The Root of all Evil?

shutterstock_111093035 - 2In his space trilogy, C.S. Lewis called him ‘the Bent one.”  That is really an apt name for the one the Bible is calls “Satan” or the Accuser.  The perverse choice he made to serve himself rather than his creator warped his nature, and ever since his delight has been twisting anything he can get his hands on.

Take sexual desire for instance.  It was created by God to draw together a man and woman in committed, covenant love that issues in new life.  As such, sexual desire is clearly a great good.  But when it is twisted at the instigation of the “Bent One,” it becomes lust–the urge for sterile self-gratification that is willing to trample upon the dignity of another, of many others, to satisfy an itch.

The same holds true for economic drive.  No where in the Bible do we see praise for laziness.  Man and woman are given responsibility to care for the garden even before sin enters into the story.  Work is holy, and ought to be productive (BTW John Paul II’s theology of work is as fantastic as his theology of the body!).  And enjoying the fruits of our labor and sharing them with others are some of life’s greatest blessings.

Yet when the drive to work and earn money is twisted, the legitimate pleasure intended by God vanishes and is replaced by bondage.  The workaholic can’t get off the treadmill to enjoy the fruit of his labor.  He anxiously allows work to become compulsive, eating away at every area of his life.  Then we have the greedy of this world who hoard their treasure, refusing to enjoy it themselves or share it with others.  Instead, money becomes a substitute for God, an idol.  The greedy seek their identity and ultimate security in money.  This is what we see in the rich man of Luke 12.  His problem is not that he is excited about a bumper harvest, but that he succumbs to the illusion that this wealth means security.  He puts his trust in his warehouses which, of course, let him down.

First Timothy 6:10 teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evil.   I’ve always found St. Augustine’s definition of the love of money to be very enlightening.  He points out that the wrong kind of love is not restricted to money.  Whenever a created thing becomes no longer a means to love God but an end in itself, then you have that “love” which is idolatry and the root of all evil.  Do you “love” the idea of finding the perfect mate?  To have a better love life within marriage? To have a child?  To get a job?  To win an athletic championship?  To get a college degree?  To flourish in business?  The desire for all these things can be good indeed.  The avid pursuit of each of these things can actually be a duty, depending on one’s state it life.

The question, though, is whether these desires and achievements are stepping stones on the road to God or disastrous detours.  It’s time for a gut-check.  Are we most intent on things below or on things above?  (Colossians 3:1-2)   We should be passionate about many things below – but is our zeal for health, love, kids, education, job, financial security truly a function of our zeal for loving God and doing his will?  Where do we seek our ultimate satisfaction and security?   In these temporal things (even people) that pass away, or in God who is forever?  What do we look forward to more . . . our next promotion or heaven?   Including an examination of conscience in our daily prayer helps us ask such questions daily and keeps us from getting off-track.

If you haven’t noticed, it does not take us much to get us off-track.  It’s been that way ever since that first fateful conversation in the Garden between our first parents and the Bent One.


Image credit:

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit or call 800.803.0118.

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  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    Examination of conscience and frequent Confession help so much and of course receiving the Eucharist.
    Trust me if you are under great stress (whatever that stress might be) and want to find true peace of mind, frequent Confession, it will help you.
    Trust me I know.

  • Jack

    Absolutely brilliant insight, and very timely with the Pope’s comments to be counter culture. Are we not called to be in the world not of the world? These false securities and the state of indentured servitude that we instill on ourselves are all distractions from our relationship with God. Thank you taking the time to spell this out so clearly and interestingly! Keep writing for the website!!

  • pete salveinini

    No, work is NOT HOLY, IT IS GOOD. Some work MAY BE HOLY, and some work may be slavery and dehumanizing, but of itself work is generally good and good for us. There are Holy works of religion, ie directly for the glory of God, which require beings in the state of grace, and ordinary work can be sanctified but most often is not in fact, while it still remains good.

  • Dr. Eowyn

    Thank you, Dr. D’Ambrosio, for pointing us to Pope JPII’s “Theology of Work.” I am, however, rather disappointed in your emphasis on greed as characterizing “the rich.” What about the greed of those who can but do not work, and instead covet the “wealth” of those who work and pay taxes? As an example, a study by the Social Security Administration in 2009 found that many recipients of disability benefits can, but do not want to work.

  • Jon C.

    At the very root of evil is fear. Rather than trusting in God an individual will commit a sin to satisfy a selfish desire. This desire comes as the result of a fear of being without (think fruit from tree of knowledge). To appease the fear the individual chooses to serve the self. By serving the self the individual expresses a lack of trust in God’s will and shows a willingness to serve themselves above all.

    The love of money, or greed, is an example of this formula to sin. When a person is motivated by the fear of not having wealth they will lie, steal, cheat, and murder to appease the fear of being without wealth.

    Serving one’s fear is the root of all evil.