Sunday, 1 March 2015

Love of money

Paul's first letter to Timothy gives us an example of Scripture which some people under-read and some over-read; though both represent a misreading of the text due, in part, to not paying enough attention. Paul writes,
For the love of money is a root of all evils. (1 Timothy 6)
It is not uncommon to hear that money is the root of all evil. While having money is associated with temptations that are less common for the poor, the misquote places the source of the evil in the an amoral object, or rather the possessor of the object. It implies that having money is reflective of an evil heart.

When read right, that the love of money is a source of evils, we avoid this error. By seeing that covetousness is the problem we see that the desire to obtain money causes a great many evils, and it can be a temptation to all men, not just the wealthy.

Somewhat less common is the idea that every specific evil in the world has as its root, the love of money. Some modern translations translate this the passage as,
the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
While a true statement and in line with what I am arguing, it is not warranted in a literal translation.

We can see that not every evil has its source in the love of money. Consider the sin of Adam and Eve. This passage should be read proverbially. The context concerns false teachers, the necessity of contentment, and those who long to be rich.
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. For the love of money is a root of all evils.
Paul's phrase does not require one to think that every evil ever seen is motivated by money, it merely is a proverbial type statement directed at people who want to be rich: showing them that this desire will lead them into many evils.

Paying close attention to both what exactly the passage does say (love of money) and the genre and context (people longing to be rich) helps the reader understand what Paul is saying here. Covetousness, especially coveting money, will lead men into all manner of wickedness.

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