Contrary to what some people think, money isn’t the root of all evil. That little cliché is actually a misquote of I Timothy 6:10, which makes it clear that the “love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.”
Money and the commensurate things it brings can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on how I feel about them. If money and possessions consume my life so I’m not minding God’s business, that’s evil. If my desire for money eclipses my desire for Him, I’m guilty of idolatry.
Material possessions can either be tools and pleasantries for my earthly pilgrimage, or they can get me off track. I used to see these possessions as an enemy of sorts, and they certainly can be, but now I know that having material things can also be a God-given pleasure and a source of blessing to others.
Some of the most spiritual and most generous people I have known have been wealthy. On the other hand, I have encountered poor folks who were greedy, self-centered, and horrible stewards of their possessions. Some of the street people I knew would earn a little money and then spend it on frivolous and stupid things. My friends were even ripped off by one of the men to whom we had offered a place to live.
During my career in insurance claims, I saw quite a bit of money get paid to lower income people for injuries they may or may not have sustained. These awards were usually frittered away very quickly on nonsense items like fancy cars and expensive vacations, and in short order the recipients were often worse off financially than they were before.
In matters of money, the poor are often no more virtuous than the rich, but it seems to me that acquiring a lot of material possessions creates real competition to true spirituality. Here in the land of promise and excess, even the poor can amass an amazing amount of junk.
A lot of time and attention is given to earning money, shopping, buying, using, and caring for our possessions, regardless of our economic position. Both the poor and the rich would do well to simplify their lives and focus on the unseen and eternal, not that which inevitably rusts, rots, decays, or must be left behind when we exit this life.
Money is not evil, but how we get it and what we do with it is not a neutral matter either. Jesus said, “If therefore you have not been faithful with the use of unrighteous mammon [money], who will entrust the true riches to you?”(Luke 17:11) Later, he made it very plain that we “cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 17:13)
Everything I have comes from God, but I can’t really own any of it. Eventually I’m going to die, and nothing will go with me, but the way I handled my material blessings has eternal implications.