Health and Growth

“The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil”: What It Means and How to Preach It

1 Timothy 6:10 is often misused to teach that money is bad. Use this article to finally understand what the text means and how to preach it.

“The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil”: What It Means and How to Preach It
by

Paul Maxwell

“The love of money is the root of all evil.”

It’s one of the most commonly quoted verses in the Bible.

And yet, it can be a very confusing phrase without any context.

None of us really act like money is a bad thing.

None of us even act like the love of money is a bad thing.

Most Americans work 40+ hours a week just to make money. If that isn’t love, what is it?

But this phrase, which the Apostle Paul said to Timothy in a personal letter, carries a much deeper meaning than “money is bad and you shouldn’t want it.”

The Apostle Paul was making a deeper point about how to live our lives for a vision and a purpose that is bigger than money so that we know how to use that money well.

Here, we’re going to unpack that Bible verse, its context, how it’s been explained throughout the history of the church, and a few ways to apply it in a sermon. 

Translations of 1 Timothy 6:10

The Bible verse in question here is 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” First, let’s read through a few different translations of this Bible verse to get a sense of how the Apostle Paul is using it:

ESV: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

NIV: Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The Message: “But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”

The Context of 1 Timothy 6:10

First, note that the Apostle Paul is talking about a style of life that makes money its god. Paul is writing against a way of life that puts money above people, relationships, God, virtue, and charity.

Second, note that Paul is not writing against accumulating wealth. He is writing a young pastor to help him care for the souls of the churches he is planting. In summary, he is saying: “People who live like this often suffer these kinds of ends.” People who worship money often go down dark paths. That’s a more commonsense truth than “Loving money is evil.” And, it is much closer in spirit to what the Apostle Paul was saying.

Third, Paul wasn’t writing a textbook on business. He was, again, helping a young pastor to help his people focus on God. If Paul was writing a business book, he might have said: “If your goal is to make a profit, here’s how you do it.” Paul himself was a businessman—he owned a tent making business (Acts 18:3). 

Paul was a tentmaker so that he didn’t have to take money from churches. If tent making enabled Paul to do ministry without taking money from churches, then this means he turned a profit—more than that, it means he desired to turn a profit. Therefore, Paul wasn’t writing against money. Paul wasn’t mean you can’t desire to build wealth. He was saying that the desire for money is a dangerous desire, and in the grand scheme of things, we can’t take any of it with us when we die, as he says a few verses earlier: “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim. 6:7).

Church History's Understanding of 1 Timothy 6:10

This verse has been used throughout church history to comment on the spiritual power that the desire for money can gain over our souls. Here, we will look at examples from three Johns—John Chrysostom (4th century), John Calvin (16th century), and John Wesley (18th century).

John Chrysostom: 

“Ver. 9. ‘But they that will be rich’; not those that are rich, but those who wish to be. For a man may have money and make a good use of it, not overvaluing it, but bestowing it upon the poor. Such therefore he does not blame, but the covetous. ‘They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.’ He has justly said, ‘they drown men,’ since they cannot be raised from that depth. ‘In destruction and perdition.’ 

Ver. 10. ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.’ Two things he mentions, and that which to them might seem the more weighty he places last, their many sorrows. And to learn how true this is, the only way is to sojourn with the rich, to see how many are their sorrows, how bitter their complaints.”

John Calvin: 

“‘They who wish to be rich’ After having exhorted him to be content, and to despise riches, he now explains how dangerous is the desire of having them, and especially in the ministers of the Church, of whom he expressly speaks in this passage. Now the cause of the evils, which the Apostle here enumerates, is not riches, but an eager desire of them, even though the person should be poor. And here Paul shews not only what generally happens, but what must always happen; for every man that has resolved to become rich gives himself up as a captive to the devil. Most true is that saying of the heathen poet, — ‘He who is desirous of becoming rich is also desirous of acquiring riches soon.’ Hence it follows, that all who are violently desirous of acquiring wealth rush headlong.

Hence also those foolish, or rather, mad desires, which at length plunge them into perdition. This is, indeed, a universal evil; but in the pastors of the Church it is more easily seen; for they are so maddened by avarice, that they stick at nothing, however foolish, whenever the glitter of gold or silver dazzles their eyes.”

John Wesley:

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

“They that desire to be rich” — To have more than these; for then they would be so far rich; and the very desire banishes content, and exposes them to ruin. 

“Fall-plunge” — A sad gradation! Into temptation - Miserable food for the soul! And a snare - Or trap. Dreadful "covering!" And into many foolish and hurtful desires - Which are sown and fed by having more than we need. Then farewell all hope of content! What then remains, but destruction for the body, and perdition for the soul?

How to Preach 1 Timothy 6:10

We can apply several of these things to the Christian life. When preaching a sermon, consider these three points as you craft your application for this text.

1. Money is a good means, but a bad God.

Christians often feel guilty about making money—especially because of a misunderstanding of 1 Timothy 6:10. Take this opportunity to ease people of that guilt and change their understanding of this text from a prohibition against wealth to a warning about wealth

2. We often lose what we think money will give us by pursuing it above all else.

Many wealthy people reach the end of their lives and wish they had spent more time with their families, pursued more virtues paths, and done more honorable things with their lives. On the other hand, many wealthy die leaving legacies of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars given to charity, and a world changed for the better. In your pursuit of money, follow John Wesley’s advice: "Make as much as you can and give as much as you can." Don’t sacrifice family, friendship, or integrity at the throne of money. Use money as a tool to invest in the betterment of everyone within your reach.

3. Giving to the church is God’s way of keeping a check on our love of money.

God commands his people to give to the church. This practice helps Christians to maintain a financial margin in their lives so that they refrain from spending money on frivolous things, and so that their time and money can be a service to God’s work through his kingdom on earth: the church.

Conclusion

As you continue to study 1 Timothy 6:10—“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”—keep in mind the nuance and beauty of the truths this sentence aims to convey. If you feel guilty about money because of this verse, liberate yourself from that guilt. If you guilt others about money because of this verse, you are now free to stop.

But most of all—in Christ, we are free not to pursue money above all else, but to live for something bigger than ourselves: loving God and neighbor. This freedom should bring us joy, not guilt. And that is fundamental point that Paul is making in 1 Timothy 6:10 when he says “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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“The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil”: What It Means and How to Preach It