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