Perhaps the Most Misquoted Verse in All of Scripture

People misquote scripture all the time, but there’s one verse that seems to rise above the rest in its errant rendering, and the misrepresentation goes multiple layers deep.

Kevin Dooley (CC)

The verse is 1 Timothy 6:10a. It’s actually half of a verse because most people only reference the first sentence. See if you can recite it. It has the words “money,” “root,” and “evil.”

Let’s see how you did. Here’s the verse in the New International Version:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

And here it is in the English Standard Version:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.

And one more just for thoroughness, the New American Standard Bible:

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.

But how is this verse usually referenced?

Often people misquote the passage in this manner, “Money is the root of all evil."

That’s quite a difference. And it doesn’t really make sense anyway. What about rape? Gluttony? Verbal abuse? None of these are rooted in money. The concept of currency didn’t exist in Eden because Adam and Eve had every need provided for. And who would they have traded with anyway? Each other? Yet they still committed evil by disobeying God.

So you see, this version of the verse is nonsensical, but I bet you’ve heard someone misquote it this manner. I’ve heard it on television countless times (but maybe I just watch too much TV).

Yet there’s another misrepresentation of the verse that inches closer to the original—and is more understandable—but still wrong. It goes like this, “The love of money is the root of all evil."

Notice the difference? We're talking about the root of all evil versus the root of all sorts of evil.

Every major translation but one—the King James Version—uses the previous modifiers “sorts” or “kinds.” Even the New King James Version adds “all kinds of evil” to the passage. The KJV on the other hand does indeed read that the love of money is the "root of all evil." That’s why I say the confusion is understandable. And technically—when referencing this version—reciting it this way is accurate. But I still believe it is a misrepresentation.

Theologian, author, and professor James R. White in his book about the King James Version wrote about the translation of 1 Timothy 6:10:

Literally the Greek reads, "of all the evils," the terms being plural. The modern translations see this as referring to all kinds of evil, while the KJV takes all evil as a whole concept. Grammatically speaking, the KJV translation is a possibility, but it seems to miss Paul’s point. The love of money gives rise to all sorts of evil things, but obviously there are evils in the world that have nothing to do with the love of money. (pp. 182-183 of The King James Only Controversy)

Either way, all faithful translations of the Bible include “the love of” money, and when applying logic and common sense it emerges that “all sorts of evil” is the proper understanding of the passage (whether or not it is a literal translation from the Greek).

But why does this even matter? Why shouldn’t you be yawning right now and closing out your browser?

More than almost anything in Christianity money is misrepresented and misunderstood. I’m not going to go all prosperity gospel on you, but it is extremely important to have a proper understanding of what the Bible actually teaches about money since money touches almost every aspect of our lives.

Money is not evil. It is neutral. To say money is evil is like saying sex is evil. Sex in the proper context—between one man and one woman in a covenant relationship—is a God-ordained gift. It is a good thing! But outside of those boundaries sex brings, well, all sorts of evil.

I do believe some entities intentionally misquote 1 Timothy 6:10 to fit their agenda, but for the most part, people just didn’t read chapter 6 closely enough to know what the passage actually says.

Bottom line: you can’t serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24), and where your treasure is there your heart is also (Matt. 6:21). We can all agree loving money is wrong—downright evil—and that treasuring material possessions is folly.

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May God bless you richly in His infinite wisdom.

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