1 Timothy 6:6-10 – Money and the Root of All Evil

Paul stands in the tradition of Judaism in warning about the folly of relying on riches. Godliness itself can be of great gain (the same word is repeated), but only if it is combined with contentment (αὐτάρκεια). The book of Ecclesiastes warns against relying on one’s wealth in this world.

Having sufficient blessings from God is found also in Psalms of Solomon 5:18-20. Having too much wealth can cause a person to sin

Psalms of Solomon 5:18–20 (LES)  Blessed is he whom God remembers in due proportion to sufficiency; 19 if the person abounds too much, he sins. 20 Moderation in righteousness is sufficient, and in this is the blessing of the Lord for satisfaction in righteousness.

Moderation and self-sufficiency was also a virtue among philosophers, the Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans. Describing the views of Epicurus, for example, Diogenes Laertius says:

 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 10.130-131 Again, we regard independence of outward things (αὐτάρκεια) as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when once the pain of want has been removed, [131] while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one’s self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.

Paul says that having food and shelter (σκέπασμα can refer to clothing or a house) we will be content.  This is not far from Phil 4:10-13, where Paul says that he has know what it is to have much, or very little.  The secret to contentment (αὐτάρκης, same root as the word in 1 Tim 6:6) is the realization that he can do all things through Christ.

But Paul is not teaching self-sufficiency like a Stoic or a Cynic, rather he is consistent with Philippians 4:10-13, he emphasizing “Christ-sufficiency.”  If your motivation is money, then you are in danger.  If your motivation is being “in Christ,” then personal gain is not relevant.

Grubbing for MoneyThe real problem with wealth is that the desire for wealth is a snare. Notice that it is the person who desires to be rich that will fall into temptation. As with the proverb which follows, wealth itself is not condemned, but the desire is a snare.  The second word Paul uses here (παγίς) is a trap used to catch animals, the same word which he used in 3:7 to describe the “snares of the devil.” This is perhaps another hint that Paul is dealing with leaders appointed too soon (Cf. 2 Tim 2:26).

Wealth tempts people into senseless and harmful desires.  Senseless (ἀνόητος) is a softer translation, the word means dull-witted or unintelligent.  It is sometimes translated as “fool” (Gal 3:1; Prov 17:28; 1 Clement 21:5; 4 Macc 8:17).  But these desired are not merely foolish, they are harmful (βλαβερός). Someone might do something foolish that does no harm, to rely on wealth will lead to some sort of disaster.

The ultimate end of the person that desires great wealth is to sink into ruin and destruction.  Paul uses the rather picturesque metaphor of sinking (βυθίζω). The word was used to describe the utter ruin of Sparta (Philostrat., Vi. Apoll. 4, 32). Destruction (ὄλεθρος) is used by Paul in 2 Thess 1:9 “eternal death” (Cf. T.Reuben 6:3, the destruction of Beliar;” “Destruction brought about by Satan” IEph 13:1).

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. While this saying sounds like a proverb and is common in contemporary culture, there is no real source for the line.  There is no exact form of this saying in the Hebrew Bible or in Greco-Roman philosophy.   The Hebrew Bible warns that desire for wealth corrupts (Exod 23:8, Deut 16:19). This is another hint that the opponents are elders or deacons in Paul’s churches, since in 3:3 he said that the elder is not to be a “lover of money.” (Luke 16:14, Pharisees are called “lovers of money.”)

Paul’s concern is not that Christians have wealth, but that Christians are motivated to serve in order to enrich themselves.  It is the use of godliness, religion, “the Faith” to become rich that is the problem.  He does not appear to be condemning wealth, but the love of wealth.

Paul concludes by saying that some of those who have “wandered away from the faith” did so because they craved wealth.  Rather than gaining wealth, the opponents in Ephesus have destroyed themselves. The opponents have “pierced themselves” (περιπείρω), a rather violent metaphor, the word is usually used in military contexts, they impale themselves!

It is easy to read this passage and think about “someone else.” You may not really consider yourself “wealthy.” In America, from the perspective of history, we are the most wealthy, prosperous people who have ever lived!  The American church over all is wealthy and most Americans are the 99%, from a global perspective.

To what extent does the American church “use religion as a means to gain wealth?”

