One of man’s bad habits is called “prooftexting.” That means we take a fact or statement out of context to prove a point. We Christians – as well as those who hate Christianity – are guilty of this when we only quote part of something from the Bible. It’s important to understand both the context and what was said just before and just after the statement we’re quoting.
For example, when someone tries to convince us that Jesus is nothing but love and isn’t judgmental, they’ll quote part of what he said to the adulterous woman at the well. He tells her he forgives her. What they deliberately overlook is the second half of that statement when he tells the woman to “go and sin no more.” That’s prooftexting.
Another example is today’s Roundtable questin. We often hear Christians and non-Christians alike say “money is the root of all evil.” Is that correct? No. The actual quote from Paul in I Timothy 6:10 is “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” That’s a very different picture, isn’t it? The sin isn’t money itself, it’s the love of money which can lead us to numerous evil activities in order to get that money.
Context? First Timothy is a letter Paul wrote to his young friend, the missionary Timothy. In this letter, Paul goes into details of some of the sins and problems some of the early church plants were encountering. He goes into qualifications for church leaders, how to deal with liars and heretics, how to conduct worship in the church and the dangers of materialism.
Paul had become concerned about false teaching in the church in Ephesus (modern-day Turkey) and wanted Timothy to supervise the training of church leaders. In this training, Paul goes into detail about taking care of widows and orphans and how members placing their trust in riches and material things can damage their relationship to God.
In particular, Paul says that the love of money is the root of a number of problems that cause a person to lose sight of God. Isn’t that true in our day also? God’s first commandment is to have no other gods but him. What’s another false god or idol? The desire for more money. What does that look like in today’s society? Gambling, cheating, lying, doing anything to make a buck, drug deals, illicit sex for money. What do these false idols lead to? Divorce, drug addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, prison, death.
In verse eleven, Paul says “But as for you, o man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Then he concludes this first letter to Timothy saying “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
In other words, God provides everything we need. We have no need to pursue riches – either honestly or dishonestly. But, having money is not evil in and of itself…it’s how we obtained that money and what we do with it that can be evil. It’s the “love of money” that is the problem.
Now, as pastor of a church, I would be remiss if I didn’t tie Paul’s teaching back to today’s church. I’ll close with a story that illustrates a good use for our riches.
A man died and went to heaven. He is met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets. They walk by mansions and beautiful estates until they came to the end of the road where they stopped in front of a little shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a simple hut when there were so many mansions where he would be more comfortable. St. Peter replied, “I did the best I could with the money you sent ahead of you.”
Let’s not be selfish with our money. Give generously to the widows and orphans, to charities that do good, to churches that use that money as fertilizer to grow the kingdom of God. Amen.