A study on the phrases ‘the snare of the Devil’ and ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’

How those who were to proclaim the Good Tidings, could become spiritually unfruitful

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Many have heard the phrase “the love of money is the root of all of evil”. Those words appear in certain translations of 1 Timothy 6:10 in the New Testament. Many may also be familiar with the wording “the snare of the Devil”. That phrase is found in 1 Timothy 3:7 and 2 Timothy 2:26, but even 1 Timothy 6:9 mentions that snare, which is connected to the love of money. Jesus warned about similar things; some of the passages in question talk about “thorns” choking those who should have produced a spiritual harvest for God.

Here are two of the passages which record how the apostle Paul warned about being snared:

1 Timothy 6:9 But they who desire to become rich, fall into temptations, and into snares, and into many lusts which are foolish and hurtful, and which drown men in destruction and perdition: 10 for the love of money is the root of all these evils. And there are some who, coveting it, have erred from the faith, and brought themselves into many sorrows. (MUR)

2 Timothy 2: […] 26 and may recollect themselves, and may escape out of the snare of Satan, at whose pleasure they have been held ensnared. (MUR)

1 Timothy 6:9 mentions “temptation” and “snare”. 2 Timothy 2:26 shows that that snare was in some way connected to the Devil. It is the same in 1 Timothy 3:7 which will be considered later.

The above-quoted 1 Timothy 6:9–10 shows that it was those who loved money and wanted to become rich, that fell into that snare. That was one of the ways how those who were to proclaim the Good Tidings, could become spiritually unfruitful. There is more on that matter, later in this article.

1 Timothy 6:10, ‘the love of money is the root of all these evils’.

It is true that the love of money can be said to be a “root of all kinds of evil”, but when it comes to 1 Timothy 6:10, it appears that the wording in the Greek text, riza gar pantôn tôn kakôn estin hê philarguria, should be translated in its literal meaning, “for the love of money is the root of all these evils”. As Adam Clarke in his commentary noted regarding verse 10,

“Money is the root of no evil, nor is it an evil of any kind; but the love of it is the root of all the evils mentioned here.”

That is, the evils which are mentioned in the preceding verses.

1 Timothy 6: […] 5 perverse disputings [a] of men of corrupt understanding, and destitute of the truth, using piety as a source of gain: [b] from such withdraw thyself. 6 But piety with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 So that, [having] sustenance and covering, let us be content with this. 9 For those that desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (JB, note signs and comment added)

a Verse 5, “perverse disputings”: The wording in the Greek text is paradiatribai diephtharmenôn. The second word in that phrase refers to corruption. Regarding the first word, the noun paradiatribê – bible-translators have interpreted it in different ways, such as “argumentations”, “bickering”, “bitter talk”, “conflicts”, “disagreement”, “disputings”, “friction”, “quarrels”, “wranglings”. It is not clear what the apostle Paul exactly meant by that word, but the context in that verse makes it clear that he was talking about men who use religion as a source of profit. (Cf. Titus 1:11 and 2 Peter 2:3.)

b Verse 5, “using piety as a source of gain” – the Mace version phrases that as “who consider religion only as it makes for their gain”. The NIV has “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain”; the 20CNT “who think of religion only as a source of gain”.

So, when the apostle Paul wrote, “the love of money is a root of all these evils”, verse 10, he referred to evils connected to men with corrupt minds, men who used religion as a way for making money, verse 5. Their lust for money and desire to become rich, verse 9, trapped them in a snare (same verse) – the one which Paul on other occasions called “the snare of the Devil”, 1 Timothy 3:7 and 2 Timothy 2:26. – This matter is discussed in more detail later in this article. But first, let us consider something that Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 7.

‘By their fruits you shall know them.’

Jesus warned about religious deceivers.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Why by their fruits you shall know them. (AKJV)

“A corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit”, verse 17, and, “by their fruits you shall know them”, verse 20. That was a warning regarding false prophets, “ravening wolves” in “sheep’s clothing”, verse 15. Obviously, that refers to religious deceivers who want to live “at the cost of the flock”.

Consider this passage:

Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (AKJV, highlighting added)

“Choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life.” That was one of the ways how those who were to proclaim the Good Tidings, could become spiritually unfruitful.

Jude warned about men who are after profit, men who feed themselves at the cost of others, and he likened them to “trees without fruit”.

Jude 11 Woe to them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit wither, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (AKJV, highlighting added)

It is true that that was regarding corrupt persons in the first century. But, things are not any better, in our day. There are countless deceivers who mislead and use people. Often, preachers of that kind are able to gain many followers – who then send money to the preacher – but they do not produce a spiritual harvest for God. Their “proclaiming” does not lead to people receiving the Holy Spirit or everlasting life. It only produces money.

Let us consider even this passage:

Titus 3:14 And let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (AKJV)

Another translation:

Titus 3:14 And let our people too learn to set a good example in following honest occupations for the supply of their necessities, so that they may not live useless lives. (WEY)

“Useless lives” – Paul used the adjective akarpos which referred to such things as “fruitless” and “unproductive”.

