The Most Misquoted Bible Verse Ever
Among a few thousand other cliches is the ubiquitous claim that “money is the root of all evil” which, unlike most cliches, also claims the authority of being found in the Bible. But fortunately for a lot of well-to-do evangelists, it isn't true. What the King James Version of 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says is that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (emphasis added).
That makes a lot more sense to me. Money isn't like, say, pornography, which is only evil. It's more like the Internet, which is only as good or evil as the person using it to disseminate content. Money may not be the purpose of life, but it's a necessary part for most of us, because the best things in life are free only if you don't count food, clothes, shelter, medical care, etcetera as being among them. Money is also necessary for charity, humanitarian aid, lifesaving research, and building houses of worship. So it isn't money per se that leads to evil; it's the attitude and purposes for which people use it.
More to the point, other translations render this verse as “all kinds of evil”, which lends additional clarity. Even a love of money isn't the root of all evil. Genocide and rape, for instance, are generally motivated by other factors. Yet all kinds of evil certainly do stem from greed. When people disregard their families, or their colleagues, or the environment, or what have you in their quest for wealth, they become arrogant and selfish at best, and thieves or murderers at worst. I'm an unabashed capitalist, but economics shouldn't be the focus of anyone's life.
Of course – and I apologize for getting political here, but I feel this illustration transcends partisanship – it doesn't just apply to big bad rich people or corporations. Remember the American “Occupy” movement? The Occupiers (or at least, those few of them who actually knew what they were protesting about) had some legitimate gripes, and a constitutional right to express themselves in any case. But what it boiled down to, in my opinion, was that most of them were jealous of those who had more money than them. They coveted it and felt entitled to a share, even if they were already blessed enough to own iPhones while millions of people in the world can't even get enough to eat.
We certainly saw all kinds of evil stem from their movement – assaults, rape, theft, destruction of property, anti-Americanism. And if cleanliness is next to godliness, then they were somewhere on the opposite side of the spectrum. (That's not actually in the Bible, though. I bring it up as a joke. Ha ha.)
But, taking the verse as it currently reads in the King James Version, I still get something out of it even if it isn't translated quite the way Paul intended it. “Money”, in this instance, can be taken as a metaphor for things of the world, non-spiritual things. “Money” can represent power, or sex, or any other form of self-gratification that takes priority over the well-being of others. Any of these things can be inserted into the verse and make sense in light of the next one: “But thou,oh man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”
Is there anything wrong with having money? No, it's more or less necessary to survive in most parts of the world. Is there anything wrong with having a lot of money? No, it's not a sin to be successful, although God will hold you accountable for what you do with it (which I think is the idea behind Matthew 19:24; “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”). Money in the hands of a righteous, godly, faithful, loving, patient, and meek person is bound to be money well used. It's not at the root of any evil.
Oh, except for the portion of it that the person renders unto Caesar, who sometimes uses it to fund immoral organizations or unjust laws. But that's Caesar's problem.