“Money is the root of all evil.” How many times have you heard that? I’ve heard it more times than I can count, and I’ve even spotted it hanging on the wall of the Monkees’ apartment on TV. It’s a popular thing to say, but it’s not true.
Without getting into a theological debate about evil or its roots, I will say that “Money is the root of all evil” is a misquote of a biblical source, in 1 Timothy 6:10. English translations vary, but they all say something along the lines of “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Notice the difference? It’s about the love of money, not money itself, being the root of all kinds of evil, not all evil. A few small words make all the difference.
If any major religions truly pointed to money as the root of all evil, a lot of people would be trying to be as poor as possible. Money would be treated like a communicable disease. (“Please don’t pay me so much; it’s not right for you to spread it around!”) Some people of faith do give away most of their income or take a vow of poverty so that they are better able to serve others and do good works, but most of those will describe their lifestyles as a special calling or a gift, something beyond what God requires of most adherents of their faith.
Even if you’re not a believer, think about the logic of saying that money is the root of evil. If money were the root of all evil, only people who had money would do evil things, and the people with the most money would be the most evil of all. Though some people without money like to think that’s true, it’s not. Poor people can cheat and steal and assault and kill as well as rich people and people in between.
Looking at it from another angle, greed (the love of money) does cause people to do some pretty horrible things, but so do lust for power or sex, hatred, the desire for revenge, jealousy, and even some more noble things, such as a desire for purity or an attempt to protect someone else. Money is rarely on the mind of a man who drops a drug into a woman’s drink so he can take her home practically unconscious.
I’ve sometimes heard “Money is the root of all evil” used as an excuse for not saving, as if to say, “I’m a better person if I’m poor.” But intentionally spending all your money as soon as you get it does not make you a better person (unless, maybe, you’re giving it all away). Rather, it makes you irresponsible. On the other hand, making good use of your resources by saving for your future does not make you evil; it makes you more able to help others (or avoid needing the help of others) when the need arises.