Why do people say money is the root of all evil?

Dear readers.

  1. So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what the root of money is? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?

“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek … Is this the reason why you call it evil?

“Or did you say it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It’s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (Francisco d’Anconia’s “Money Speech”)

  • Money represents simply the trade, between two human beings of equal rights and equal moral worth, of the best that each has to offer to the other, voluntarily, and to mutual benefit. It represents the maxim that no human should be treated solely as a means like an object but always also as an end: a being with a mind and human rationality, who has their own ends.
  • It represents the mechanism by which, when placed in a consistent framework of freedom and liberty and humanistic values, our system of production has lifted an incredibly amount of people out of poverty, and provided an unimaginably high standard of living to everyone who takes part in that system.
  • Money is not the root of all evil it may cause some people to act in evil ways, based on a misapprehension of reality, ethics, and what money stands for…but many other things have and do cause people to act evilly, in history and in our time.
  • Neither is the love of money the root of all evil, or any evil not when money is properly understood for what it stands for, not when you understand how money is properly made. The love of money as an end in itself, instead of a means of trade, is a mistaken love to be sure but it does not lead to evil unless there was evil already in the heart of the lover; it only leads to sadness and emptiness. Money cannot, as Francisco says, give you values or happiness.

I leave you with a final quote: “Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is the root of all evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

Do you agree that “the love of money is the root of all evil”? Why or why not?

2. The Apostle Paul allegedly said that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

I like to give the Apostle Paul the benefit of the doubt — even if it was his Amanuensis (or even Timothy himself) who really wrote that.

Yet we must first of all remember that the Apostle Paul was not the equal of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the key point. Fortunately, the Apostle Paul was always humble enough to admit that. Paul admitted that sometimes he wrote under inspiration, and sometimes he didn’t. Here are five famous examples:

  • “To the rest I say — I and not the Lord — that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever…he should not divorce her.” (1 Cor. 7:10-12)
  • “Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion.” (1 Cor. 7:25)
  • “In my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 7:40)
  • “What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord’s authority, but as a fool.” (2 Cor. 11:17).
  • “I do not say this as a command…and in this matter I am giving my own advice” (2 Cor. 8:8-10)

So — even though there might be some inspired, Divine truth in Paul’s extreme claim about money — we can also find some fault in the wording — for one thing, it is an overstatement.

People commonly misunderstand Paul — and that is the main problem. I am not speaking of my own accord here, but I am actually imitating Scripture. Here is the Apostle Peter’s opinion about the Apostle Paul’s writings:

  • So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him…in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15–16)

In other words, we must be extra careful when we read the words of the Apostle Paul. The Bible warns us against this. Paul is not Jesus. Paul is not the equal of Jesus, although strict Bible literalism will insist that all Scripture is equal. The Bible itself warns us that this isn’t the case.

Now, back to the original question. What about Paul’s claim that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” There is a certain sense in which this is true —but one must be careful to narrow the scope to these very narrow cases.

In other words — money itself is nothing but a way to make Barter easier to manage. That’s all it ever really was. People will always trade and barter. Even small children at lunch time at school will trade and barter. So, money as a medium of trade and barter is not evil in itself.

So we must be careful, since too many people misunderstand the Apostle Paul to say that money itself is the “root of all evil.” Yet he didn’t say that. He said that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Now — even that is an overstatement, as it stands. If some miser somewhere loves money, it hurts himself and his family, sadly, but is that truly “the root of all evil?”

Here is where it becomes complicated. To give the Apostle Paul the benefit of the doubt, we must compare the most Evil Event we can imagine in modern times, and seek out where money played a major role.

The most Evil Event I can imagine is the Holocaust during the Nazi epoch. So — did money play a major role in that? Did the Scientists who participated and worked overtime to make the institutions of genocide effective — did they work for money? Did they get plenty of money? Would they have performed those vicious and sadistic acts unless they got money?

Here is the narrow scope in which I will agree with the Apostle Paul. When enough Government truck loads of money are delivered to teams of Scientists in order to accomplish the greatest Evils that Governments can possibly do — the people who personally receive that money and perform those sadistic crimes have clearly made a link between money and Evil. In this narrow sense alone, they have shown a love of money. That’s as far as I’d agree with Paul.

Yet it still lacks the perfection of accuracy. The TRUE ROOT of the TRULY EVIL is our own inhumane, sadistic urge, which shows forth in the Master/Slave dialectic as described by Hegel (1820). This urge still threatens to erase Freedom in the world. It will use any means possible — and money is only one of the many possible means.

The ROOT of EVIL is the SADISTIC URGE, pure and simple.

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