04 November, 2003

Money Isn't Evil, it's a Misquote

The phrase can probably be attributed to Timothy 6:10 out of the Christian religious texts.  But it is a misquote, and it is actually the love of money that is the root of all evil.  Of course, Jesus was reported as saying that, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  That would seem to imply that merely to have money was somehow sinful.  
But, again, if one looks at the context, it is misconstrued.  It is after a conversation with a pious but wealthy man that Jesus is quoted as saying this.  The pious man had asked what else he could do to be better, and Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, sell all of your possessions and give it all to the poor, and follow me.” (Italic’s added by Author)
So, Jesus was telling the guy to do a Buddha-esque ‘great renunciation’, if he desired to be perfect.  Who can argue that leading a monastic life of humility and spiritual endeavors isn’t a great way to spend your days?  All the big ones did it, if you look at any major theology.  Bhuddha gave it all up, Jesus gave it all up, Mohammed gave it all up, as did Nietzche’s Zarathustra.  Nearly every major figure in modern or ancient theologies gained their spiritual enlightenment by walking away from the mundane world for a time to commune with their Creator.  To this day you can become a monk, a nun, or a Shaolin priest if you want to give up your worldly possessions.  But keeping your stuff isn’t evil 
So what Jesus said was not a condemnation of the man’s wealth, but merely the instructions of how to gain enlightenment.  Similar instructions can be found in the Vedas of the Hindu religion on becoming a Holy One (like the Dali Lama).  But, like most people on earth, the man was not ready for that phase of enlightenment; only a few are.  That is why even the ones who tell you that money is evil still have change in their pocket for a cup of coffee and cable TV.  You don’t have to be perfect to lead a rewarding life that affects other people in a positive way, and evil is not the absence of perfection; the absence of perfection is the norm, not evil. 
(As a side note, perfection wouldn’t have helped the guy, anyway, because perfection, impossible as it is, won’t get you into heaven.) 
The argument that money must be evil because of all the evil that is done in the name of accumulation of wealth is faulty, also.  I work to provide for my family, who can say that is evil? 
Money is a tool, just like any other tool.  The same hammer can be used to build an engineering wonder, to build a treehouse, or to bludgeon someone to death.

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