The then-current proverb, for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, is meant to give to the warning a kind of popular authority. Beyond this, however, the root metaphor contains an important truth. The hidden root is the source of life. If one is to rid a garden of weeds, the roots must come out. Similarly, Paul's hearers must not simply treat the problems caused by greed. They must tear out the root that produces the problems.
But how? We know from the story of the rich young man (Mk 10:17-31) how hard it is to loosen this particular root. Jesus' own assessment which follows is no easier: "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle" (10:24-25). But the same passage points to our only hope: "all things are possible with God" (10:27). The answer must lie in seeking God for the strength and determination to do what is impossible for us—to somehow take control of the lust for money and things, to somehow bring about the paradigm shift that will allow God and others to occupy the places of priority in life (Mt 6:33; see below on 6:17).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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