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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Root of All Evil

Most of us are familiar with the epigram that money is the root of all evil but how many know that the expression is a truncated version of the words the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy—6:10 to be precise? The actual quote is: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Now, I am no theologian, but the meaning seems quite clear, all wrongdoing comes from placing the desire for wealth, for worldly things, above the love of God. The first and great commandment says “Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul and all thy mind and the second which is “like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Covetousness, what the testaments define as a preeminent desire for worldly things is sinful not only because it places God in a subordinate position, violating the great commandment but also because coveting that which others possess violates the second commandment as well. But is it indeed the source of all evil? I don’t know about you, but a few other sources of evil come to mind that –especially in our troubled times–are right up there with the love of material wealth. Here is my short list:

- The pursuit of absolute power

- Systemic deceit

- Unyielding arrogance

- Blind hatred

I invite you to make your own list, but the point of this exercise is to say that coveting worldly things is not the exclusive root of evil. Today, we see examples of evil inherent in all of its manifestations in everyday life and more starkly in our political arena.

Candidates for office, including what is arguably the most powerful office in the world seek not to serve, but to rule and to rule absolutely, aggregating such power as to have dominion over the life and death of others, including their own countrymen. Certainly, they are not the first in history to seek absolute power, though none have prevailed forever—even with the witting compliance of those they ruled. Confucius believed that people would follow a virtuous ruler without the need for harsh laws. He spent twelve years traveling all over China seeking a ruler that would take his approach and never found one. Nothing has changed in the intervening years. There is no such thing as benign despotism, much less a dynasty founded on such which is why those who would abrogate our rule of law and sunder our constitution are so inherently dangerous.

To achieve their end—that is to obtain power over others requires of an individual a willingness to violate virtually any and every ethical boundary. Deception is inherent in the pursuit. Those who would attain such authority may believe that the end justifies the means and thereby forgives their transgression of truth, but a lie is a lie and can never be justified. Worse yet are those who are prompted by ideological purity, deceiving even themselves and yielding to nothing and no one.

The extreme arrogance of those who wrap themselves in flag or faith but justify the denial of basic humanity live the lie. We need not look solely to religion to understand that the survival of the human race itself depends on loving our neighbor, but blind hatred, born out of ignorance or willful denial of the rights and humanity of others has led to the most horrific genocides in history, nearly wiping entire races from the face of the earth. No end nor rationalization can ever justify such behavior. Yet racism, anti semitism, and racial prejudice underlie the beliefs and actions of want to be rulers around the world.

Lest we lay the entire blame on our politicians, we must accept that in modern society they invariably rise to power with the compliance of the people—even with their enthusiastic support. Those they think powerful are idolized—venerated even—while the masses never recognize that their fealty is misspent on individuals who have no fealty except to themselves. So it is that those who would be justly ruled are the instruments of their own undoing, believing that those they endow with godly powers will make all things right. They are prepared to ignore every warning sign, every transgression of character in these men and women in the pursuit of their desire.

And what is their desire? At its most fundamental it is a quest for security—for the protection and advancement of their own causes and those of their kindred. Their neighbors must fend for themselves. Sacrifice—the willingness to serve humanity with humility and compassion should be the aim of every individual that seeks office. Who are they then, who are we if we exemplify or tolerate evil? Are we all sinners, are we all destined for Hell? In the words of William Shakespeare writing in the Tempest, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

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