Buying an Elephant: Money and Disordered Love


My Grandpa used to say, “I wish I had enough money to buy an elephant. Not that I would buy an elephant, it would just be nice to have that kind of money.”

My Grandpa was an engineer for Boeing, but he still couldn’t afford an elephant.

I think that his statement captures something about money; that it is the potential for having or doing something more than the actual having or doing of something. The potential is power.

We’ve all heard 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (KJV). This verse can leave us inclined to think that money is bad, or evil. But not all evil stems from loving money. A better translation from the Greek is “For the Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV, NKJV, ESV, NRSB). This difference in translation has caused a great deal of misunderstanding about money. The love of money is the love of power for power’s sake.

To help put it in perspective, Augustine of Hippo, wrote that there is nothing evil in and of itself, there is no substance that is evil. He accounts for evil from loving the wrong things, or loving good things wrongly. He calls this disordered love.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God. And the second is to love people. So when we get that order wrong, we love people more than God, we idolize them and do not trust God to have their best interest in mind. We think we love them more than God loves them. Likewise, when we love money more than people, we use people to get money.

Money isn’t evil. Being wealthy isn’t evil. But loving money more than people or more than God, that is a real problem.

To make it clear, we are right with God based on what Jesus did on the cross, his death and resurrection. Jesus paid the price that we couldn’t pay to make a way to be right with God. So there are people who are right with God and are rich, and there are people who are not right with God and rich. There are people who are right with God and poor, there are people who are not right with God and poor. Money or lack thereof on its own doesn’t make us closer or further from God. Sometimes people mistake being poor with being godly because Jesus was poor. But you can be poor and have a fierce love of money.

But in our lives, money becomes a valuable litmus test of our hearts. Jesus spoke a lot about money and this is why: “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” This is why Pastor Jon has on more than a few occasions talked about Budgeting as a spiritual practice, because it helps us see where our money goes, and where our heart is.

Is there anything in your hear that needs to be reordered?

Recommended Reading:
Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions. Written about 400 A.D. It is an account of how he struggled with becoming a Christian. The above reference in the blog about disordered love is in this book.