Famous Sayings: #2 — ‘Money Is the Root of All Evil’

March 20, 2016

Money is the root of all evil.

Today, I’m taking us to church. No, not really, but…Believe it or not, the saying in its current form is a misquoted Biblical verse. This means I will be talking about the verse and other pages of the Bible in order to provide some context for the words. Regardless, I think what was written holds plenty of relevance today for just about everyone.


The Biblical Verse in Question

In my research, I found that the saying was derived from I Timothy 6:10. Admittedly, I am not really an expert on the Bible, so I went to one in order to read the entire the first Epistle (Letter) from the Apostle Paul to Timothy in order to view the full context of the letter. In short, Paul was guiding one of his disciples (Timothy) and telling him about how the latter was to act as a minister.

Now, in reading the Epistle, I of course came across some verses that many of us will not agree with today. In Chapters 2 through 5, Paul shares his views on how men and women should act. In Chapter 6, Paul talks about how servants should view their masters. (No doubt, the latter has been used to justify some forms of slavery.) But, as not to stray from the point of this blog post, there is an important passage that resonates with modern-day issues.

From I Timothy 6:9-10:

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

How this later became “Money is the root of all evil” shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given to loose interpretations of the Bible and the lyrics from the song in video I just shared above. The altered version of Apostle Paul’s advice is right there in the bridge.


What This Really Means

From the context of the Bible, it’s easy to decipher the meaning. The pursuit of money will take a person off the righteous path. When someone is beholden to their money, it takes precedence and takes top priority. It’s often placed above faith, relationships with other people, and a person’s own well-being. And when someone wants even more money, they may do a number of things they wouldn’t normally do. That person will start in one place and keep pushing the line until the person is no longer recognizable and has lost much of their humanity.

And as the page on GotAnswers.org points out, Paul was advancing the teachings of Jesus, particularly in regards to money. As part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus talked about giving to the poor. He would later say that rich people would have more difficulty getting into Heaven after a young man who approached him couldn’t part with his possession to follow Jesus.

From Matthew 19:24:

And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

As mentioned from the GotQuestions.org site, the altered phrase does change the meaning. Instead of focusing on the behavior of a greedy person, there appears to be more blame placed on the money itself. Even from a secular point of view, money itself shouldn’t be blamed for corruption. It’s nothing but pieces of metal, cloth, and paper. However, so many things today require more and more money and money is still tied to most corruption.


Why the Original Iteration is Still Valuable Today

Even though the meaning was altered, it still holds value today. That’s because money and possessions have become increasingly important. Many of us thus let ourselves be ruled by the pursuit of money.  This is why other sayings, like “Money talks…” came about.

That obsession with cash and the bottom line informs how we treat others and it taints many aspects of life. It’s a tool in classism. It’s a tool for anyone who wants to discriminate on any other level. And money even affects the quality of life as it separates people from basic needs.

On a personal level, we have seen people who quickly change after they come into money. Or we see anyone who steals from others. We see people who marry due to wealth. Divorce and death often bring out the worse in people, as people will quarrel over who gets what.

The pursuit of money plays out in government and law enforcement. Police officers can be bought off to look past crimes or motivated to abuse their seizure powers. If you have ever heard about no-bid contracts, those are often tied to lobbyists or businesses that are connected to certain politicians. Lobbyists are the ones who often bribe politicians in seats in government at all levels with money, gifts, favors, and trips. A politician who has a vested interest in a company or worked for it in the past will make sure that company receives tax breaks and government money. Additionally, wars have been started over spoils and influenced by corporations who sought to profit off government contracts. In short, anyone in power can be tempted to sell out their fellow citizens to make a personal profit.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Corruption is also apparent across sports programs. And it’s often tied with increasing profits and making those at the very top richer. Just look at FIFA. Just about anything you can think of can be tainted by a monetary obsession.

I’m gonna stop here because I might go off on a tangent.

Btw, one of the candidates in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race used a riff of the above song by the O’Jays in one of his shows. We all have an idea of how he feels about money.

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4 thoughts on “Famous Sayings: #2 — ‘Money Is the Root of All Evil’

    1. Yes, money is important because so many goods and services can only be obtained with it. However, it’s greed that’s the problem. When money separates people from quality of life and education and good government, I would agree there’s a problem.

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  1. If this slogan originated in the church , as your research indicated, then I have more reason to remain distanced from the influence of organized religion in my own life. I wonder which candidate uses that O Jays song?

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