Paul did not say that money is the root of all evil.
That would be quite an indictment against the deacons in God’s Church, would it not? Each Sabbath day they would be collecting evil in order to distribute evil unto the poor parishioners. We would be urged and admonished by Paul in I Corinthians 16:2 to lay up evil in store, “as God hath prospered” us upon the first day of the week. We are to put evil in an envelope or drop it in the collection plate and give this evil to the Church.
Money is not evil, for Jesus told the fault-seeking Jews to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. He did not condemn the coin which they showed Him. He told them to use it for the purpose for which it was made. Sin is never in the creature. Not that which entereth into the mouth of man defileth him, Jesus said to those who objected when His disciples ate without first washing their hands. And Paul declares in I Timothy 4:4 that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” God gave His people gold and silver often in abundance. He made Job to be an extremely rich man and still said of him that he was an upright man that eschewed evil. He made Abraham and David and Solomon extremely rich men. And in all this He did not give them evil but manifested His grace unto them. We say “manifested His grace” because even as sin is not in the creature; so grace is not in the creature. What can be a curse to the wicked may be a blessing to the righteous. Death, which is the curse of God and punishment of His righteous wrath upon the wicked, is the blessing whereby God brings His child home to the glories of heaven. But by means of, material riches God manifested His grace to His people in the Old Testament dispensation. And even today, the beauties and wonders of the kingdom of heaven are pictured in terms of costly, precious earthly possessions. There are gates of pearl and precious stones, a street of gold and the like mentioned in Revelation 21 when the Holy City, the new Jerusalem is presented to us as coming down from heaven.
What Paul declares in I Timothy 6:10 is that “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the; faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” It is the same idea as that which Jesus presented in His sermon on the mount when He said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” There it is! Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And ye cannot love God and mammon. You will love, either one, and you will serve either one. You will never serve and love both. Money here simply represents mammon, which is riches. Loving riches—or loving money—is loving the creature apart from the Creator. It is setting one’s affections on the creature in opposition to the Creator. You either love God and use the creature in His fear and service, or you love the creature and use it to rebel against the Creator. Mammon and God are two masters with opposite goals and commands. Actually love of mammon, or of money, is love of self. The root of all evil was introduced in paradise when Satan succeeded in turning man’s love away from God to direct it at man himself. Satan is not particularly interested in getting us to love him. And the ungodly do not love Satan either. They delight in his devilish thoughts. They revel in his rebellious will. But they have no personal love for Satan. He is not a loveable character and he makes no attempt to make himself loveable. His whole interest is to get the world to rebel against God. His desire is that there be no love to God.
Take into consideration his temptation in paradise and his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. You do not find him presenting himself as the object of our love. He tries to convince that sin is good for us. He tried and succeeded in getting Eve to believe that to eat of the forbidden fruit would improve man’s lot and raise him above the plane where God had been pleased to create him. And the same was true of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. Each time the advantage to Jesus was presented. O, indeed, the last temptation did demand bowing down and worshipping Satan, but again the advantage was for Jesus that He would receive all the kingdoms of the world. And bowing down and worshipping is not the same as love. One can do that, and many have been demanded to do that, in hatred of the king or ruler before whom they must bow. The heathen bow down and worship their idols not in a love for them but in a slavish fear, lest failing to do so the gods will destroy them. It is love of God or love of self. And serving mammon or loving money is loving self.
The word—it is in the Greek one word—Paul uses does not contain the word love, as we are called upon to love God. You cannot love gold and silver as you love a person. The word used by Paul when speaking of the love of money means to have affection or liking, and when we read in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, the word is not this one of affection but rather one which has a far loftier meaning. When Jesus therefore asked Peter after the resurrection whether he loved Him, and used this word of the loftier meaning, Peter did not dare use it and used rather the word that means to have affection. Lenski says of this loftier word that it speaks of the “love of intelligence, reason and comprehension, coupled with corresponding purpose.” And the fact is that when we set our affections on gold and silver, houses and land, the treasures and pleasures of this world we do not love God but self. Lack of love to God always manifests itself in love to self. Man’s heart cannot be without love. There always is direction and purpose to all that which his heart does. And if the object of that love is not God, it will be self.
Therefore when we serve mammon we do so out of love of self. And when we have affection for money, we do so out of love of self and in hatred of God. Love seeks to serve. Love always seeks the good of the object of that love. And when we love God, we desire to serve Him and not self. Now we do not serve God in the same sense in which we serve men. The servant does work for his master which helps out that master and saves him the effort. When we serve men, we benefit them. We even enrich them by our service. That is certainly what James means when he rebukes the rich and tells them to weep and to howl for the miseries that shall come upon them. He speaks of gold and silver, of the love of money and declares that the hire of the laborers is kept back by fraud and that their cries have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. These became rich because they kept back part of the wages of the laborers; but that only shows that these laborers benefited the men who hired them. They got some good out of these laborers and kept more than they were allowed according to previous agreement or by unjust wages.
