Is Money the Root of All Evil?

Biblically literate readers may be thinking to themselves “no, money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil, just as the Bible says.” I want to challenge the notion that the Bible says any such thing. Let’s look at the relevant passage from St. Paul:

“For 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.”
~King James Version, 1 Timothy 6:10

That sounds pretty definitive, but there are a number of reasons to call this into question. First of all, no Christian theology teaches that the love of money is the root of original sin, or is the root of the angelic fall, or even is the root of all sin in the world (for even before the invention of money, evil existed, and even if we abolished money and abolished the love of money, sin would persist). Part of the problem here is the KJV translation, which has been the cause of the expression among English-speaking Christians. Here is a better translation from the New Revised Standard Version:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
~NRSV 1 Timothy 6:10

In fact, in context, this verse is referring to the aforementioned evils into which people fall in their pursuit of great wealth (namely: “envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain“). Thus, Adam Clarke writes:

Perhaps it would be better to translate παντων των κακων, of all these evils; i.e. the evils enumerated above; for it cannot be true that the love of money is the root of all evil, it certainly was not the root whence the transgression of Adam sprang, but it is the root whence all the evils mentioned in the preceding verse spring. This text has been often very incautiously quoted; for how often do we hear, “The Scripture says, Money is the root of all evil!” No, the Scripture says no such thing. Money is the root of no evil, nor is it an evil of any kind; but the love of it is the root of all the evils mentioned here.

As the Scripture says in the same place:

“for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it” 1 Timothy 6:7

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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5 Responses to Is Money the Root of All Evil?

  1. Grundy says:

    What of Matthew 19:24?
    “And again I say unto you, 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.”

    • That passage implies the very same, that love of money is the root of many evils, but it cannot be read to imply that money is the root of ‘all’ evil(s).

      (Welcome back :P)

      • Grundy says:

        Does that mean the inverse is true? That poverty is a moral quality?

      • Perhaps voluntary poverty, but involuntary poverty seems to me to be an injustice crying out for rectification, rather than an indication of moral virtue. If involuntary poverty were morally admirable and desirable then that would undercut our intuitive sense of outrage at the unjust inequality which poverty ostensibly represents. If involuntary poverty purchased moral goods then one might think it ‘fair exchange’ and think there is no situation of injustice. I think this is wrong.

  2. Grundy says:

    I agree, I was thinking about voluntary poverty.

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