"Love of money", it is said, "is the root of half the evil in the world; lack of money is the root of the other half." Both these statements are broadly true. The implications of the first statement are obvious enough the love and lure of wealth generally prompt people to resort to all sorts of malpractices, such as hoarding, black market, deception, miserliness, greed and dishonesty.
Any one who develops this madness for money becomes, like the greedy Jew and the miserly Slot, a devotee, or rather a slave, of the goddess of wealth. He earns and hoards money by every possible means, denying himself and his wife and children a good living in the attempt to save every penny he can lay his hands upon.
Love of money often compels a person to take to evil and antisocial habits, and consequently he is not tolerated or welcomed in decent. Honest society. Such lure also leads people to commit thefts, resort to cheating in office and company accounts, and in tax returns, in business and industry; in fact, deception spreads in every branch of human activity.
Cases have been known of people whose love of money led them to work all the time without rest and thus ruin their health. They spent the rest of their lives trying to regain their lost and ruined health—but all in vain. Thus they lost both the wealth they had earned by laboring ceaselessly, and the health in the process.
It is rightly believed that the power of the purse is a great power; it brings prestige, influence, friends, flatterers and admirers, just as hone; brings flies and comforts and conveniences of life. When pockets a cherished more than hearts and brains, human bodies, justice and dignity? And deterioration of character and of morals sets in, gradually but surely. The love and possession of wealth also bring in their wake callousness and dislike of the weak and lack of sympathy towards the helpless.
The human factor, which is undeniably vital, tends to be ignored. The rid man is generally found coming in the way of progressive movements. Moreover, large quantities of money do not bring high intelligence. Nor do love of money and greed for gold necessarily ensures culture, his standards and good breeding.
In fact, the knack of earning money and hoarding it for the sheer love of it teaches a person many evil things; it debases and dehumanizes him, thus defeating the very purpose of life and of creation. The quest for money does not ensure happiness and contentment; on the contrary almost always leads to discontentment, constant fear that the hoards money might be lost or stolen; it is the cause of sleepless nights, of illusions and psychological suffering, of cruelty to fellow human beings and a gross distortion of human values, apart, of course, from glaring and heart- breaking economic imbalances which by themselves are a cause of more evil.
The second statement that lack of money is the root of the other half is also true, though saints and philosophers have often said that love money brings in its train more evil than the lack of it. When there is: enough money and there is stark poverty and destitution, people star and starvation prompts them to resort to every conceivable method to some money anyhow from anywhere, regardless of the violations of la and of the principles of morality.
Poor people sometimes commit suicide; kill their children and act in sheer disgust. They commit thefts robberies because of the deep-rooted frustration that the lack of money creates. Many thieves confess in court that it was sheer poverty and deprivation that compelled them to commit a theft or rob a rich person.
Whenever there is misdistribution of wealth, and of the good things of life, there is jealousy and despair in the deprived section of human. And misdistribution of wealth is to be found everywhere; it is only in an ideal society that everyone has the same and equal share of the ma and wealth earned by a country. In the absence of economic equality it is no wonder that crime and criminals flourish.
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his famous book "Discovery of India": "There was poverty and the innumerable progeny of poverty everywhere, and the mark of this beast was on every forehead. Life had been crushed and distorted and made into a thing of evil, and many vices had flown from this distortion and continuous lack and ever-present insecurity. That was the basic reality in India."
The sight of half-naked, starving children should move every soul, but it does not; rather, when the sight is common, people tend to become indifferent to all the misery and poverty that stares countless people in the face day after day and ruins their lives beyond measure and beyond redemption.
So the conclusion is, in the words of Goldsmith, "I'll fares the land to hastening ills a prey, where wealth accumulates, men decay." But such decay also seems inevitable where there is utter, soul-killing poverty.
I just received an email from a concerned friend of mine who had never read The Simple Dollar before. I asked for permission to share this part of the email with you (with just a touch of editing).
I can’t believe you’re actually using your life and your energy and your mind talking about money and encouraging other people to accumulate money. Money is the root of all evil. It provides a path to greed and gluttony and cruelty. Why are you devoting your wonderful life to teaching people how to walk that path? What are you doing to yourself? What are you teaching your children?
I originally intended to respond to this email privately, but I realized that the answer was something really worth sharing on here, so I generalized it a bit and turned it into the article you’re about to read.
First of all, your comment that “money is the root of all evil” is a misquote. You’re referencing 1 Timothy 6:10 from the Bible, which is usually translated as “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” or simply “for the love of money is the root of all evil.” Not money itself, but the love of money.
That’s a key distinction. Money itself is neither good nor evil. It’s simply a medium of exchange. It’s a way for people to trade one thing – say, their money or their time or their energy – for other things, like food or housing.
What you choose to use your money for may be good and it may be evil and it may just be a big missed opportunity. You could use it to make sure your children eat very nutritionally balanced meals or you could use it to hire a hit man to take out your rivals. You could use it to help improve orphanages for extremely impoverished children or burn a million British pounds just for the fun of it.
How you use that money is a reflection of who you are and what you value. Whether it’s “good” or “evil” is as much your own judgment on how you spend money as it is a judgment passed on you by others who observe how you use it.
The entire purpose of this site is to help people become more efficient in their exchanges: to earn more money, to spend less on the things that they need, to avoid wasting their money on interest payments to lenders, and so on. Again, that’s neither good nor evil. It simply widens the door to the good and evil choices that people have with their money.
What that scripture is talking about is the love of money being the root of all evil. The argument is that when you begin to focus on the accumulation of wealth as the highest purpose in your life, you put a lot of other virtues below it. You value wealth accumulation over the welfare of others, in simple terms.
When you see other people as merely things that can be exploited to improve your wealth accumulation, that is evil, in my opinion. Companies that would knowingly sell toys to children that are covered in lead-based paint are evil. Companies that would sell known carcinogens for consumption and not label them are evil. Individuals who would exploit and steal from the defenseless are evil.
These are situations where, in that person’s mind, the love of money has trumped other virtues. I am explicitly opposed to these situations.
I regularly discuss ethical methods for accumulating money. I don’t even mention illegal acts or acts that would harm others and I encourage people to put human relationships first when it comes to things like borrowing money or hiring people. At the same time, I also look at ethical ways of spending money, highlighting charities that I personally know are doing good work and being selective on the things one buys for personal enjoyment.
In the end, it all comes back to your ethics and your character. It takes a bad person to intentionally exploit others. I also believe it takes a somewhat (although more debatable because of the various contexts) bad person to refuse to help anyone in need when they have the resources to do it easily without harming themselves in any real way.
Having money isn’t evil. Earning money isn’t evil. Exploiting people to acquire that money is, however, and spending it wantonly in ways that don’t bring value into anyone else’s life is probably also evil (though a bit more muddied).
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