What is the root of all evil?

Photography © by Andy Coan

In his space trilogy, C.S. Lewis called him ‘the Bent one.”  That is really an apt name for the one the Bible 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.  Nowhere 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.

Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) — Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalms 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 1; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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