The Love of Money
Robert Wurtz II
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV)
Idioms, proverbs, and phrases, are like rivers; sometimes it can be challenging to discover the source. For example, nobody knows the origin of the term money laundering, but it is thought to have originated during the 1920s and 1930s when gangsters such as Al Capone took illicit cash from their criminal enterprises and mixed it with regular high cash flow businesses such as restaurants and laundromats. In other words, they washed their dirty money in the machines of legitimate business, and it came out clean on the other end. The catchphrase, follow the money is hard to trace as well. Some suggest it was coined during the Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of former President Richard Nixon. It was supposed that fraudulent election practices cost money; so if you want to discover who was involved in the activity you must follow the money.
The great Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, once pointed out that 1 Timothy 6:10 contains a proverb that was well-known in the first century. It is attributed to the 2nd century B.C. Greek writing, Bion and to Democritus (teœn philargurian einai meœtropolin pantoœn toœn kakoœn), where “metropolis” (mother city) takes the place of “root.” In other words, the pagan Greeks would say, “the love of money is the mother city of all kinds of evil.” It is from the ‘mother cities’ that the offspring of smaller cities spring up. However, Paul’s use of the word “root” is more pointed. Evil is the fruit of the root of the love for money. We have ample proof of this fact throughout history that men and women will commit any sin or crime for money. The most notorious of which was Judas, who betrayed the Lord Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver.
Paul said that some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. The greatest of these sorrows is Hell itself. The rich man discovered this when he was tormented (plural), while Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom. (Luke 16:23) Many in the first century, and even more today, have what the Israelites called an evil eye. This is one “idiom” that we do know its source. We learn of this dreadful concept when Moses wrote, “Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” (Deuteronomy 15:9 NKJV)
This is practically the definition of an evil eye. Prior to the year of release, greedy people refused to loan money. Why? Because they knew the year of release was coming, and they would have to forgive the debt. These wicked people would give nothing to a person in need. The poor called upon the Lord, who will run to the cry of the poor and needy. Nevertheless, these stingy-greedy people likely ended up with the same fate as the rich man who had an “evil eye” towards Lazarus. It is a great sin to use wealth as a means of exalting ourselves over our neighbors — rather than helping them when they are in need.
Darkness and an “Evil Eye”
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34 KJV)
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23 KJV)
Modern scholars are just now rediscovering some important “missing links” in New Testament exegesis. For years, there has been little teaching or understanding on the most basic concept of “light” and “darkness.” Often these terms are so misunderstood that they are spoken of in the abstract or not at all. Sometimes Bible teachers will shy away from the topic because of what some falsely assume are Gnostic (dualism) implications. However, a close examination of key New Testament texts sheds much light on this subject (no pun intended).
It is beyond the scope of this entry to cover all the facets of darkness and light. However, understanding the relationship between generosity and light, and stinginess and darkness is the first area I wish to focus our attention. Our texts in Luke 11:34 and Mark 6:23 are front and center. We can deduce from what we learn in Deut. 15:9 and Luke 11:34 that a stingy person is full of darkness within and that a generous person is full of light within. A person who is greedy is not generous. His attitude is, “tear down my barns and build bigger ones.” A wise person once said, when we are blessed with more than we need it is not time to add to our bank account — but to add another seat at our table. This is how we build accounts in heaven… where moth and rust cannot corrupt and thieves cannot break in and steal.
Stinginess and Hatred
Hatred is also associated with darkness in John’s writings. We read, But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11 KJV) You will recall that Jesus used strong phrases such as…”Ye fools and blind.” Consider the context: Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? (Matthew 23:17–19 KJV) To the fools and blind the greatest thing was the gift or “the money.” We can see that they were blind because they walked in greediness (evil eye). But why did He call them a fool?