6 thoughts on “1 Timothy 6:6-10 – Money and the Root of All Evil

  1. This passage in 1 Timothy is definitely a notable one that I have heard repeated various time sin the past. I think that this verse is especially brought up frequently in our culture because of the fact that many of us Americans are wealthy, and our society is so focused on obtaining wealth, and having a “perfect life”. So many advertisements and things are all revolved around money, and social status among peers is sometimes seen as determined by how much wealth someone has. I think even in some churches to an extent in the United States are guilty of this as well. While it important to have adequate space and resources in the church for the people, I think some churches use their money from people to improve their appearance and the look of the church so others see it and think higher of them. They are trying to impress people/other congregations, and maybe show how well they are doing. There have also been some scandals/instances where leaders of churches have been found taking and using money from the church for things for luxury, when the money should be used for other things to glorify God. It is easy for money to corrupt people, and when money becomes the center of peoples lives, it becomes their god.

  2. A great passage to look up when dealing with the problem of money is Matt. 6:24 and its parallel Luke 16:13, which summarized says you cannot serve two masters, the two masters being God and money. These verses go into more detail by saying that we will either be devoted to one and despise the other, or we will hate the one and love the other. I love shopping and buying new stuff. I love to receive gifts and to collect a host of material possessions that eventually lose their worth. I know that when I get something for the first time, it is new, it is awesome, and I want to play with/use it to no end. Then, all of the sudden, tomorrow comes around, and for whatever reason, that new thing that I got yesterday is a little bit less new. I still really want to use it and do everything with it, but the value to me went down a little bit just because it is now one day old. Then tomorrow it does the same thing, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, until a week, month, or some short period of time goes by, and the thing that was so new and cool, is meaningless, gets little to no use, and all I want is the next newest thing. This vicious cycle of buying the new thing every time a new thing comes out, is a lust for material possession, but also you serving money and letting money be your God. When I think about all of the things that I currently have, and how much use each of those things get, a high majority of those things do not get used monthly. Yes, monthly. I did not even start daily or weekly, but right to monthly. I have a bunch of bins and tubs in my parent’s basement full of stuff I do not use almost ever, they just sit in my parent’s basement, collecting dust. It really makes me wonder what I could have done with all of that money if I had spent/used it for God’s Kingdom, instead of worldly possessions. In those moments of my life, I was serving money, and letting money be the root of my happiness. Though material possessions can bring happiness, it is only temporary. Joy, true joy comes from God and eternal joy can be found in Heaven.

  3. To what extent does the American church “use religion as a means to gain wealth?”

    Personally I have very different perspectives about this topic. When I used to go to the Catholic Church I remember that right when it was time for the offering the Priest would take a couple minutes to give us a lesson on how we are not using our money for Gods kingdom and how he has died for us and we can give thanks by giving him all we have. I never really liked the delivery of this message because it was like a guilt trip they took us on. I remember one time specifically when I went to church with my uncle and it was time to give the offering and he opened his wallet and took out a 100$ bill. That was all he had in his pocket and I know he needed some of it. When I was in my teen years I was a part of a church in which I helped out in several ministries within the church. A Christian church. I remember that part of the reason we left was because funds were being used differently than what was told to the congregation. The Pastor was in charge of the finances and went against the leadership team in the distribution of funds for the different ministries. In the church I am now in I have not had any experiences of misuse of funds. The pastor and person in charge of the funds are very transparent with how the money is used and how much each ministry has and how they come up with the decisions for their distribution of funds.
    All I have to say is that in this day and age, nothing is surprising to me. It is very sad that people deceive others because of money. It breaks my heart when it happens in the church because for many people it is very apparent. Instead of utilizing money for Gods plan and purpose, money is used for, in my experiences, personal gain. It drives people away from God because when I go to church I think that I am supposed to be safe and in a place where I can have time to connect with God. When situations like these happen it makes me question God, the church, and people who call themselves leaders. It is sad that the American church needs to use money to be the prettiest in hopes to gather more people. But what good does a pretty shoe box do when the shoes inside are torn and stained?

  4. We have all heard the phrase that money is the root of all evil, and many would say that this principle is Scriptural. In reality, Paul says that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). This is an important idea that Paul discusses in his letter to Timothy, as he encourages his follower to be content no matter what life looks like. Many Christians stumble as they seek after having more and having money. But Paul says that this is not the life that Christ calls us to. Paul says that we should strive towards “godliness with contentment” (1 Tim.6:6). When we seek after having more, when we have a love for money, we will never be content and fall “into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). Paul is telling us that if we seek after having money, we will continue to desire other things, and this gives an opportunity for temptation to arise. And ultimately, when we give into those temptations, we are destroyed by them. Paul says that this destruction is ultimately that men will wander from the faith, and that God will no longer be the center of their life, but rather the idol of money is their focus.

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