Considering Paul’s teaching about money in 1 Timothy 6:9–10, we must make sure that we do not confuse biblical teaching with some of the rhetoric that rears its head in our culture on occasion. Sometimes our professors, news media, elected officials, and even certain professing Christians imply that wealthy people have achieved their riches only by exploiting the poor or through dishonesty. While this may be true in some instances, it is manifestly not the case that a person with great wealth must have earned it by sinful means. Furthermore, Scripture never tells us that riches are always acquired at the expense of godliness. In fact, the Word of God often commends the pursuit or possession of material prosperity, although never as an end in itself (Prov. 10:4, 22; 22:4). Those who are blessed with an abundance of resources, we shall see in good time, are given such things that they might use them generously for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the welfare of others (1 Tim. 6:17–19).
At the same time, Scripture is also clear that money brings its own peculiar set of temptations. The wealthy person, for example, may be more tempted to trust in his own resources rather than the Lord (Ps. 52:7). Having many possessions, the rich might also be more willing to compromise in order not to lose their wealth. John Chrysostom explains, “The man who has devoted himself to money is a slave to it and also to his reputation, honor, the present life, in short, to all human concerns” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 215). Yet we must realize that every estate in life likewise brings with it its own potential snares. Poor people might be more prone to covetousness than others. Rulers may be more tempted to abuse their power than those who have no authority. The list goes on and on.
Knowing that each estate of life has its own temptations helps us remember that Paul singles out love of money as a root of all kinds of evils, not the root of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Other idols can take root in our hearts and bear sin. The abundance of resources available to us should make us beware lest we make wealth our god, but let us be on guard against the false deities of relativism, lust, narcissism, and so on that are also rampant in our culture.