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Is money the root of all evil, or good for the soul?

First of all, the entire quote from Pauls’ Letter to Timothy is “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

So the love of money (and of all the things that money can buy) is the root of all evil according to St. Paul.  Not money in and of itself.  Having money is no more evil than not having money; neither of them is good or bad in and of themselves.  It’s the love of money, the lust for all the things money can buy that causes so much heartache and discontent and yes, sometimes outright evil.

If money isn’t good or bad, what is it?  What is money for?  Most people seem to think money is for buying things; for the consumption of all the things money can buy.  Or at least that is how most people act (check out the videos on the Friday after Thanksgiving Shopping Riots that take place for an example of what I mean.)  Which is why the term “consumerism” exists.

 “The noun consumerism refers to the theory that spending money and consuming goods is good for the economy.”  

And I think this idea of consumerism encourages the love of money, but not respect for money and what it can do.

Grandpa and I disagree with the idea that money is for consumption; we know that things have to be produced before they can be consumed.  So money is used to build things, to create things, to create prosperity and better living conditions.  Prosperity has to be produced before it can be consumed; money is for producing prosperity.  

But that’s not all.  Money is good for the soul and useful in becoming virtuous.  Think about what it takes to earn money.  You have to do something someone else will pay you to do; and that usually means they find what you do useful and beneficial.  Maybe you have a special talent they need, or maybe you’re just willing to do the dirty, boring, smelly jobs they don’t want to do anymore.  But either way, what you do is useful; you have a skill or an attitude that you can develop and improve on and grow.  And I believe the best and longest-lasting source of self-esteem comes from doing things other people find useful.  And how do you know you are useful?  They pay you!  Earning money builds work ethic and self-esteem.  Those are virtuous qualities.

And once you’ve earned a buck, you have to save a dime (or better yet a quarter…).  Saving money takes patience, and discipline, and the ability to defer gratification; to suffer some hardship today for the sake of better things in the future.  It takes humility and self-esteem to drive used cars, pack your own lunch, take staycations and live in small homes while your friends and neighbors drive new cars, eat out every day, go on fabulous trips and live in mansions.  Patience, discipline, humility, and self-esteem are all good qualities to have.

And saving money leads to investing money, which you can do yourself or hire someone to do for you.  Either way, investing money requires planning, and goal setting, and people smarts.  It encourages you to learn the basics of accounting and finance.  It requires focus and mental clarity and the ability to integrate thought AND emotion into your decision making.  All very useful skills.

And finally, having money is a responsibility.  It requires knowledge of tax law and encourages stewardship and thoughtful deliberation about what is important to you and why so that you use the money in ways that are meaningful and helpful to you and to others.  You have to teach your kids how to earn, save, invest, and have money with all the responsibilities that go along with it.  

Which is what Grandpa has been trying to do, and encouraging me to do, for the last several years.  And I think you girls are getting it; you all know how to work and are willing to do the dirty jobs if that’s what it takes.  You don’t spend your money stupidly, I’ve seen you shop for bargains and at thrift stores and really be thoughtful in your spending.  Now is a good time for you to start thinking about saving, and I’m happy to help you with that if I can, but I’m really proud of all of you for having good financial heads on your shoulders.

Let me know if I can help. I love you, Dad

We would love to talk with you about your financial aspirations and needs. At Muhlenkamp making your money grow is our top priority.

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