In the middle of that verse, the above-quoted Weymouth translation has “honest occupations”. Some have “good works”, but Paul’s use of the word akarpos in the context really indicates that he was talking about work in the meaning “occupation”. The Phillips version has, “and our people should learn to earn what they need by honest work and so be self-supporting”. One commentator noted, “maintain good works, or, profess honest trades”, and referred to Acts 18:3 and 20:35, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8 – the example which Paul and his companions set, in regard to working and supporting oneself. (Acts 20:35 is discussed later in this article.)

The snare of the Devil.

Let us consider something the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. This was concerning who could be elected as elders, and who not.

1 Timothy 3:2 And an elder [c] ought to be such, that no blame can be found in him; and he should be the husband of one wife, with a vigilant mind, and sober and regular in his habits, and affectionate to strangers, and instructive; 3 and not a transgressor in regard to wine, and whose hand is not swift to strike; but he should be humble, and not contentious, nor a lover of money[d] 4 and one that guideth well his own house, and holdeth his children in subjection with all purity. 5 For if he knoweth not how to guide his own house well, how can he guide the church of God. 6 Neither let him be of recent discipleship; lest he be uplifted, and fall into the condemnation of Satan. 7 And there ought to be good testimony of him from those without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of Satan. (MUR, note signs and highlighting added)

So, elders were not to be lovers of money, verse 3. Even verse 8 contains a warning against the love of money:

1 Timothy 3:8 Ministers, [c] in the same way, – dignified, not double-tongued, not, to much wine, given, not greedy of base gain [d] (EB, note signs added)

The context shows that the apostle made it clear that those who were considered as candidates for election as elders, were not to be lovers of money. As 1 Timothy 6:9 (5–9) shows, the love of money leads to a snare.

c “An elder” (verse 2, MUR) and “ministers” (verse 8, EB) – indeed, Paul was talking about (the election of) elders. In verse 2 the Greek text has episkopos and in verse 8 diakonos. Here, it can be good to know that in the Greek text of the NT, all of the words diakonos, episkopos and presbuteros are at times used of elders. The article nea010.htm has more on this; see even the article nea020.htm. (The article nea060.htm clarifies why many translators have misleadingly put “deacons” into five New Testament passages.)

d “Nor a lover of money” (verse 3, MUR) and “not greedy of base gain” (verse 8, EB) – some translations have “not greedy of filthy lucre”, with similar wordings in Titus 1:7 and 11 and 1 Peter 5:2. The archaic word “lucre” comes from the Latin noun lucrum which refers to “profit”, “riches”.

The apostle Paul warned about ‘burdensome wolves’ who do not ‘spare the flock’.

Keep in mind the earlier quoted Matthew 7:15 which records how Jesus warned about religious deceivers – “ravening wolves” in “sheep’s clothing”.

Also the apostle Paul, when talking to the elders from Ephesus, warned about “burdensome wolves”, “not sparing the flock”, “men who speak perverted things”. It is quite obvious that he referred to deceivers who would live “at the cost of the flock”. (The disciples were seen as “Jesus’ flock”.)

Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that they knew that he not acted in that manner. (He had lived in Ephesus, around three years.)

Acts 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the assembly. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, You are familiar with, from the day when I arrived in Asia, after what manner I lived among you all the time […] 28 So, take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians over, to tend the assembly of God which he purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know that after my departure, burdensome wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Even from among your own selves shall arise men who speak perverted things, in order to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore keep watch, remembering that for three years, I did not cease to warn everyone, with tears, night and day. 32 And now I commit you, brothers, to God, and the word of his grace, who is able to edify you and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothes – 34 rather, as you yourselves know, these hands have provided for my needs and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in everything, that by working hard like this, we must support the infirm and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (BPT)

Verse 34, “these hands have provided for my needs” – Paul reminded those elders that they knew that he had supported himself through manual work (apparently as a tentmaker, see Acts 18:3). Not only had he provided for his own needs, but even for the needs of others, see verses 34 and 35. In short: He had been on the giving side.

Regarding the above-quoted verses 29–30: As you can see, Paul warned that there would come forth deceivers, “men who speak perverted things”, “burdensome wolves” who “do not spare the flock” (who live at the disciples’ cost). Such deceivers are caught by the snare of the Devil, and they do not produce good fruit.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

What does the Bible say about elders? What was their role in the saints’ fellowships? → nea010.htm

What does the Bible say about ordaining or ordination? How did the saints choose their elders? Were those elders “ordained”, and did they function as “priests” of some kind? → nea020.htm

What does the Bible say about deacons? → nea060.htm

Acts 20:35 – what the apostle Paul meant when he reminded the elders from Ephesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. → nma020.htm

On Titus 1:15 and the translation “to the pure all things are pure”, and what that verse really means and refers to. → nea050.htm

Jannes and Jambres of 2 Timothy 3 – who were they? → nma110.htm

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