Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 352 - September 1885
With the godly contentment of the christian, the apostle next contrasts the restless, sorrowful, and perilous path of covetousness in its mildest form. It is a worldly lust to be judged and disallowed like any other.
"But those that desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many unwise and hurtful lusts, such as sink men into destruction and perdition. For a root of all evils is the love of money, which some eagerly seeking were led astray from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pains" (ver. 9, 10).
As usual, under a plain and unostentatious exterior, the language of the apostle bears the witness and conveys the power of divine wisdom. It is not here the possession of wealth which stands in the soul's way. This the Lord had laid bare in the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful, because he valued his great wealth too highly, to follow Christ at all cost. Moses suffered what the suffering and glorified Son of man never sanctions. The law made nothing perfect. The introduction of a better hope not only gives us to draw near to God, instead of maintaining the old distance, but in Christ detects and judges the flesh and the world as enmity against God. Outward advantage becomes a spiritual obstacle. Man is evil; and God alone is good; and the cross becomes the door of salvation from a God to whom all things are possible, if they that have riches with difficulty enter the kingdom of God. And all things are possible to him that believeth. For faith makes Christ all, which the young man did not: else he had not gone away with a fallen countenance from Him who never fails to give peace to the most tried believer, and fills with joy the most forlorn.
Here it is the far more common class whose purpose it is to become rich. What does such a desire betray? Discontent with the calling in which one is called; distrust of God's will, goodness, and wisdom in His dealings with each; the same unbroken unjudged thirst for the things the Gentiles seek after. Does not our heavenly Father know what we have need, and what He deems fitting far us? The word of our Lord is, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart." Child of God, where is thy treasure? Is it Christ in heaven? If so, happy art thou! If it is wealth or distinction, the Lord warns, There will be also thy heart. What can be more false and beguiling than the fond fancy that prevails among many in direct contradiction of Christ, that, while the life is absorbed in the struggle for riches, the heart is not there but true to Him? It is not for want of solemn admonition that a christian can thus stray. The character, the state, is proved in what we are set on and live for from day to day. "If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body will be bright." And if the whole body in one be found dark, is it not because the eye is evil? "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great the darkness!" So the Lord detected the source and motive, and exposed the blindness that results.
The apostle here dwells briefly on the effects of such a purpose however veiled. They fall into temptation and a snare and many unwise and hurtful lusts, such as sink men into destruction and perdition. But oh! the unbelief of believers where an object, other than Christ and opposed to His will and glory, carries them away. It is not the riches which are the worst danger, though thereby the path is made more difficult; but the faith that counts them the Lord's, not our own, and therefore seeks only to be faithful as a steward, is according to His mind and blessed in doing it. It is the will or purpose that is so wrong and to be dreaded most.
To fall into temptation is quite different from being tempted. It is trying; but blessed is he that endures temptation. The Lord Himself knows what sore temptations mean, none so much. For as God cannot be tempted by evil things, and Himself tempts no one thus, neither was the Second Man, however the first was at once to . his own ruin, and that of the race, unto God's dishonour. But Christ suffered whilst being tempted, instead of weakly yielding to present gratification and lying down afterwards in unavailing sorrow. Temptation in His case, however complete, was apart from sin; whereas Adam was drawn away acid enticed by lust with all its bitter results. Christ had no sinful temptations, as we have within; He never fell, never entered into, temptation, as He warns us to pray against. To "enter" is fatal, as we see in Peter's case, though through the Lord's intercession his faith did not fail absolutely, and, when turned back or restored, he was used to confirm his brethren.
"Α snare"1 goes yet farther and supposes the deceived soul caught in the net of the enemy, whence only the grace and power of the Lord can extricate.
Further, the desire of riches is not alone but the parent of "many unwise and hurtful lusts." It feeds vanity. It engenders pride. It ministers to selfishness. It suggests and promotes ambition, and so may be the means of corrupting others. How truly we hear of many unwise and hurtful lusts in its train!
As the way is sad and evil, the end (and here it is shοwn fully) is unspeakably wretched. "Such as (or, seeing these lusts) sink men in destruction and perdition." Of course this is said of "men," not of "saints;" but not the least terrible examples are of those who took their place and were once perhaps without question recognised among the confessors of Christ. The more we may know and possess, the less hopeful and the more unconscientious is our departure, when it comes, from what becomes His name. Their course and end mark such only as "men." "Destruction" is the general description of their ruin; "perdition" is still more awfully precise. It is part of the snare and folly to presume on the bearing of the Lord's name as if it mast preserve those under it from the baneful consequences of the unbelief which slights the word and gives loose rein to the will. But God is net mocked, and those who sow to the flesh must reap corruption. The end of these things is death, and none the less but the more irreclaimably where the word which should he living becomes a dead dogma, under which God's calls to holiness, in disallowance of self arid the world, are not heard, and the unwary soul drops into a Inure and more hardened hypocrite. Who has not known such instances? Are they exhausted? Is your soul or mine to pay no heed?
"For a root of evil is the love of money, which some, being eager after, were seduced from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many pang." This is a solemn but not too sweeping sentence, which we all should ponder; though some more than others, as the apostle implies, are exposed to the poison. Wealth practically means the possession of much more than we need fur ourselves or the poor from day to day, what is over and above godly use, what therefore can only be for show or indulgence, for lavishness or for hoarding.
The language of men betrays their mammon-worship. They conceive money, and the love of it, a root of "goods." God pronounces it a root of "evils;" and not merely possible but actual, τῶν κ., the evils that exist, subtle or important, of the flesh and of the mind. So the Lord had admonished the disciples against the cares of the age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, entering in.
Christianity is no doubt of faith and the "faith"; but, when real, it is a life more than a creed. It is Christ living in each believer, as the apostle says of himself as a saint, not officially, so as to be a sample of the household of faith. But so deadly a root of evils is the love of money that its seductive influence from the faith is singled out for the forefront of resulting danger. And this may help to explain the strength of the language in Eph. v. 5 where a covetous person is styled an idolater, as ill Col. iii. 5 covetousness is declared to be idolatry. Be it that πλ. there employed goes beyond φιλαργ. here used: still the latter is at least included in that unsatisfied greed which becomes pre-eminently an absorbing idolatrous passion that excludes true homage to the true God.
But the apostle in no way limits the mischief to causing souls to wander from the faith, though surely nothing can be more disastrous. The eager pursuit of money is wont to pierce its votaries through 'with many pains. It is hard in that chase to avoid deceit here, dissimulation there, hard words and ways to one, soft to another, taking selfish advantage of men and things and times, without account of heart or circumstances, and still less of Christ before God. It is not only failure but success that inflicts the many pangs; yea, the most successful in general have their, disappointments, and therefore all the keener.
Still it is hardly exact, I think, to say "the" root, though one knows what has been pleaded on its behalf; because "the" implies naturally an exclusive force, and the love of money, deep and wide as it may be, is not the only root, of all men's evils. But our language hardly admits of a simply anarthrous usage like the Greek, and therefore we make use of the indefinite article, though it may be feeble.
1) Not a few MSS. (3 of them uncials), versions, &c. add "of the devil": but this is superfluous if not narrow, no doubt due to ch. iii.7.