They were a picture-perfect couple who seemed kind and loving. They both worked in careers that involved helping other people. They talked a lot about their faith and about “doing the right thing.” They seemed like wonderful folks.
But when they got in the middle of a business negotiation in which I was involved, their nice words went out the window. Their masks fell off. They were suddenly greedy and grasping, trying to scrape every last dollar out of a deal — even if that meant cheating the other party.
I’ve seen this over and over. Money doesn’t change people, but it does unmask who they really are. When they discover money is involved, you find out what their real values are. You find out how little they’ve meant the sweet words of love and happiness.
I’ve seen another example of this ugliness in the last few days. I’m no longer naive enough to be surprised by it, but it still hurts me. It still saddens me. It still leaves me wondering what sort of monsters we become when money becomes our god.
Some people love to claim that the Bible says money is the root of all evil, but scripture says nothing of the sort. Money is just a store of value. It represents the value of the services we’ve provided to other people. It’s a very neutral thing, in and of itself.
But in the first letter which Timothy wrote in the New Testament, he said, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
Did you see the difference? It’s not money which is the root of evil. It’s the love of money which becomes a root of evil. That’s a huge distinction.
If you love providing value to other people — if you truly enjoy doing things which other people are willing to pay you for — you might very well become wealthy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if your focus turns to the money itself — doing whatever you can to make more and giving up the things you need which might cause you to lose money — there’s something very sinister and unhealthy about that.
Worse, it’s very stupid — because money will never make you happy.
It’s very depressing to watch people become greedy when they’ve presented themselves as something better. If you pay attention, there are sometimes specific moments when you can tell that a switch has flipped — when a person realizes that there’s a cost to the love or good will that he or she has been promising.
If you pay attention to that moment when the switch flips, you’ll go cold and feel the blood pumping hard in your chest. You’ll feel love turn to stone. You’ll feel warmth turn to ice. You’ll feel something which had been presented to you as beautiful and loving turn to a vicious beast.
That’s a terrifying thing to watch, especially because the person you’re watching has no idea what a hypocrite he or she has become. You’ll lose respect for the person. You’ll wish you hadn’t seen what you’ve seen. You’ll wish you could go back to believing the beautiful loving lies.
You’ll wish you hadn’t seen any of this — all because you’ll know you’ve seen the worst of what a human being can be, because once the person loves money enough to change his or her values, every value can be thrown away. You’ll know what lies beneath the mask. You’ll know you’re dealing with someone whose values are those of a grasping and selfish person who thinks he or she must have it all.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with money. I want more of it. I intend to have a lot more money. I wish I had a partner to help me maximize my ability to make money and then cause it to grow some more. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this if you make it honestly and ethically, in accordance with loving values.
The problem is when money creeps up on your list of values — when it becomes your god. When it becomes more important to you than the things you truly need. When it becomes more important than the promises you’ve made. And when it becomes more important than the values you believed really mattered to you.
I can’t get this latest example of pure greed out of my mind tonight. I can’t quit thinking of how this man’s values snapped from loving faith to greedy desire for gain.
He doesn’t realize I saw it. We will never speak of it. But I grieve for the cold heart which causes him to lie to himself about what truly matters in life. And I wonder if he realizes this is why he’s alone in the world. But that’s another story entirely.