Disdain for money is a common theme among moralists, philosophers and liberal political activists. But money is not the problem. It’s what people do to get it and what they do with it when they get it.
In Fiddler on the Roof, a poor man sings of his daydreams of the wonderful life he’d have if he were a rich man. And surely there are aspects of his life that would be better. As someone once said, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.”
Yet the Biblical warning that “Love of money is the root of all evil” reminds us to be aware of the difference between need and greed.
There’s nothing wrong with vigorously pursuing money (provided it is done honorably) to improve ones life, to escape poverty or to get an education. But when acquisition of wealth becomes our primary motivation and measure of success, or when we equate happiness or worthiness with wealth. other parts of our moral and spiritual life are bound to suffer.
The love of money can have a powerful narcotic effect on our values. It can push us toward or keep us in unhealthy relationships and unsatisfying careers. It can lead us to undervalue the importance of relationships and work. The desire for money can make us into workaholics who neglect family and friends. And it can spawn dishonorable conduct that pollutes our souls and makes us unworthy despite our net worth.
According to an old Hasidic saying, “One who thinks money can do everything is likely to do anything to get it.”
Perhaps the French philosopher Rousseau said it best: “The money you have can give you freedom, but the money you pursue enslaves you.”
The challenge is to put the value of money in perspective. In the end, the question is: How much are you willing to pay to have money?