“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
What Money-Love Means
When you first read it, it doesn’t seem that it could be true. It seems as if there are all kinds of things more evil then loving money. And on the surface it doesn’t seem that loving money could lead to all other kinds of evil. So it is important to take time to unpack the spiritual dynamics of the love of money. Let’s examine 1 Timothy 6:6–10:
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
If you read those words carefully, you begin to get a clue that the love of money is connected to things significantly bigger than money. Consider the profound connections Paul makes in this provocative little passage. The love of money is fundamentally not an overspending problem; it is a contentment problem (“Godliness with contentment is great gain”). The love of money is also an identity problem (“. . . for we brought nothing into this world”). The love of money is a fallen world problem (“. . . fall into temptation”). And the love of money is a worship problem (“But those who desire to be rich . . .”). The root system of the love of money runs deeper and wider through the soil of the human heart than we tend to think.
What Lies Beneath the Love
Paul begins his discussion with contentment because the roots of our problem with money are found there. Discontentment is the soil in which the love of money grows. I don’t think that we value-rate discontentment properly. Discontentment seems like an inconsequential sin. For most of us, it means little more than wishing we had more, and the only negative aspect of our complaining is that we won’t be the life of the party. But the discontented person lacks something more fundamental and life-shaping than happiness; the discontented person lacks humility. He really does think of himself more highly than he ought to think. He really is convinced that he deserves what he doesn’t actually deserve. He lives as though he is entitled to things to which he’s not entitled, and because he feels entitled, he thinks it’s his right to demand them. He can’t handle the guy next to him having what he has been unable to acquire, and his discontentment will ultimately bring him to question the goodness of God. Discontentment is very significant.
The lack of humility that fuels discontentment is about more than being a bit full of ourselves and bragging too much; it’s about a heart that has been captured by self-glory. Its life has turned inward, when we have been created to live an upward (love for God) and an outward (love for neighbor) life. It really is making it all about us. It is a lifestyle shaped by the unholy self-love trinity: my wants, my needs, and my feelings. It is about making my personal definition of happiness the most important ethical commitment of my life. It means that my every day is spent in the pursuit of my pleasure, my comfort, and my ease. It is me in the center of my world. It is “I love me, and I have a wonderful plan for my life.”