The root of all evil

by Don Hartness

No series on evil would be complete without a post about the root of all evil: money

Of course, that’s not entirely correct. The Bible quote is that the love of money is the root of all evil. Many point out that this simply isn’t true; after all, money can be used for good, as well as for evil.

They miss the point.

Allow me to illustrate with a recent event in the church small group I lead.  Bear with me, as this will all make sense in a moment.

My co-leader recently introduced a CD from “Focus on the Family” discussing the proper role of men and women in a marriage (why she wanted to discuss relationships in a single’s group is still beyond me, but that’s another matter entirely). Afterwards, I mentioned that I neither agreed with the CD’s message, or with the organization.

Specifically, I didn’t agree with placing one’s “focus” on “family.”  The group burned me in effigy.

Of course, the obvious question for Christian readers is “Why?” Family values is a rallying cry for the church today, with many pointing to the decay of family as a huge problem in society today.  How could I oppose an organization dedicated to remedying this social malaise?

In my last post, I shared how I was a scapegoat for a boss that didn’t want his evil deeds uncovered. My question for the reader is this: how many would have done what I did, and stood up against wrong and evil in that situation? In my experience, oh so few, as shown by everyone backing away from me.

Why did everyone back away? It wasn’t cowardice: it was because they all had families to support.

It’s a classic scene. The villain has the hero in a corner. The villain wants to make the hero do something in violation of everything the hero stands for. How does the villain get the hero to capitulate? Does he aim a gun at the hero and say “Do it or else”?

Nope. The villain aims the gun at the hero’s family (wife and/or children) and threatens to end their lives if the hero doesn’t surrender to the villain. Checkmate.

Of course, in novels and movies, the tables are turned at the last moment on the villain in some unexpected way, thus relieving the hero of his pending defeat (the woman intervenes, the side-kick comes to the rescue, the hero had an ace up his sleeve, etc). But life rarely imitates art in this situation. We are seeing the effects of these multiple defeats every day…

(“Johnson, if you don’t fix those books the way I told you so that the investors will see a profit for the quarter, you can polish up your résumé, because you’ll need it…”)

(“Jackson, if that quality control report sees the light of day, I’ll make sure you never work in this industry again…”)

Of course, it’s rarely said explicitly (“Gee, Johnson, did you see all the applicants applying for that job opening similar to your job?”), but the effect is the same. This is why I don’t agree with “focus” on the “family”. The focus should be elsewhere:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. – Matt 22:34-40

Atheists see the greatest commandment as just another example of a juvenile, egotistical god jumping up and down, all while screaming “Me! Me! Me!” Others see it as the cornerstone for religion’s oppression of its adherents (such as through the tithe). Yet, neither is correct. Rather, love for God is protection from yourself and others.

A person who loves and has faith in God believes in a Being comprising the best virtues recognized by all of humanity, such as justice, truth, virtue, righteousness, and so on. That person holds him or herself accountable to that Being, even when everyone around them sees no advantage for doing so.

Love for money is just the most sordid example of misplaced love. Few love the actual paper called money, even if it’s only in the form of a bank statement reflecting your balance. Rather it is all the things money purchases. And although that can sometimes be for purely selfish reasons, more often than not, it is for noble things, such as food for one’s family, love for one’s beau, or providing for one’s family in retirement, along with many other examples.

What is the root of all evil? Love for anything or anybody other than God. It is precisely that love for anything or anybody other than God that will be used against you as leverage to make you commit all sorts of evil and atrocities, whether it is something as vile as date rape, something as benign as over-billing customers, or something like failing to stand up for what is right and allowing someone else to take the fall.

That misplaced love is also why so much self-rationalization is necessary.

He killed them with their love. That’s how it is every day, all over the world.” – John Coffey, The Green Mile.

Thus closes the series (although I may add or rearrange in the future). For my next series, I need to find a couple of chairs.

It’s time for me to have a chat with the atheists and agnostics…