Albert Soo is a brilliant man who has both partnered with WealthBuilders and invested in Tricord Global. He has a great wealth of knowledge on finance and scripture as well. He submitted this article to me after reading my post on the Purpose of Wealth. I was impressed with how deeply he has thought about this issue, and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope you enjoy it as well!
The Love of Money
A misunderstanding of the purpose of wealth is one of the primary reasons why the kingdom of God has not advanced at a faster pace. It is also why people have not enjoyed better material living, and worse, has kept the children of God from being in positions of influence.
Material Things are Good!
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
-1 Timothy 6:10
Many Christians have read 1 Timothy 6:10 without having a clear understanding of what it is saying. Who is Paul speaking to? What is he trying to address? The love of money is the root of all evil, however, the way we define the “love of money” is incorrect. For most people, “the love of money” refers to what money can do for them. This is too broad a definition. Paul cannot be addressing the love of “money” in the generality of the word.
For example, the Red Cross wants money so they can help people in need, whereas ISIS wants the same money so they can push a particular religious agenda. Both groups, in essence, love money. However, the Red Cross fits into a biblical idea that is described in this verse:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
-1 John 3:17
If you do not differentiate what meaning Paul is addressing in terms of “money”, you will misread the true intention of the verse. You will attempt to hate money for the wrong reasons, and reject it for what it was created to do. Money is just a standardized medium of exchange. What money represents to people is what Paul is addressing in 1 Timothy 6:10.
Good material things in and of themselves are actually NOT wrong or bad. I would even suggest that we should be thankful and be able to use money for the good material things in life. You may ask, where is the scriptural basis for this? Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly (John 10:10).
Think of this earthly example to get a bearing. If your son wants a bike, and he says, “I really want to have a bike so I can ride to school instead of walk.” You, as a good parent, would buy him a decent bike if you had the means for it. In fact, you would buy him a safe, good looking bike, probably the best one out there, and one that your son likes. You wouldn’t buy him a rusted old bike that was falling apart. With all things being equal, you would buy him a good bike because it would make him happy.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
You may think our enjoyment of the things on earth isn’t high on God’s priority list. You have not had a true vision of God the good father. God wants us to be joyful, and if material things give you joy, ask and receive so your joy can be complete.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Money Satisfies Needs
Money is used to provide the basic things you need: food and shelter. The desire to have money to satisfy these needs is certainly not wrong. Truly, take time to think about this: if someone “loves money” so that they can provide for their family, is that the root of all evil Paul is talking about? Consider these scriptures:
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
-1 Timothy 5:8
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Now we are getting to the heart of the issue. The focal point of the verse in James is not that you want money for things you like, it’s about the motive to get things. Are you lusting for material things? The word “pleasure” translated here in the greek is “hedone”, which is a lustful desire. This is when you want something so bad that you will do wrong to get it. That is an evil desire that consumes a person, which is why you do not receive.
When Money Becomes a god
If Paul is not saying you shouldn’t love money for the needs it can supply and the wants that it can fulfill, then what is he talking about? The key notion that the verse is addressing is not the love of the things in this world, but that those who wants to get rich seek wealth as the end game. The idea that wealth or “material things” will satisfy the desires of your heart is the root of all evil. People use wealth to replace the need for a relationship with God.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Money, on the surface, has some of the properties which are similar to God. It is a source for needs, it provides some security and power. Whilst on appearance, it has similarities to God, when the rubber meets the road, we can clearly see the limitations. Zig Ziglar summarizes this profoundly:
“You can buy a bed, but not a good night’s sleep, a house but not a home, a companion but not a friend.”
People begin seeing money as something that can replace God. Money is not evil, and the desire for material goods aren’t either. It is not an idol unless you worship it as one.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
What is Money?
Money is just a tool. It is an efficient and effective way to move, transfer and motivate resources. It is similar to work; you don’t work for the sake of working, you work because you want to get a particular thing done. God worked in the first 6 days, not because work in itself is good or bad, work is just necessary to complete a purpose. It is because of the purpose that work has meaning.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Man was created in the image of God. God is a ruler, He is the king of kings. We were created in his image to be kings. Man’s purpose is to subdue and take dominion over the earth, so work and money are to help us fulfill these purposes. You need to actively participate in your grand design and purpose. You need to reflect the image of God through dominion and expansion of His kingdom.
This is an economic world. The Bible speaks much about finances. In Leviticus, things are calculated with money, and physical things are wealth based (cows, doves, harvests). This is never condemned. In fact, Abram was very wealthy.
“Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.”
You must understand that money, like work, has its place in life, it is there to fulfill a purpose. It should be embraced as a tool and gift of God.
I hope the above material gives you a different perspective on 1 Timothy 6:10. I don’t have a problem with money, I don’t love it, and I don’t hate it, for a lack of a better word I am “indifferent” to it. Don’t focus on money, focus on God!
So many people misunderstand that first verse, thinking that “money is the root of all evil” vs. the “love of money”.
Your explanation of exactly what “love of money” means is excellent! And the insights on serving two masters are spot on. Thank you!
Ryan, thank you for your comment! I’m glad you could benefit from this post!