We have a pointed definition of “fool” from the story of Nabal and David. Here was a man so greedy that he refused to give David and his men some rations — even though he was rich, and they had been guarding his farm for free. Nabal is the Hebrew word for “fool” it means to wilt. Why do plants wilt? In Nabal’s case, his “evil eye” filled his entire being with darkness… and great was that darkness! If it had not been for his wife Abigail the man would have pierced himself through with many sorrows. David gave the situation to God, and the Lord smote the man dead… similarly to how He struck down Ananias and Sapphira. Stinginess is an affront on the very character of God; and greed is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
Fairness Vs. Generosity
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (Matthew 20:13–15 KJV)
This passage makes almost no sense if we miss the fact that an evil eye means a stingy person. In fact, it seems clear that the man begrudged the poor worker the extra money that he charitably received. He was not thinking in terms of Jesus being generous… he figured that he should receive more because the man who worked only a short time received the same pay. However, it was not about the man who worked all day deserving more. He received a days wage. That was the agreement. It was about Jesus being generous to the man who obviously was in need. Jesus is the type of employer who would go above and beyond to help His employees in need. Notice what he asked the man, is thine eye evil, because I am good? The man was so stingy that he tried to control the stewardship of the Lord’s resources. As is often the case today, an evil eye masquerades as stewardship. It is an evil farce.
Making Friends Out of Money
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:4–13 KJV)
Jesus is saying that at times the children of the world have better sense than the children of light. Even they know that money can be used to influence people in a positive way. In fact, there is coming a day when people who have been faithful stewards of the Lord’s resources are going to receive for all the treasures that they have laid up in heaven. Jesus said it, And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Whether we fail (pass away) or the money fails (runs out), the final result is the same. When we get to heaven we will be “received into our everlasting habitation” by those who we passed God’s resources to. This is how we “lay up treasures in heaven.”
Moreover, God has promised; Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10–11 NKJV)
Favor or Foolishness?
I recently watched a video recording of a famous prosperity preacher boasting that his ministry had received over one billion dollars since it began. Another raised over 50 million dollars for a new private jet. On a local level its not uncommon to have church members heap funds and lavish gifts on the pastor while people in their congregation can’t even pay the rent. They view themselves as “highly favored” when in reality they are “highly foolish.” Who could possibly in good conscience receive gifts from the people while knowing they have plenty already? This is the kind of madness that got the money changers tabels turned over by the Lord Jesus. It’s not an expression of good stewardship or our love to God when we load people down with resources that they don’t need. That twisted behavior defies common sense. Where are the ministers and Christians who would step up and say… “I have plenty… lets give this to someone in need.”
If we love God we will love God with our resources. This does not mean we seek to fill the coffers of preachers and churches who already have more material possessions than they need; but to minister to the genuine needs with our resources as they become evident. There are a lot of needy people in the world and God has given those who have means a responsibility to do with His resources what He would do with them if He were us. God will provide the “seed” if we will be faithful to sow it into His field of harvest.
IMPORTANT TECHNICAL INFORMATION:
The concepts (in Hebrew Idiom) of “evil eye” and “single eye” were NOT unknown to the Greek scholars of the 19th and 20th Century.
The “evil” eye (poneœros) may be diseased and is used of stinginess in the LXX and so haplous (single) may refer to liberality as Hatch argues (Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 80-81). (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)
Essays in Biblical Greek, Edwin Hatch M.A., D.D., Oxford University Press, 1889, is available for download in PDF form for no charge at archive.org. This commentary sheds much light on the concept of “evil eye” and “single eye” beyond the standard Jewish sources.
See also Tew Testament critical commentary by Dale C. Allison, “Matthew: A Shorter Commentary“, P.99-100
The Expositors Greek Testament (Volume I), W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., L.L.D., Alexander Balmain Bruce D.D., Eerdmans, P. 124
The Gospel According to Matthew, F.W. Beare, Harper and Row, 1981, P.182-183
The IVP Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, Intervarsity Press, 1993., P. 63
The Expositors Bible Commentary (Volume 8), Frank E. Gaebelein, D.A. Carson, Zondervan, 1984, P. 178
The Interpretation of St. Matthews Gospel, R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943, P. 277-278
MESSIANIC JEWISH/HEBREW SOURCES:
Brad H. Young, Jesus, The Jewish Theologian, P. 140
Roy Blizzard. Jr., Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, P. 15
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, P. 30-36