Why “Love of Money” Is Destructive
WHY is “love of money” such a destructive force? For one thing, it can blunt natural affection among family members. It can rob a person of happiness, make his life needlessly austere or drive him to commit heartless acts against his fellowman.
The case of Henrietta Howland Green of the United States well illustrates the extremes to which love of money can lead. At her death in 1916 she left behind an estate valued at some $95,000,000. In one bank alone her deposits exceeded $31,400,000. Yet this wealthy woman denied urgent medical treatment to her son while she tried to find a free clinic. On account of resulting delays the son’s leg had to be amputated. She subsisted on cold oatmeal, considering it a waste of money to warm it up. Finally, a heated argument over the benefits of skimmed milk led to her death from apoplexy. For this woman, money had indeed become a destructive force.
Had Henrietta Green known and followed the Bible’s sound counsel about money, she could have been a blessing to others instead of making life miserable for herself and her son. The Bible’s counsel could help many other people right now from being ensnared, to their injury, by a love of money.
Calling attention to the destructive consequences springing from a love of money, the apostle Paul wrote: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some . . . have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:10.
When a person develops a love for it, money becomes his god. All his mental powers and physical energies are devoted to making more money. There is no such thing as ever having enough. “A mere lover of silver,” says the Bible, “will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income.” (Eccl. 5:10) This being the case, the individual may be willing to do almost anything to get more money. Service to God and doing good for others are often totally lost to sight.
Love of money, for example, may give rise to a host of dishonest practices, including the use of inferior building materials, adulteration of food and drink, deception in weighing, and the like. No concern is shown for the fact that poor construction materials may make a building unsafe and result in serious injuries and deaths, that adulterating food and drink may harm others’ health and that cheating can bring great suffering, particularly to those who may have very little money.
Some people, in an attempt to get rich quick, resort to gambling. The more they gamble, the more they lose. But they continue to believe that soon they will win, regain all their losses and really strike it rich. Thus funds that could have been used for necessities are lost, and children suffer because there is not enough money to buy needed food and clothing.
How can one avoid becoming ensnared by a love of money, to one’s own injury and that of others? The answer lies in maintaining a balanced view of material things. God’s Word, the Bible, is most helpful in this regard.
Though encouraging industriousness, the Scriptures advise against trying to amass great wealth. They show that a person’s working should not be solely for his own benefit. The apostle Paul urged the former stealer to “do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” (Eph. 4:28) Such active concern for truly needy ones is a safeguard against becoming a self-centered lover of money.
The Scriptures also help a person to take a realistic view of material things, recognizing that riches have no permanence. Possessions can be lost, stolen or destroyed. Though people know that this is the case, they often continue to handle financial affairs in a way that ignores life’s uncertainties.
Consider those who go to extremes in forgoing things that could make life more comfortable for themselves. They may do so with the idea that they are storing up for children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the desire to leave behind an inheritance for children. But parents must be on guard that they do not go to the point of becoming afraid to spend something on themselves. They may even need to ask themselves if the concern they express for leaving behind an inheritance for children may not actually mask a love for money—an intense desire on their own part to accumulate riches.
It is good to keep in mind what wise King Solomon wrote about how disappointing and frustrating efforts to build up a fortune can be. Everything can quickly be lost at a time when it is likely to hurt most. We read: “There exists a grave calamity that I have seen under the sun: riches being kept for their grand owner to his calamity. And those riches have perished because of a calamitous occupation, and he has become father to a son when there is nothing at all in his hand.”—Eccl. 5:13, 14.
Yes, it is sad when a man works hard and then some calamity—war, extended period of drought, fire, earthquake or storm—causes him to lose everything. Now if he did not even allow himself to enjoy the fruitage of his hard work, his life has certainly been empty, vain. The tragedy is still greater if he continued piling up riches and then after losing them now became a father to children.
Even if an inheritance is not lost through some calamity, this still does not mean that a materialistic way of life is worth while. At one’s death all the riches in the world are of no benefit to that one. The Bible states frankly: “Just as one has come forth from his mother’s belly, naked will one go away again, just as one came; and nothing at all can one carry away for his hard work.” (Eccl. 5:15) How vain, then, is a life that has been fully spent in striving after material possessions!
Furthermore, there is no way to know just what will happen to an inheritance after a person’s death. The heirs, because of not having worked hard for what they receive, may not appreciate the inheritance and may soon squander it. Should they manage it well, there is still no guarantee that some disaster will not eventually result in the loss of everything. Then, if no one really got any enjoyment from the fruitage of hard work, of what benefit will it have been?
Recognizing that life is filled with many uncertainties can help one to appreciate that the pursuit of riches is unsatisfying. This can check any undue desire for money. At the same time a person avoids the trap of a needlessly austere life. He can enjoy the fruitage of his work in a wholesome way, benefiting himself and others. Thus he escapes the harm that the love of money can cause.