I’m almost certain that you have heard the popular refrain “it is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money.” This is 100% accurate. Yet, for me, it wasn’t a very helpful fact because it didn’t answer the question of what it means to love money.
You see, the vast majority of us would not consider ourselves lovers of money, and would thus easily exonerate ourselves. I suspect you fall in this majority. It is however wise to make sure. So let’s examine what it means to be a lover of money.
As the writer of the letter to Hebrews closes his letter, he offers a broad range of pointed exhortations. The one about money reads… Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” Hebrews 13:5
Note that the Amplified version commentary describes the love of money as greed. The commentary in 1 Tim 6:10 is even clearer on what the love of money is; For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows.
The Love of money is rendered as The greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically. Two things are involved here; greed and the ‘pragmatic compromises’ we are willing to make in order to get money.
You will be amazed at how much cunningness greed can produce. Once greed takes root it will come up with all kinds of cunning explanations for why we can bend the rule ever so slightly in order to fool our conscience into thinking – “oh well, this is not really an outright sin; this is just being practical.” The problem is, greed cares nothing at all about these earthly possessions that he drives people to pursue, it is in reality the disguise the devil wears to get people to worship him without realizing it.
This is why Paul the apostle says to the Colossians (3:5) greed is idolatry, and to the Ephesians (5:5) the greedy is an idolater. Indeed, just as grace is the distinguishing mark of the righteous, those who worship Satan (mammon) are consecrated with greed.
As Paul warns Timothy, those willing to compromise their ethics for financial gain are lovers of money, and they invariably “wander away from the faith.” We ought to pay close attention to the choice of words here. To wander away is to gradually drift away without realizing it. Greed is not going to try to get us to make a huge ethical compromise – mammon is too cunning for that. Remember that Satan was described as the subtlest in the garden of Eden. Instead, greed will get us to make one small seemingly inconsequential compromise after another, and before we realize it, a great chasm has opened between us and the Lord.
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
- Repent: stop deceiving yourself by describing your unethical practices as being pragmatic or practical.
- Restore: return gains you have made falsely and restore relationships you have damaged by greed.
- Renew: commit to a new personal standard of radical righteousness.