Is Money Really the Root of All Evil?

Antonio Zebedeo Abad

I sponsor seminarians in the Philippines, and in return, they serve me as a theology research assistant. The arrangement benefits them greatly, as they become astute researchers and writers, far ahead of their peers. The arrangement benefits me greatly, as it saves me much time in finding all the references for my bigger writing projects.

So, is money really the root of all evil? Oh, yes, we hear about or experience people who get a hold of money and their motives change. Once there was an impostor who entered the mix who was able to obtain my aid. I found out that it has been his modus operandi and that his greed was driving it. So, I’ve had an estafa criminal case delayed by COVID.

There was a monsignor I’ve known since my childhood who was a great fundraiser. He built churches and strengthened parishes. This became his reputation, until many decades later, he disappeared from everyone’s sight with so much money he recently raised.

So, what about all that money that goes to the Catholic schools and the Sunday mass collection? Does that become the root of all evil? Ah, so the phrase is really misquoted from Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy:

False Teaching and True Wealth
Teach and urge these things. 3 Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching 4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, 5 and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain. 6 Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. 8 If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. 9 Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.

1 Timothy 6: 2b-10 NABRE

There is one keyword in this last sentence also, and Paul clearly states that this applies only to some people. So, it is really a choice, and God in His infinite wisdom gave humanity free will. None of the bible translations say that money is the root of all evil. Money does not do things on its own. All of them say that the love or desire for money is the root of all evils.

A hammer as a tool has built homes for all of us. Habitat for Humanity would not be able to do its work without a hammer. But when a human chooses to use it to inflict harm, the hammer blow can be fatal, reminding me of the time when I lived in a violent setting, fearing for the loss of my life every night I was in bed with someone whose motives had changed or had become apparent.

Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as “uniquely holy,” (1*) loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her.(214) He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”.(1 Thessalonians 4:3 NASB) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called “evangelical.”

Lumen Gentium 39 Chapter V

How about those who have consecrated their life to the Lord by publicly making promises or vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience from the Evangelical Counsels? We’ll talk about poverty. From my Carmelite profession, I will discuss poverty and mortification from the Rule of St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, given to the friars of the Order, now known as the Primitive Rule.

Poverty and Common Life

“In a community, you must own everything in common, and none of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own.” This means that you possess things to use and not be attached to them.

Common Possessions

“You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock and poultry.” This means that you can have the necessary tools and resources for production or livelihood.

“You are to fast every day, except Sunday, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.” This is to fortify ourselves for the spiritual warfare against the devil, as Christ did in the desert.

“You are to abstain from meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. But as, when you are on a journey, you more often than not have to beg your way, outside your own houses, you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.” This is so we can turn to God for strength.

In the middle ages, ships carried livestock onboard to slaughter for food. Once you leave the continental shelf where fish feed, you will no longer catch any fish. Later, the Norwegians and the Basques found a way to preserve fish by salting and drying, and it led to longer voyages. It also became a commodity during Lent as there was no refrigeration.

I quip that St. Albert did not yet know about mega cruise ships with endless buffets.

“9 Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; 10 no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep.”

So, how do we launder our tunic? Do we bathe with it in the river and let it dry while wearing it? Even the Franciscans and those who follow St Francis of Assisi like Pope Francis now carry luggage while traveling. In this context, Christ is bidding us to not worry about the future, to confide in His divine providence as even the sparrow finds a home (Ps 84:4) and birds find food to eat without gathering food into barns (Mt 10:26), and to develop stewardship among the faithful, to support those who minister to them.

Mt 10: 9-10 NABRE

As a Boy Scout, I’ve learned to be prepared, as the motto states. I travel with a spare tire, and in the rugged mountains in an SUV the Carmelite friar missionaries carried two spare tires in a roof rack and a jug of fuel. There are many cars today that don’t even come with a spare tire, only a repair kit. We could be so prepared for every situation that the preparedness burdens us. We have to find our own personal balance for the situations we face.

There was an article before about astronauts boarding a spaceship that was built out of parts from the lowest bidders. I think that was a somewhat sarcastic remark because the parts needed to meet certain tolerances.

My experience with cheap photographic lenses is that they cost me more to own and operate. I would come back from a photographic project and find out that my percentage of sellable images was very low. There were many missed photographic moment opportunities. It was quite a big waste of the investment, the time, and the travel, especially if it was far away. When I invested in quality lenses, that percentage of sellable images multiplied many times to about 80-90%, and the clients were much more impressed with the image quality.

What good is it to invest in an unreliable car, only to be plagued with repair bills and roadside incidents? It really costs more to maintain and is even questionable to invest all that money in when the car is not going to give much good service.

What is an item’s worth? Is it only worth the service it provides, from a utilitarian perspective? Is something worth keeping because it means more to you than to others to who you might try to sell or give it? This gives us the perspective that value is not only quantitative but also qualitative. Witness the quantitative approach to health care or sick care in modern times, especially in developed countries. In spite of the outrageous cost equivalent to a very nice car just for one night’s stay in the hospital, the quality outcomes do not necessarily follow.

In past simpler times, products did not go very far from being produced to being sold. Still, for a lowly potato, there was much care taken in developing and producing a good crop and the effort it took to bring it to market. In a global economy, we see produce coming from the other end of the continent. Seafood is flown to landlocked places for the enjoyment and nourishment of those who can afford it.

There is a Tagalog word, “sayang” that does not have a direct translation to English. You might come close to describing its meaning, but not exactly. It is a feeling of regret and remorse that something was wasted. Because there is a precise word for it, it is an important cultural value in the Philippines, and there are exact equivalent words in all the dialects as well.

People go through much effort to keep something from going to waste. Something like leftover food can be concocted into a new dish. An object can take on many lives until it is no longer useful. I remember my toy trains that were German-made and indestructible. You could keep on repairing them and keep them out of the landfills.

What does the presider say when he offers the cup of wine to become the blood of Christ? “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.” (Preparation of the Gifts in the Roman Catholic Ritual.) It is from God’s goodness that we receive what we have and we offer it back to Him. It is the fruit of the vine that was tended by human hands with much effort indicating faith, time indicating hope, and love, which is the greatest of these three and is what drives our faith and hope.

So the next time you have some leftover wine, think about the labor of love that went into that wine that might go down the drain. Maybe it will become too stale to drink tomorrow, no longer of value for drinking, but it will certainly transform and add depth to the flavor of the food that you will be cooking that is also the fruit of the earth and work of human hands.

“I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter. Thank you.” Pope Francis. General Audience June 5th, 2013. Let us be good stewards of God’s graces.
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