Can we clear something up? “Money is the root of all evil,” is not an ancient proverb. It isn’t an old saying. It is just a bad paraphrase of what “Paul” actually said to “Timothy” toward the tale end of his “first letter.” The actual saying that people are trying to recall when they ignorantly say “money is the root of all evil” is “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Yet, that isn’t even the whole sentence. We’ll get to that in a minute, let’s look at this piece of text a little more closely.
Philarguria – the Greek word translated “love of money.” Prior to looking this up, I assumed it was two words, but there it is, a single word that means “a greedy disposition love of money, avarice, covetousness.” It is a pseudo-hapaxlegomenon, appearing in the Canon only here in 1 Tim 6.10. It also shows up in the Apocryphal book 4th Maccabees in a section that sounds like it could have been written by an Enlightenment philosopher or perhaps even Richard Dawkins, subtitled in BibleWorks as “The Supremacy of Reason”, “In the soul it is boastfulness, covetousness, thirst for honor, rivalry, and malice;…” It obviously has roots in philos, which is one of the four Greek words that gets translated as “love” in English Bibles.
Rhiza – the Greek word translated as “root,” which has deeper connotations as it also can mean shoot or offspring. The love of money is a basis of and chief provider for
and here’s where my Greek transliteration gets fuzzy
Panaton ton kakon – the Greek phrase (very loosely transliterated) that is translated as “all kinds of evil,” but is more literally “all the evils.” An internet meme waiting to happen.
The Young’s Literal Translation captures it best, “a root of all the evils is the love of money…”
It is a pithy saying and one that is easily repeated and often misquoted, but the deeper question that goes unaddressed in remembering only half of 1 Timothy 6.10, is “why?” Why is the love of money a root for all the evils? The answer is “in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” As I said in last week’s sermon, the pursuit of wealth is quite possibly the single strongest opponent to faith in God. It distracts us from the work of the kingdom, which, more often than not, invites us to give our stuff away, to share it with our brothers and sister, and, most assuredly, calls us to care for the poor, outcast, widowed, and orphaned.
Money isn’t the root of all evil. The love of money takes our attention away from God’s dream and focuses it squarely on ourselves. As Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame (and my doppleganger) is prone to say, “Well, there’s your problem.”