But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9,10)
You may have noticed that there are some phrases in popular use that have come from the Bible. If you say things like “Go the extra mile”, (Matthew 5:41), “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”, (Matthew 7:15), and “The blind leading the blind”, (Mathew 15:14) to almost anyone, they’ll know what you are talking about even if they have no Bible knowledge.
There are other phrases that people think are in Scripture, like “cleanliness is next to godliness” and “God helps those who help themselves”.
And then there are those phrases that are almost in Scripture, like “Money is the root of all evil”. You’ve perhaps heard this saying, but if you’ll see from our verses above that it’s not exactly what Paul said in writing to Timothy.
Instead, the words he used were “The love of money is the root of all evil”, and there is a big difference between this and what people think the Bible says.
Money is neither good nor evil. It is neutral. The love of money, however, is not neutral. It speaks about our priorities and as such exerts a pull on us to make it, not God, the focus of our desire.
Paul was acutely aware of this and preceded his remarks on the love of money with a warning against being “trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction”.
Now perhaps some of you are thinking, “Well this is not me. I’m a student. I don’t have a lot of money so no chance of me being consumed by the love of money, right?”
For example, what are you studying to do and why? If one of your first answers is “It will lead to a well-paying job!” then maybe you’ve already fallen into the money-trap? Or if, on your limited income, you’re not able to give any money to your local church and/or a charity, but you are able to afford fast-food, movies and even that new phone, then perhaps you too are at risk.
The story goes that a wealthy billionaire was once asked, “How much money is enough”, to which he replied, “A little bit more than what I have!”
It’s a very perceptive answer and applies to all sorts of desires: the desire for more leisure time, the desire for more friends, and the desire to be better than others at sport, academics etc. Whatever we have or attain, it’s never enough.
This is the opposite of the contentment Paul talked about in the previous verses but while we all want contentment, these desires for more are powerful. You won’t defeat them simply by trying to suppress them.
The only way you’ll control these desires is to experience a greater desire for something else. When we desire something more than money then it no longer has the same lure.
When in my twenties I sensed a call to train for ministry I left a full-time well-paying job, sold my house so that I could pay back my mortgage, and served in a church as an unpaid intern while working for two days a week to earn just enough to pay the bills.
I take no credit for any of that. What happened was that God did a work in me that made my desire for Him and my desire to serve Him more important than the money I was earning. So strong was this desire He gave me that it would have been harder to ignore it than to follow His will.
God won’t necessarily call you into ministry but if you start to pray, “God make my desire for you greater than my desire for money” and if you begin to make even small changes that reflect that desire, then I promise you that God will work in your heart and change your desires.
As this occurs something else will happen. Your capacity as a leader of influence will grow because your desire for God and your desire to serve Him will become more important than anything else.
To what extent is your desire for money and for possessions greater than your desire for God and your desire to serve Him?
What steps can you take to grow your desire for God and your desire to serve Him?