A Root of All Kinds of Evil
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 
We’ve all heard the saying, “Money is the root of all evil.” However, there is a major error in this admittedly common quote. The Apostle actually cautioned Christians, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” You shouldn’t imagine that Paul was creating a proverb when he wrote this; the proverb was well-known as is attested in both Jewish and Greek writings.
The noun translated “love of money” is what scholars refer to as a hapax legomenon—this is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament. It is, however, related to the adjective translated “lovers of money” in 2 TIMOTHY 3:2. The noun is a compound word that unites “love” (phílos) and “money” (argúrion).
Let’s do a little bit of grammatical work to discover something about what the Apostle is saying. Paul uses a definite article, indicating that he is focused on one concept. It is “the love of money” that is in view, and not a generalised idea. The definite article combined with the present tense verb indicates that this is a continual problem. In other words, “the love of money” is not a minor problem; it is an ongoing struggle that has plagued mankind and that continues to plague mankind to this day. Christians will not occasionally face this problem; they will grapple with this challenge until they stand perfected in the presence of the Master.
There is another syntactical matter to consider. The word “root” is used metaphorically in this sentence, but the question arises whether it should be understood to be definitive or generally. In other words, is “the love of money” “the root of all kinds of evil,” or is it “a root of all kinds of evil?” Several translations understand this to be used in the definitive sense.  Other translations, especially more recent, understand that Paul is using the term in a more general sense.  There is no definite article in the sentence. However, the word “root” is placed at the head of the sentence for emphasis.
What we must not do is conclude that “the love of money” is the only root of “all kinds of evil.” The love of money is one root among many roots of evil. It seems best to understand that the Apostle is saying that this love leads to numerous evils. The fundamental nature of greed leads to trouble—there are far-reaching ramifications whenever we indulge greed. Many illicit desires are awakened through the determined pursuit of riches. Many and unimaginable griefs arise from covetousness; and the Apostle seeks to turn us from such wickedness.
Understand that covetousness can lead to wandering away from the Faith. Such an action leads to destruction of the life of a Christian. This is evident from Paul’s assertion in the preceding verse: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” [1 TIMOTHY 6:9]. Now, in the present verse, he adds the warning that some, wandering away from the Faith, “have … pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Eugene Peterson has performed yeoman service for Christians in translating these verses. “If it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”  Longing for money, living for money, pursuing money leads many of God’s people into destruction. Lives left wasted, barren and devastated is the legacy of pursuing the acquisition of wealth.
I propose that we explore this subject in detail. My reason for doing this is to warn the people of God against being seduced by the allure of wealth. Too many Christians with whom I’ve laboured throughout the years of my service before the Lord have stumbled into spiritual ruin through seduction by wealth. I grieve for their loss to the Kingdom. I grieve the wasted and blasted lives. I grieve for the dishonour to our King.
A DELIGHTFUL SERVANT — Money is neutral; it is a medium of exchange. Money represents skill, labour, ability or even fortune and blessing. Money is not a curse; the absence of all wealth is a curse. Perhaps you’ve heard the saw, “Money isn’t everything?” Undoubtedly, you’ve also heard the ready rejoinder, “Yeah, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place!”
Truthfully, money isn’t everything. It is, however, a necessity; and money can be a great blessing to the work of God. Make no mistake; money can richly bless the cause of Christ.
•Money can advance the message of life.
•Money will underwrite missionaries and evangelists to tell others of Christ the Lord.
•Money permits broadcast of the Gospel through radio, television and the printed page.
•With money we can relieve the need of fellow saints who are destitute.
•Our wealth can defend the fatherless and bless the widow.
•Money permits us to feed the hungry and to provide clean water to villages in need.
•With money we can clothe the naked.
•Our moneys permit us to give comfort and solace to the injured and the sick.
•Money provides physicians and nurses to tend to those in needy areas of our world.
•Money purchases Bibles for those who might not otherwise know of Christ the Lord.
•Our wealth can produce audio Bibles for those who are no longer able to read.
Wealth is not condemned in Scripture, though covetousness is clearly censured. God does not bless all His children with money. Candidly, many would be destroyed by wealth—they would not be trustworthy with wealth. As with so many aspects of this present world, wealth is destructive. The Master cautioned His disciples against depending on wealth.
Job was a wealthy man; his wealth is recounted in the first verse of the book bearing his name. The Accuser charges God with protecting Job, blessing the work of his hands and all that he has. Thus, Satan said correctly that “his possessions have increased in the land” [JOB 1:2, 10]. After suffering the loss of everything—everything!—God restores all that Job had. We read, “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
“And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys” [JOB 42:10-12]. Note that the LORD blessed Job. His wealth was stated to be the direct result of divine blessing.
When the Psalmist speaks of God blessing Israel, he speaks of the LORD restoring the fortunes of His people.
“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”
This divine restoration of the fortunes of His people is a theme running throughout the Old Testament. 
