September 16, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr and Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

Today's Readings

“The love of money is the root of all evils.” This famous phrase from our reading today is often shortened, incorrectly, to “money is the root of all evil”, which then becomes, “money is evil.” Then people begin to wonder, if money is so evil, why is the Church always asking us for some, and this sort of line of thinking is considered to witty. Then people decide that the Bible says nice things which are terribly impractical and can simply be ignored. Bad exegesis has bad consequences.

Money of course does not refer strictly to coins or dollar bills. Money is time. Money is power. Money is wealth. Money is comfort. Money is respect. Money is simply how we keep track of invisible concepts. No one wants money. People want stuff that can be bought with money. People want more money than their neighbors. People want other people to do what they say. If you had a genie’s lamp with unlimited wishes, it would be foolish to wish for money; just wish for all the things you would use the money for. So the love of money does not refer to the love of money but the love of the world and what the world has to offer, the love of everything that can be bought and sold.

If we return to what St. Paul actually wrote, rather than the corruption of what he wrote, we can learn that the Bible is filled with practical wisdom which we would do well to listen more carefully to. The root of all evils is not necessarily evil. Paul is not saying that evil always springs up wherever money is found, but that, wherever evil is found, love of money can always be found at the root.

This is simple logic. All trees are plants, but not all plants are trees. All evil is rooted in the love of money, but not every desire for money leads to evil. If you desire money in order to feed your family and put a roof over their heads, this is not evil. If you desire money in order to build a good business, this is not evil. Love of money is simply part of being a member of society, but watch out! Love of money, even for good purposes, can lead to evil. How can we avoid evil then? Love something else more than money. Love money for what it can do, but love other people more and God the most.