Money is the root of all evil. That’s what the Bible says, right? Actually, no. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. The Bible actually encourages people to have an abundance and prosperity, they can handle it. God wants that, the Universe wants that. Now, it doesn’t promise wealth and prosperity but it also doesn’t discourage it either despite popular belief to the contrary. Many people will use scripture as a way to self sabotage the attainment of wealth relying on the belief that it flies in the face of what God teaches. The opposite is also true, some believe that the attainment of wealth is a symbol of living in God’s favor. But one can be poor and have God’s favor. One can be rich and yet have no love, family or happiness. Black women are the most religious demographic in the US. And many may be interpreting the Bible to mean that God only wants us to have just enough. Many black women will also sacrifice their ability to build wealth in order to contribute to the church through tithing or to care for others in need. This has been noted as a contributing factor to the growing divide between black women and the church.
What the Bible wants us to know about wealth is actually very simple. The Bible talks about money more than any other single topic. Let’s explore what the Bible teaches us about wealth and why it is not only okay to pursue and attain wealth, the Bible provides instruction on how to do it.
The Love Of Money Is The Root Of All Evil
Often times people misquote 1 Timothy 6:10 as “money is the root of all evil”, when in actuality the passage talks very specifically about the love of money and earthly things above God and others. There’s no way to know for sure when the “love” was left off of this passage, but it has been used to shame people about money for centuries. Here’s the passage in its entirety:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
What the Bible is saying is rich people are often tempted to focus on the material things in life instead of what’s important such as morals, family, and faith. It’s a warning to be mindful that we came into the world without possessions and we won’t be able to take it with us. We know this. We see ministers steal from churches, we see the super rich want to get richer. However, we also see rich people donating and doing good with their money much more than we see the opposite. When we see rich people doing bad things we focus on it. This is called confirmation bias. That means we look for whatever confirms our belief of something. If we believe that money is the root of all evil we will focus on news stories of rich people doing bad things way more than stories of rich people doing good things.
Don’t Be A Hoarder
Matthew 6:19 says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”. To ‘lay up’ in this instance means to hoard. Basically don’t just acquire money and things for the sake of acquiring money and things. Your things can be destroyed or stolen. The entire passage says to focus on building your wealth in Heaven. Essentially want this means is spend time on earth doing good works and being a good disciple of God. Being a Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re Baptist, Catholic or Protestant. The point is to focus on your soul and if you believe in everlasting life after death, you want to be in Heaven.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This goes back to loving money and wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 discusses that those people who love money and wealth are never happy. However, those who not only receive wealth and money but also gratitude from God enjoy their lives the most. While the passage says that the rich never sleep because they are constantly worried about maintaining their riches it also says that having riches should be tempered with a grateful heart.
10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. 11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. 13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, 14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. 15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. 16 This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? 17 All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. 18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.
Understand Personal Finance Basics
The Bible distinguishes between money and wealth. And it also has practical personal finance lessons that apply centuries after its writing:
- Have multiple streams of income (diversify) in an effort to create financial freedom. Ecclesiastes 11:2 states “Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”
- Lend money to those in need, your family and close friends expecting nothing in return and charging no interest. There are several passages throughout the Bible stating this and finance experts will tell you the same thing today. Though the Bible is specifically speaking of fellow countrymen (brother) versus foreigners. As the world as gotten much bigger since then, limit this to family and close friends. Don’t lend more money than you can stand to lose and give it as a gift. However, this does not preclude making loans for the purpose of business, Deuteronomy 23:19-20 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
- Don’t borrow more than you can pay back or that would in-debt your children, meaning your children go without because your money is going to paying debt. Additionally, when you borrow money you have a moral obligation to pay it back. Also common advice from finance experts. The Bible essentially says that the borrower is the slave of the lender. Extreme visual, but essentially when you owe someone money, whether a person or a business, you are indebted to them until tetelestai or “it is finished”. A word that was often used to describe a debt as paid in full. “The borrower is a slave to the lender” Proverbs 22:7.
- Budget your money. In several places the Bible counsels it is wise to always budget your money whether you have a little or a lot. Even if you make very little money you should build the habit of budgeting, it will serve you in creating and managing your wealth, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” Luke 16:10. It also says that only a fool would embark on a project without knowing what they have, what they need and plan for both, “Who intending to build a tower does not sit down first and count the cost?” Luke 14:28.
- Save your money. This is different from hoarding. The Bible says to save for a rainy day. But also to save by using cash instead of credit. Proverbs 30:24-25 states “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer;”.
- Grow your money through investing righteously, in other words don’t engage in crime, prey upon the poor or invest in ethically questionable opportunities – “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty,” Proverbs 22:16.
- Get sound financial advice from an expert – Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Create generational wealth – “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” Proverbs 13:22.
Do Good – Stewardship
Along with great wealth comes great responsibility. One of those responsibilities is to be grateful for what we receive. A way to show gratitude is to pay it forward through charitable works and service in God’s name, but it do it privately.
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)