When referring to wealthy people, you may have heard someone say that the Bible says that money is the root of all evil. Perhaps you have also heard that the rich are supposed to sell all of their possessions. This article will look at these two verses and show that the Bible does not teach that being wealthy is bad.
“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 (1 Timothy 6:10).”
Notice in this verse that it says the love of money is the root of all evil; it does not say that money is the root of all evil. Given that God blessed David and saw him favorably even when he was rich (and Abraham was also quite wealthy), the Bible is not saying that money is bad (After all, the Bible does talk about tithing. Why would God have Israelite donate if money is a bad thing?).
While it may be easy to see why someone might overlook a key part of 1 Timothy 6:10, I think one of the most outrageous and common defenses of the “money is bad” position is their interpretation of Matthew 19:16-12:
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Here, those who view money as bad will focus on verse 21 where Jesus tells the rich young man to sell his possessions. If we take the passage as universally applicable, it would be necessary for all of us to sell all of our possessions in order to be saved, yet the Bible tells us we are justified through faith (Romans 5:1). In this case, this man’s love of money (Remember 1 Timothy 6:10?) was a stumbling block for him coming to Christ, and that is why Jesus told him to sell all of his possessions and follow him. It is also worth noting that the Bible does not give any specific threshold of what someone’s net worth must be to be rich, but it does describe rich people that it criticizes as only giving from their abundance (which means they are giving less than they should). Most Americans evaluate what it means to be rich by looking at living standards in the United States, but if you consider the living standards in third world countries, almost all Americans are living a life of luxury. Considering how much more a middle class person in the US has now than many wealthy people did in the Bible, those in the US that badger wealthy people about money by abusing Biblical passages might need to reflect more deeply on their application of verse Matthew 19:21.
There are many other verses that talk about being wealthy. Many of them are warnings to the wealthy to not hold their possessions higher than living as Christ wants us to live (1 Timothy 6:17-21). Unfortunately, if you become consumed with gaining wealth as opposed to living righteously as Christ wants us to, it is easy to fall into that trap. Therefore, all of us who are looking to build our wealth should be careful that our priorities do not get out of order.