By Adam Faughn
There is a principle of Bible study that is foundational. That principle is to make certain we seek to first grasp what a text said to the original readers before we seek to make application to our lives today.
There is another principle, though, that is just as elementary, but, as with the first, we easily forget it. That is this: we need to grasp what a text actually says before we try to make applications from what it does not say.
For an example of this, consider 1 Timothy 6:6-10. In that passage, Paul wrote,
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing with these we will be content. 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.”
So many times, when we get to the opening line of verse 10, we read it, but then we nearly immediately begin to say what it does not teach. (Trust me, I've done this more times than I care to think about.)
What do I mean? Someone in a Bible class will read the phrase, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil," and will immediately be met with the comment, "Now, it does not say money is evil." That is true; the text does not say that.
However, if we are not careful, we can exhaust our thinking with that one observation and fail to make the effort to truly take into our hearts what the actually does say. No, money is not inherently evil. However, Paul made a straightforward declaration that we do not need to lose sight of: loving money gives root to many types of sins. Period. Full stop.
In fact, to make certain we get the point, the remainder of verse 10 is meant to emphasize the same concept. "This craving"--that is, the love of money--has caused some to wander "away from the faith" and some to be "pierced...with many pangs (i.e., consuming griefs)."
Additionally, lest we think that falling into this temptation is something that is extremely difficult to do, consider that Paul uses a form of "love" in this verse that is not a form of the word "agape." Rather, it is from the root term "phileo," which is a friendship love. In other words, this does not have to be some deep love (agape) to cause me to be sorrowful for how I feel about money. If I simply begin to love money like a friend (phileo) and rely on it like a friend--which is very easy to do--I am giving many forms of evil the type of soil they needs to find root.
Money is a necessary part of life. Some form of exchange--whether it is currency or bartering--is a good thing because it allows human interaction, it motivates a good work ethic, and it gives us a way to bless God by blessing others. However, when I begin to see that good thing as a friend instead of as a tool to be used for God's glory, I am in serious trouble.
Now, return to our initial observation. If I spend my thinking only considering that "money is not evil," I can too easy fall into the temptation to begin to find a type of "friend" in money, and, when that happens, I am going down the dangerous road that this verse is clearly stating is the case. And all because I did not simply take what the text says at face value.
Let us always be very careful when we read and study Scripture, not forgetting elementary principles like these in our consideration of God's Word. Then, once we have carefully considered (1) what the text actually says and (2) what it meant to the original readers, we are prepared to make proper application to our lives, including from what a text does not state.