Summary: Like so many things in life, money is not inherently bad, but our perspective on money can cause lots of problems.
We’re now right in the middle of this series, “Bible or Not,” where we are exploring these phrases that are often used, and are also often considered to be Biblical, but which are not actually found in the Bible. These “Christianese” phrases we are exploring in this series may contain some truth about our faith, but they may also give a false picture of God, and can sometimes be more hurtful than helpful. We’ve talked about the fact that none of the phrases we are exploring in this series are actually in the Bible, though this week is somewhat of an exception.
This phrase, “money is the root of all evil,” is one that is often used by both Christians and non-Christians alike. And this phrase actually is in the Bible. You heard it just a few moments ago in the tenth verse of this sixth chapter from Paul’s letter to Timothy. The problem is, that’s only part of the sentence. Listen again to what the Bible actually says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Obviously, not much difference between what the Bible says and what we humans often say, but it turns out that those three little words, “the love of,” makes all the difference.
There’s a fantastic short story by Leo Tolstoy called, “How Much Land Does a Man Need.” You may be familiar with this story, or maybe you have read it, but let me try and summarize the story for you. There is a woman who has an estate with a lot of acreage that she has decided to sell. And many of the peasants who have worked the land on this estate decide that they want to approach the woman about dividing up the land and selling it to the peasants in smaller pieces which they can afford. The woman agrees to the plan and begins selling off pieces of her estate. One of the peasants, Pahom, culled together all his resources and struck a deal with the woman to buy 40 acres of her estate. But over time, Pahom became frustrated with the arrangement. He wasn’t satisfied with his yield of wheat because he had to let some of the land lie fallow each year. Then, some of the other peasants allowed their animals to graze on Pahom’s land, and so on. So when Pahom heard from a traveler of another place where land was plentiful and cheap, he decided to move his family, and he bought 125 acres of land in this town. Well, time moved on, and again Pahom became dissatisfied with his situation. The land wasn’t enough; he felt he could do so much more if he had a larger tract. Pahom was just about ready to buy thirteen hundred more acres when a traveler came through town and told Pahom about a place where he could buy 13,000 acres for the same price.
As you can imagine, Pahom jumped right on that opportunity. He traveled to this place to learn more. He met with the people who owned the land and they told him a day’s worth of land would be 1,000 rubbles. Pahom didn’t understand what they were saying, so they explained that if he would pay them 1,000 rubles, he could have as much land as he could walk out in a day. The only caveat was that he must return to the place he started before the sun set. Pahom figured he could probably walk about 35 miles from sun-up to sun-down, so he felt like he could mark out an impressive tract of land in a day’s time. The next morning as dawn broke, Pahom and the people headed out. Pahom laid his hat on the ground along with his 1,000 rubles to mark the starting point, and when the sun peaked above the horizon, he set out. He walked about six miles, marking the first boundary as he went, then he turned left and again walked about six miles along a second boundary line. But then Pahom saw a promising piece of land a little further ahead and decided he needed that as well, so he continued on a little ways before making another left to begin the third boundary of his tract. By now, afternoon was quickly giving way to evening, and the heat was draining Pahom. After a relatively short distance, Pahom decided he had to get back to the starting point or he would not make it, so he set himself on a direct line back to his hat and the waiting people. His walk turned to a jog, and then a run in an all-out effort to make it back before sun set. Exhausted, Pahom reached out and grabbed his hat just as the sun dipped below the horizon. But as the people bent to congratulate him, they saw he was dead. The story ends this way; “His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”