This is part of an ongoing weekly series entitled “The Last Days” where we are examining 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Today we look at the defining characteristic, “lovers of money.” To read the other parts in this series please click on the FAITH section in the menu above.
The phrase “lovers of money” in this passage from 2 Timothy 3 is translated as simply “covetous” in the King James Bible. The word comes from the Greek philargyros meaning loving money and avarice. It is the same root word used in Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.”
Mankind has always loved money. Money makes the world go round. The systems built around money and finance cause the human race to function predictably. But what is being described in 2 Timothy 3 is more than this. At the end of time, the love of money will fill the human heart and experience like no other period in history. In the last days, according to this passage from Paul, the misplaced love of money will be a pandemic that is altering the nature of the human heart across the world.
- Read Also: How Money Became the Measure of Everything (Atlantic)
We live in an era where the love of money has bound the world together like never before. We saw glimpses of this reality in the 2008 economic meltdown. As the US mortgage markets sank, Iceland’s economy went belly up, Greece collapsed, the Euro tumbled. Oil markets from Venezuela to Nigeria disintegrated. At the root of all these crises, when we find the true origins, is the widespread global love for money. More than ever before, beneath the crises of the globe, today is the ever-present seed of mankind’s love for money. The seed is bearing fruit and that fruit is a self-centered, chaotic, destructive mess. We call it an interconnected global economy but what we really mean by that phrase is that the world has finally united around one thing – the love of money.
From the international banking and investment systems dominated by the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America (to name only a few) to the heavy foreign investment acts of nation-states like Saudi Arabia, China and Russia; the love of money along with the power and security it brings is central to the modern global finance system.
The Saudi oil giant ARAMCO is set to go public next month. Experts predict it will value at around $1.5 trillion. Investors from around the world will converge on this new investment opportunity, incentivized by the greed and interconnected at an even deeper level. What we should see in these stories is not simply greed but the interconnectedness by which greed is common and even relied upon to make the global economy function. We should also recognize the seeds for the system’s collapse. The more interconnected the global economy becomes around the love for money the easier it is for one string to be pulled and the whole system to come tumbling down.
Another evidence of the widespread love for money that dominates the heart of man today is the massive levels of inequality in the world. Economic inequality defines human existence at every standard and scale.
- The richest 1% of the world owns 45% of the world’s wealth.
- 64% of the world’s people hold less than 2% of the world’s wealth.
- 84% of the world’s wealth is held by less than 10% of the world’s population.
- 003% of the population hold more than 11% of the world’s wealth.
- The world’s 10 richest billionaires, according to Forbes, own $745 billion in combined wealth, a sum greater than the total goods and services most nations produce on an annual basis.
- Between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires it took to equal the wealth of the world’s poorest 50 percent fell from 380 to 42.
- In 2018 there were 2208 billionaires on the planet while 1 billion people lived on less than a dollar a day and nearly half the planet on less than $5.50 a day.
- Measures like these affect the nature and systems of healthcare, education, government and politics, food…frankly, every system of life in this world is impacted by this level of inequality. Every single human being and their life are affected by the love of money that is at the root of so much that occurs in the world today.
Measures like these affect the nature and systems of healthcare, education, government and politics, food…frankly, every system of life in this world is impacted by this level of inequality. Every single human being and their life are affected by the love of money that is at the root of so much that occurs in the world today.
For those of us who benefit from the gaping economic inequality divide, we have more stuff but less depth, meaning, and satisfaction in life. For those of us at the other end of the spectrum, our children have a far greater likelihood of growing up at war, exposed to diseases, victims of corruption, and little chance of upward mobility out of this predicament. That is the lifestyle that the love of money has delivered to us.
Economic inequality demonstrates the extremes in which the love of money divides and polarizes the world into the haves and the have notes but the disease goes deeper than that. Every system of our global order is impacted, limited, and corrupted not only by inequality but by the deeply entrenched values of the love of money.
In the 2018 documentary Generation Wealth, Lauren Greenfield observed our growing obsession with wealth. It is an obsession that does not give way to satisfaction or contentment. There is a constant cry for more. Human lives, relationships, and self-images are perverted by this obsession. This is where our celebrity culture springs from. It is not only that we have to have more than everyone else. We must also be seen as having more than everyone else. Wealth and money make us exceptional in this culture and generation. Technology and media allow us to broadcast our exceptionality.
One absurd character in the Generation Wealth documentary explains the history of how this came about: “The value system changed completely. It wasn’t about who you are, but about what you are worth…Morals are completely non-productive in that value system.”
Our value systems are shaped by the love of money. After the 2008 economic meltdown was brought on by massive fraud and irresponsibility, little accountability was issued to the big banks and their leaders who led the biggest economies of the world into the morass. Many of them received tax-funded government bailouts, bonuses and retirement packages. The greater concern is that more than 10 years later our society and culture allowed this. The love of money in our culture accommodates a measure of corruption and excess. It is expected.
Right and wrong and the meaning of life have all been redefined by the love of money. A 2014 study on how people derive their moral decisions and how that morality changes over time found that, for most people, morality evolves according to what benefits us most economically. “Our moral principles are more flexible and self-serving than we would like to admit,” said the study’s author.
Observe our entertainment systems, our church systems, our political systems. The love of money infects it all. It is at the root of all life systems in the world today. While mankind has always loved money, we have never experienced an age where the globe, every human life, was so intricately linked to the love and priority of money. This is the age of the love of money!
Yet this core driver of our global and individual operating system, greed, is wholly inadequate to build a life upon. It cannot bring peace. It cannot bring wholeness. It cannot bring satisfaction. It is a distraction that leads us further from these important things – not closer.
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. Ecclesiastes 5:10
As the love of money has grown more dominant as the defining characteristic of the global order for life, the quality of life has grown more chaotic, dysfunctional, polarized, and inadequate. The economic values of capitalism were supposed to bring a system of shared interests and effectively eliminate, or at least greatly reduce war. While it is true we have not had repeated world wars, the people of Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Syria and many more would argue that war has not been reduced. The love of money has facilitated wars of exploitation rather than conquest.
But the most damning evidence of this failed system of life where the love of money abounds is the failing quality of human life across the globe. Although we have access to greater comfort and better healthcare than any other point in history, we also have a phenomenon of deaths of despair. Opioid epidemics and soaring suicide rates speak to the fact that what we are doing is not working. Man does not live on bread (or money) alone. Linking our lives to such a fraudulent system of belief is proving utterly wrong and failing.
This is the state of the times of the last days. This is the definition of culture, values, and the issues that dominate life. The posture of the believer is to be careful that we not become entrapped by these fraudulent values and ideals. Our measure for life, for fulfillment, for success cannot be based upon the corrupting world system around us. It must be based on the Word of God.