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Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil”? This expression is derived from a passage of Scripture, but is it accurate? Erik Lutz, AiG–U.S., explains.
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil”? This expression is derived from a passage of Scripture.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil… (1 Timothy 6:10)
However, the Bible includes other statements that seem to contradict this one, such as the following:
…but money answers everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
How can money be evil and yet be the answer to everything?
Before considering this supposed contradiction, we must first note what this verse does not state. Paul did not write that money is the root of all evil, or even that the love of money is the root of all evil, which would imply that greed is ultimately responsible for all evil done on the earth. Instead, we read that love of money is “a root of all kinds of evil.” In other words, people do all sorts of evil deeds because of a controlling desire for money.
Scripture never calls money inherently evil. In fact, wealth is often portrayed throughout God’s Word as a blessing from the Lord. For example, Psalm 112:3 describes the man who fears the Lord: “
Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.” This is not a promise that God will make every Christian rich. However, physical rewards in this life often accompany righteous living because God always blesses His people—sometimes in material ways. James reminded believers that all blessings are from God: “
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
Many of the biblical patriarchs were men of great physical wealth, such as Abraham, who “
was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2), and Job, “
the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Likewise, Solomon did not ask God for riches, yet the Lord blessed Him with incredible wealth. “
So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (1 Kings 10:23). Clearly, God does not despise money, as He often gives it to believers who desire Him instead of physical riches.
Moreover, there are also many statements in Scripture about the usefulness of money, such as the above example cited from Ecclesiastes. It is helpful to remember that the book of Ecclesiastes, like Proverbs, is part of a genre called wisdom literature. These books contain many wise sayings and observations about the world. Rather than making specific promises, the authors often record general principles. For example, consider the well-known words in Proverbs 22:6, “
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is not an absolute guarantee from God that children raised in a godly home will never turn away from following the Lord. Instead, Solomon concisely articulated the importance of biblical parenting—people with a solid upbringing in the Word of God are typically much more grounded in their faith.
Although wealth can be a blessing, God’s Word also gives numerous warnings about the misuse of money.Much of Ecclesiastes is based on the writer’s observations of this fallen world. In fact, he used the phrase “
under the sun” 29 times to describe situations on this earth, and five times he announced that “
all is vanity.” Thus, the writer’s observation that “money answers everything” fits perfectly within the context. Certainly, this does not mean that money is the best answer or the right solution to every problem. Similarly, Proverbs 10:15 claims, “
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty.” These are is simply wise statements about the nature of money and its uses “
under the sun.”
Although wealth can be a blessing, God’s Word also gives numerous warnings about the misuse of money. Paul strongly cautioned Timothy about the danger of loving money because “
those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9; cf. 1 Timothy 6:17).
This tension between the positive and negative aspects of money is similar to that of other issues in Scripture, such as eating (e.g., Proverbs 23:1–3). Food is not inherently evil, and it was given to us as a blessing, but it can be harmful if we love it more than God. Wealth is the same way. As Jesus said, no one can serve two masters, so “
you cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13, (ESV)).
Money is extremely alluring to our flesh because it seems to answer everything. The promise of having more always hangs before us, and many in the world give their lives chasing after the “life of luxury.” Jesus told a parable about a rich man who planned to tear down his barns only to build larger ones to store his crops and goods. Jesus spoke of this man’s foolishness since he was not “
rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21). Solomon also knew well how fleeting earthly riches are: “
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4–5).
Physical possessions cannot bring true, lasting joy—they are miniscule in comparison to the treasures of spiritual blessings God offers to those who love Him. Therefore, Christians should rightly use the money God gives us, but not love it, since it is only temporary. Consider the following words of Jesus:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)