In his assignment for this roundtable, editor Harrison Funk has abbreviated a passage of Holy Scripture in a way that’s very common. Harrison asked us to “talk about (1st) Timothy 6:10”; then he added: “Is money truly the root of all evil?”
But here’s what First Timothy 6:10 says: “the love of money is the root of all evil.” And that’s a big difference. Because nothing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have made is evil. Wealth is not evil. What makes things evil is when we need them in a way that is disordered or miss-directed.
So how can you tell if your relationship with money is out of whack?
You know that your relationship with money is messed up when you love wealth more than you love the Most Holy Trinity--but then you need to be able to figure out whether you love money more than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
American Christians often express their love for the Most Holy Trinity with a ‘tithe’. The tithe is an Old Testament concept. The idea is that you are to give ten percent of your annual income to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But that formula still generates a whole lot of questions—like, do you calculate that percentage before or after you pay your taxes?
It’s questions like that which illustrate the inadequacy of tithing: Because if you have to figure out the ‘cut’ which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are supposed to get, that’s not love. It may be really good stewardship, but it’s not love.
Because love is always grateful. And grateful people look for ways to be generous—in fact, grateful people give just as much as they can. That’s why, in the Holy Gospels, Christ Jesus actually tells people to give away everything that they have.
But American Christians don’t spend much time on those passages. We want to believe that we can love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and also own two jet skis, five televisions, and the latest, most-up-to-date phone. And, of course, the huge irony is that all of us are convinced that we are just barely getting by.
So is there a way to get our relationship with money and the Most Holy Trinity back on track?
In the Holy Gospels, Christ Jesus talks about how hard it is for rich people to be saved. That’s not because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit don’t like rich people; rich people just have a hard time with gratitude and generosity. So, if we want to be saved, if we want to truly love the Most Holy Trinity, the first thing we need to do is admit that we really are rich. Not Bill Gates rich, but, by any reasonable standard, we are rich.
That’s step one: we need to own up to the problem. The second step is to find simple ways to address the problem. So, if you tithe, add another fifteen percent to your ten percent. Sell the golf cart that you hardly ever use anymore and buy something beautiful for your congregation.
When you get the hang of it, gratitude and generosity can actually be a lot of fun. Because there are always new ways to express our love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But if you need some assistance getting started, send me an email. I’d love to help.