Summary: The ABCs of a Biblical understanding of money.
We’re in the middle of a series entitled, “No, that’s NOT in the Bible!” There are many clever witticisms people quote as coming from the Bible–and they aren’t found in the Bible. Next week we’ll be looking at perhaps the most popular Bible misquote: “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s NOT in the Bible. In two weeks we’ll look at another big misquote: “God will never put more on you than you can bear.”
We’ve probably all played the game, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Let’s play that for a minute, but you know a million bucks isn’t what it used to be, so let’s play. “What would you do with ten million dollars?” Turn to the person next to you and tell them what you would do if suddenly you won $10 million–go ahead.
Did I heard someone say, “I’d put it on my Visa bill–as far as it would go?” Who said, “I’d pay off all my bills?” Who said, “I’d invest it?” Did anybody say, “I’d give a million to God?” Money has a way of changing people.
Does the Bible say, “Money is the root of all evil?” No, that’s NOT in the Bible. Let’s see what the Bible does say about that topic. I Timothy 6:6-10, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
As this passage says, we all know people who have wandered from the faith because of their love for money. They once loved God, but now gold is their god and greed is their creed. There are over 500 verses in the Bible that speak to money, possessions, and greed. In order to make it simple, let’s look at the ABCs of a biblical understanding of money.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MONEY ISN’T EVIL
Money isn’t evil by itself–it’s merely a means to exchange value. For generations the only kind of commerce was bartering. People traded one valuable possession for another. Later when governments got into the commerce business, they minted coins to represent value. The most valuable coins were made of gold and silver which became valuable in themselves. Originally, banks were places where people could store their valuable commodities. When they wanted to withdraw something of value they wrote an order to the bank to release some of their valuables in exchange for goods or services. These written orders were like “promissory notes” which became the forerunner to paper currency and checks today.
Today, the value of paper currency is based upon the ability of a government’s treasury to guarantee that value. For instance, a dollar bill is just a piece of paper, but it has the signature of the U.S. Treasurer on it, which guarantees the value of that piece of paper–when governments collapse, the value of their currency declines. Moody Adams, who recently returned from Baghdad, gave me a 500 dinar bill he obtained in Iraq. It has Saddam Hussein’s picture on it–but today it is almost worthless. To understand money, remember two things:
1. Money is simply a tool
It can be used as a tool for good, or a tool for bad. The New Testament scholar William Barclay wrote about money: Money in itself is neither good nor bad; it is simply dangerous in that the love of it may become bad. With money a person can do much good; and with money he can do much evil. With money a person can selfishly serve his own desires; and with money he can generously answer to the cry of his neighbor’s need.”
Money is like a shovel. A shovel is a useful tool in your garden. You can use a shovel to dig a hole to plant a tree, or you can use a shovel to hit somebody over the head. It is how you use a shovel that determines its goodness. The same is true with money. Try substituting the word “shovel” for money in some of the statements we use. She married him for his shovel. Time is shovels! The love of shovels is the root of all evil. Foolish, huh?
2. The consuming love for money is a bad root
Before Paul wrote these words, there was already a similar proverb floating around the Greek world. The Greek philosopher Bion, who lived circa 100 B.C. wrote, “The love of money is the center (metropolis) of all evil.” Paul changed it say the love of money is the “root” (Greek: rizon) of all kinds of evil. The three words “love of money” in English is one word in the original Greek: “philarguros” which literally means “fondness for silver.” Although the King James Version calls it “the root of all evil” a better translation is “a root of all kinds of evil.” The New King James Version adopts this better translation. The love of money is bad–but it is not the only, nor the worst evil in the world. It’s not the only root of evil–it’s just one of them.