Moses reminded Israel that the Lord God Himself would bless them. “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear” [DEUTERONOMY 6:10-13].
God was the One giving Israel good things. So long as Israel obeyed the LORD, they would prosper. This was His divine promise. “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” [DEUTERONOMY 28:11, 12].
One of my favourite Psalms is the 103rd. Listen to an early portion of that Psalm.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Focus on the fifth verse. God satisfies His people with “good things” (see NET Bible). It is a statement akin to the Word of the Lord through Jeremiah that God had brought His people into “a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things” [JEREMIAH 2:7]. God fills the hungry soul with good things [see PSALM 107:9].
Permit me to point to another Psalm that speaks of God’s blessing through wealth.
“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”
Unquestionably, the Psalmist speaks of the man who fears the Lord, the man who greatly delights in God’s commandments, as enjoying wealth and riches. God is pledged to be generous to the man who honours Him. Listen to Solomon on this matter.
“Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
[PROVERBS 3:9, 10]
The Wise Man speaks of wealth as one of the blessings that accompanies the one who finds wisdom.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.”
Again, wisdom personified promises,
“Riches and honor are with me,
enduring wealth and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
and my yield than choice silver.”
[PROVERBS 8:18, 19]
I would not wish anyone to become so spiritual that they dismiss God’s goodness in blessing His people with good things. Clearly, when Solomon speaks of “riches and honour” being associated with wisdom, when he speaks of “enduring wealth,” no one should attempt to spiritualise this saying to the point that it becomes meaningless; clearly, what we would recognise as wealth is in view.
However, if all we see is the fiscal aspects of what is said, we are truly impoverished. There is physical wealth in view, but wealth accumulated through exercise of wisdom permits a measure of permanence. The emphasis is not on the wealth; the emphasis is on the ability to accumulate wealth and to use it wisely. The concept is an application of this particular proverb.
“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
Listen again to the Wise Man encouraging steady accumulation of goods. Wisdom will avoid squandering, looking toward necessity of the future.
“A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”
[PROVERBS 10:4, 5]
The concept of building through compounding, of accumulating rather than wasting is iterated throughout the sayings of the Wise Man. 
Though His cautionary statement flies in the face of contemporary attitudes, when Jesus sent out His disciples, He instructed them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” [MATTHEW 10:5-13].
Note, that the former pericope gave the account of Jesus sending the Twelve. Later, the band was expanded by seventy-two others who were likewise dispatched to go before the Lord. Listen to Jesus’ instruction to these. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town’” [LUKE 10:1-12].
These disciples were not to be dependent upon their own wealth; the grace of the Lord God would supply their needs. This was the methodology of Jesus. How different from what we experience today! However, even then things were changing. As Jesus prepared His disciples for His exodus, He issued a series of instructions. Among the matters Jesus addressed were these related to moneys. “‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’ He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” For what is written about me has its fulfillment’” [LUKE 22:35-37].
The disciples had been protected and even favoured by the populace through Jesus’ popularity. However, He cautions them that this is about to change. From this point forward, they must be prepared to be rebuffed, to be resented and even to be persecuted. Now, the warning given earlier must be heeded. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’” [JOHN 15:18-25].
Let’s put all this information together. Sometimes, God gives wealth as a blessing. However, the Apostles and disciples were at first protected by Jesus’ popularity. With his death, a transition was taking place. Though God could still bless with wealth those whom He sends out, He anticipates that they will provide for their work and for their protection in this dispensation. They must henceforth be partners with Him in advancing His great work.
A DESTRUCTIVE MASTER — “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Reviewing the passages that speak of the blessings of wealth, there has been a disquieting undertone. Throughout the various verses cited were statements that speak of destruction and loss, of injury and hurt that arise from possessions. They point to the danger of wealth that is so blatantly presented in the text before us today.
Think of some of the statements warning against greed, warning us to avoid the love of money. For instance, the Word of God warns that money is addictive. Listen to the Koheleth—the Preacher—on this matter. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” [ECCLESIASTES 5:10-12].
Again, the believer in the Lord God is cautioned that we must not be in awe of those possessing wealth—they will leave it all behind. Perhaps pastors should take note of this point and apply it when appointing individuals to church office. However, each of us is plagued by being in awe of the wealthy, which we consider powerful. Listen to the Psalmist.
“Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?”
“For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
“Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”
[PSALM 49:5, 6, 10, 16-20]
The Psalm is not unlike another that teaches the same truth.
“Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.”
[PSALM 62:9, 10]
We would do well to meditate on some of the sayings of the Wise Man. For instance,
“A faithful man will abound with blessings,
but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”
Writing a Psalm during the days when Saul was pursuing him, David made a chilling observation—at least it is chilling if your focus is wealth.
“God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
‘See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!’”
While I have appealed to the Old Testament for many of the cautionary statements to this point, no one should imagine that the New Covenant is lacking in warnings against the destructive power of wealth. Perhaps you will remember a cautionary statement Jesus made on one occasion and the parable He told to illustrate the danger of wealth. “‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” [LUKE 12:15-21].
