Lord desires of mankind. God desires that we lift one another up by serving each other (Prov. 27:17; Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:29; 1 Thess. 5:11).
It is more meaningful to us to help lift each other up, rather than act selfishly. Those who are of the spirit are well rooted and can produce an abundance of fruit that fills and nourishes the souls of those around them (Matt. 13:23). However, those that are rooted in greed cannot produce any fruit; they have nothing to give – truly a sad statement. It truly is evil when someone refuses to help someone because of their own selfish greed.
Sadly, our world is filled with many people who won’t even lift a finger to help lift up someone because they much rather hold on to what they have – this is the root of all evil. Alright, I could go much deeper into this study but I am going to stop right here. So, to sum up what we have studied: money is not evil but the love of money (greed) is the root of all evil; greed can cause us to stray from God; greed prevents us from fulfilling God’s desire for mankind – that is to love Him and to love those around us.
Alright, I hope that you enjoyed this week’s study and that you will share this study with others! Our study next week will be the last study of this year. We are going to go on a Christmas break in our season of study and will have a new study on January 12, 2022.