The Roots of All Evil
Why do we love it, and hate it?
How did we get so messed up about money?
Money does seem to be at the root of many problems.
- People commit crimes for money.
- They betray their integrity and their beliefs to get a little more money.
- Countries go to war for land or natural resources or trading rights.
- Men and women sacrifice their relationships and their health for money.
Is money (or love of money, if we want to get the quote right) the root of all evil?
I think money has some real competition for that title.
There are many beliefs, ideas, and things that are blamed for the evil that people do in the world.
Popular choices include physical pleasure, money, possessions, power, honor, nationalism, racism.
Many (but not all) religions and spiritual paths renounce part or all of everyday life due to the spiritual dangers that life offers. The greatest praise is then reserved for the monks who withdraw from the world’s pleasures to pursue spiritual development.
This may be a common point of view, but it’s not universal. There are other traditions that insist that the only way to achieve spiritual greatness is by successfully facing the challenges of everyday life.
It’s very common for people to think that money is bad. Their beliefs may come from the religious/spiritual tradition that they grew up in.
Or they may be influenced by political beliefs that assert that it’s wrong for one person to have more than the next.
Some people believe that it’s impossible to get rich without abusing other people.
Or, it may just be a case of “sour grapes”. If I’m not successful at making a lot of money, I may just decide that money’s not good for me anyway, and tell myself how thrilled I am that I’m not subjected to that evil.
Power and Danger
Why does money create such a spiritual challenge for many people?
Money is an amplifier. Money is a high-power fuel.
Take an old machine that’s just barely holding itself together. Run it at a slow speed using a low power fuel, and the machine can hold itself together and keep moving in an orderly way.
But give it powerful fuel, and run it at full speed, and all of the machine’s imperfections are exaggerated.
The machine becomes unstable and tears itself apart.
How does this relate to you and me?
Money is a powerful tool which empowers you to do almost anything. It’s like a magic wand that makes it easy for your desires to come to life.
Money is possibility. Money is magic.
If I live a sheltered life and my character is unfinished and untested, an imperfection may cause little harm to me or anyone else.
But if I take that person with the character flaw and give her tremendous power to do whatever she wants, the imperfection will be amplified and may cause serious damage.
Anything that is powerful is dangerous, in untrained, unprepared hands.
The Price of Living
In old English, “price”, “prize”, and “praise” all derive from a single word. To put a price on something is to praise it – to see how valuable it is to you.
Money is the superhighway for value. It lets us easily move, exchange, and concentrate value.
It’s possible to have a barter economy, and exchange goods without using money as an intermediary, just like it’s possible to exchange information and communicate at a distance without the internet.
But without money, the goods usually move slowly, and without the internet, information moves slowly.
There are real dangers that come with the power of the internet, such as sexual predators, con artists, and terrorists exchanging information in a moment.
With great power, comes great danger.
Money, the Internet, physical pleasure, all the wonderful things that have been created, and fill life with possibility — almost everything can be used in wonderful ways, or abused.
Do we keep blaming the powerful tools that we’ve been given?
Do we surround ourselves with fear because of the danger?
Do we abandon all technology, all science, all knowledge because we don’t trust ourselves to use it responsibly.
We have to stand up.
Yes, we have to find ways to protect people against the abuses of some who will misuse every powerful tool.
But more importantly, you and I have to find the greatness in ourselves. We have to build ourselves up through living in the world and facing its challenges, and finding balance. We have to learn to wield the magic wands of money, knowledge, etc to build up the world.
We can’t retreat to a glorious stone age where the only challenge was surviving.
It’s time to stop hiding.