The warnings of the Word are provided both through the exhortations, such as those cited, but also through accounts that warn of the consequences of greed. One need think of Achan, who coveted some of the goods of conquered Canaanites. This is his confession. “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath” [JOSHUA 7:20, 21].
Judas stands eternally as a dark example of greed. Here are two passages of the Word that exposes this twisted, wicked soul. “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” [MATTHEW 26:14-16].
Here is another dark account that exposes his greed. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, had just anointed Jesus’ feet. It was an extravagant demonstration of her love for the Master; she sought to honour Him. However, Judas, and possibly all the disciples, took exception to this act of worship [see MATTHEW 26:6-11]. “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” [JOHN 12:4-6].
Let me cite but one other example of a couple consumed by covetousness. “A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.’ When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
“After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out.’ Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband” [ACTS 5:1-10].
We have seen how money contaminates the mind; we must ask what impact such action has on the faithful. What sort of evils result from the love of money? Avarice leads to ingratitude, stinginess, dishonesty, fraud, perjury and theft. The greedy individual is an envious individual, and envy leads to quarrelling, bitterness and malice [see ROMANS 1:18-32]. Arising from these despicable character traits will be found violence and even murder, just as James says [see JAMES 4:1-4]. Greed, the inordinate desires to have, lies behind marriages of convenience, perversions of justice, drug abuse, pornography, blackmail, exploitation of the vulnerable, neglect of that which is worthy and good and even betrayal of friendships.  When we permit ourselves to reflect on Paul’s affirmation that the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” we will quickly convince ourselves that this is a dangerous condition for anyone.
The Apostle lists two serious evils resulting from the love of money in the life of the believer. First, he cites this craving as the reason that “some have wandered away from the faith.” Their lives are destroyed, as he stated in the previous verse. Now he says they have ceased embracing the Faith. Remember, it was the Pharisees’ love of money that kept them from the Faith [see LUKE 16:14]. Moreover, one of the glaring characteristics in the last days will be that people are marked as “lovers of money” [see 2 TIMOTHY 3:2]. In no small measure this accounts for the expectation that elders will not be “lover[s] of money” [1 TIMOTHY 3:3]. Christians must always bear in mind that one “cannot serve God and money” [MATTHEW 6:24].
The second grievous evil resulting from the love of money is that some will have “pierced themselves with many pangs.” The construction of Paul’s statement leads us to understand that the moment one surrenders to the dreadful craving, they impale themselves. The pain in view is self-inflicted; the avaricious individual drives a stake through her own heart! The word describes an intense, deeply felt pain.  This pain describes what a rich man experienced who died and went to Hades. Jesus has him pleading, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame” [LUKE 16:24]. Abraham responds soberly, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish” [LUKE 16:25].
Greed, the pursuit of wealth, has become the preoccupation of contemporary people. Christians are not immune to the pressure to acquire things. Therefore, we need to be confronted and warned of the consequences of acting as the world acts. We need an antidote; and before we arrived at this point, the Apostle provided that antidote. Paul has stated for our benefit, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” [1 TIMOTHY 6:6-8]. God is pointing us to what is righteous and good—godliness with contentment.
We must practise replacement therapy, eschewing the acquisition of things through striving for contentment with what we have. Contenting ourselves with Christ rather than pursuing a will-‘o-the-wisp. We cannot content ourselves with the Master if we are ignorant of His will. This means spending time in His presence—reading His Word, listening for His voice and spending time in prayer. We must turn from always asking for more things and begin to seek His glory. Then, and only then, do we have the possibility of fulfilling the will of the Master.
This means that those who are outside this Holy Faith have no ability to know God. They are under sentence of death because they have failed to receive His offer of life in the Beloved Son. However, that offer is extended to all at this time. We cannot be content with the Master if we are ignorant of Him. Christ Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice because of our sin. He was crucified and buried; but He conquered death and was raised from the tomb on the third day. He was seen by those to whom He presented Himself for forty days, before He ascended into Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Now, the Word of God calls all who are willing to hear, “If you agree with God that ‘Jesus is Master,’ believing with your very being that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be set free. It is through faith that you are made right with the Father and through agreement with God that you are set free.” That freedom is promised since ancient days, just as the Prophet Joel has said, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be set free.” Our prayer is that you have that life which is promised through Christ the Lord; it is offered when you received Him as Master over life. Amen.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 E.g., KJV, NKJV, NET, NLT and RSV
 E.g., ESV, NASB, NIV and NRSV
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO 2005)
 E.g., see PSALM 85:1; 126:1; JEREMIAH 30:18; EZEKIEL 16:53; 39:25; HOSEA 6:11; JOEL 3:1
 See PROVERBS 10:2; 20:21; 21:6; 28:20, 22
 Adapted from a list by John R. W. Stott, Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, The Bible Speaks (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 1996) 153
 William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46 (Word, Dallas, TX 2000) 348