Now we never serve God in that sense that we do that which He could not do. We never enrich Him or add to His possessions. We serve Him, but we never do Him a service. When we serve, we keep His commandments and do that which is pleasing in His sight. When we serve, we use His creatures with the strength and life that He gives us and are in debt to Him for all these. After we have served, we are still unprofitable servants and have only done that which was required of us. After we have served Him, we owe Him everlasting praise and thanks for the opportunity, and He owes us absolutely nothing.
Our calling before God is to use every creature which He gives unto us in His service. And if we love God, the creature will be a means unto that end of God’s service and glory. He made us to be His royal priesthood, so that all the irrational, creation would through our minds and wills come before His face in praise and glory. The potato that grows in the field, and the beast that roams the field cannot and does not know God. They have neither ethical will nor intellect and exist oblivious to God’s existence. But man, made in the image of God, can know, and as regenerated children knows God in love. And man then reaches out to these irrational creatures, uses them and comes before God’s face with praise and thanksgiving. Man lifts them through his soul unto the Creator in the heavens. Then it is not vanity of vanity, but there is purpose. That which comes from God returns to Him through the mind and will and works of His regenerated children.
But when we love self and esteem mammon, with our affections set on money and that which it can obtain, then the creature, rather than the Creator, becomes the end. We seek the creature for the creature’s sake. We seek God’s creation for the satisfaction of our own flesh and not for His glory. Then we love money and not God. And that does not simply mean money but all that which money can buy. Then we seek the satisfaction of our own lusts and serve them. We live for the creature. The means which the Creator supplies we turn into the end which we seek.
It should not be difficult to see that then we violate the whole first table of the law. We do not love God and seek the creature as our god. Then God’s revelation of Himself in His Word means nothing to us and we make unto ourselves idols to worship and to seek. We are filled with no reverence and awe before Him and do not hold His name precious. His work of salvation and His Sabbath mean nothing to us but another day wherein to seek the pleasures of this world. The love of self and affection for the treasures of this world is the root of all the evil, in the ethical-moral sense of the word, found in the world today. Love of self is the root of the tree that brings forth all these works of hatred against God. Those who love money err from the faith, Paul declares, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows. How scarcely shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven! Gods of gold and silver turn us away from that kingdom and make us earthly minded. The delight in and love for material things so often turns us from the faith. We will violate God’s law in order to get money. We will work on the Sabbath. We will keep silent when God’s name is taken in vain, because it might cost us our job to rebuke the employer, whose favor we require for the job. We will look to men and their organizations for our bread and work, because we love money rather than God.
And look at all the evil in the world because of the love of money! What wars and fightings are not conducted because men do not love God but rather His creatures! The world is full of riot and revolt, revolution and conflict because there is a clashing of wills over money and the things which it can buy. Wills are not united in God and His glory. They are scattered and divided, so that each individual wants his share of money and hates the neighbor who stands in the way of his obtaining it. That is why Capital and Labor are at each other’s throats all the time. Capital is out to bleed labor so that it can make more money. And labor is out to strangle and tie up Capital in order to get more money—often for less work, and poorer work. We will not at this moment take sides with either Capital or Labor. That is not our point at the moment. But it cannot be denied that the love of money is the root of this evil wherein innocent families suffer, men are out of work, properties are destroyed and men lose their jobs.
James, the practical observer, applies the same thing to wars and fightings. They come because of our lusts which war in our members. And lust is love of self. It is to desire to have to satisfy the flesh. It is to seek the creature as an end for our own carnal satisfaction without any regard for God, His service and His glory. If we do not love God, we will have lust. And the world of today shows its lust so clearly as hatred against God.
The standard of living is higher in our country than ever before. But is there as much joy and real happiness? The love of money simply drives us to get more and more and more and to drive us farther and farther from God, Whom to know is everlasting life. There is more murder and theft, more violence and bloodshed today than ever before. The love of money drives men to get money at all costs. Morality must go. Decency and natural affection even must go. A world of fear is being produced, and it is not the fear of, the Lord. All you hear about is making money. Using God’s creation so that it returns to Him in praise and service is an old-fashioned idea that must be ridiculed as childish and inane.
But make no mistake about it, the love of money is also the root of all the evil men shall suffer in hell. God cannot be mocked. It may look good to run after this world, but the end is the loss of all good and torment that is indescribable. Money is a good creature and to be accepted with thanksgiving. But do not set your affections upon it. Be ready to lose it when God shows you He will take it away. And while you have it employ it in His fear. Use it for your needs and for His kingdom. The love of money is the root of all evil even unto hell’s evil. But the love of God leads to everlasting glory and true joy and happiness before His face in the new Jerusalem.