When we are reading Scripture, it is important that we take the words seriously, not just the ideas. For example, when a wicked “translation” of the Bible mutilates John 1:1 to say that “the Word was a God,” it rips out the divinity of Jesus Christ.
It is appropriate and important, therefore, to consider the use of the definite article “the” in 1 Timothy 6:10. My preferred translation, the King James Version, states that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But is this correct? First, let’s consider a few more translations:
♣ The New International Version states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”
♣ The New American Standard Bible states that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil”
♣ The New King James states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”
♣ The English Standard Version states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”
So which is correct, the definite article or the indefinite article?
First, we should recognize that our temptation is always to soften Scripture so it does not condemn us so harshly. This is especially important for Americans to remember, because we are so incredibly wealthy. Even many people who are considered to be “poor” have luxuries that would make them incredibly rich elsewhere in the world, including air conditioning, cable TV, a computer with Internet access and disposable income. Our love of money as Americans is condemned in slightly more gentle terms when we use the indefinite article.
With this temptation recognized, we also need to think about it logically and use discernment. When you closely examine the world we live in, the love of money is clearly not the root of all evil. It simply cannot be.
Sexual sins, for example, are not driven by the love of money. A man who cheats on his wife does not do so because he seeks wealth, but because of lust. He may even be risking great financial harm by doing so. Even the obscenely profitable porn industry only makes money only because people are willing to pay to satisfy their lust. Alcohol and drug abuse are sins that are also not driven by the love of money. (Not for the addict, anyway.) The addict risks severe financial hardship by making his drug of choice into his god.
So no, the love of money is not the root of all evil, although the love of money certainly leads to an incredible amount of wickedness, depravity, and suffering.
That said, the love of money does tempt us to twist Scripture or explain away the clear text to make Scripture say something that it does not. For example, some people argue that Judas was motivated by a zealous desire to remove the imperial Roman authority, and betrayed Jesus because He was not going to be the military leader the Jews wanted to see. But the Bible is very clear that Judas betrayed Jesus for money, especially when he asked the Pharisees what they would give him to betray Jesus. We should also not forget that Judas was a thief who was stealing from the money that the Disciples had.
Followers of Jesus Christ should be on guard against and praying for God to protect us from the love of money. Given how incredibly wealthy we are as Americans, it should shake us to the core when we read Jesus explaining that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.