Osama Bin Laden is Dead: Lessons in Money for Evil or Good

May 2, 2011

Where were you when you heard the news? The news that, after nearly a decade, Osama Bin Laden is definitely dead, his body in US custody.

Could there be a more profound study in the use of money than the life of Osama Bin Laden, billionaire terrorist?

Many of you struggle with the idea that money itself is evil. And therefore you have pushed money away. I was journaling this morning about my own relationship with money, and the choices that I have made, and I was suddenly struck by these choices that this man made.

Osama Bin Laden was reportedly a billionaire. He certainly was a study in the power of money, and in how that power can be turned to any use, how it can be used to evil means. Think of the good that he could have done with those billions! And then sadly I realize that, in his mind, he was doing good.

One common (mis)conception about money is that, since money can be used for evil power, therefore money itself is evil. I can tell you that, since I regularly speak personally with Money, he takes offense at this! :-)

“Money is the root of all evil” comes from the New Testament, specifically Timothy 1, which according to (some) Biblical scholars was the teachings of Paul, a letter to his young colleague Timothy. Whether or not the authorship is correct, the focus of the letter was about the structure of the church. And so what the author was really saying was that the Church should not be about money.

All four New Testament gospels tell the story of the cleansing of the temple, where Jesus and his disciples came into Jerusalem for Passover, and found the courtyard of Herod’s temple filled with commerce. Jesus made a whip and overturned the tables, purportedly calling it a “den of thieves”. Another powerful money lesson, indeed.

I am neither a devout Christian nor a Biblical scholar. I bring you this history to make you think about how we get powerful money messages, and how we each make choices around money. I do not begin to judge what Jesus was trying to accomplish with his actions. Perhaps they really were thieves, and perhaps the Temple was not the right place for these activities.

But many of us have taken these words as truth, and they confuse us – that commerce = thieves, that money itself = evil. Therefore, if we are trying to get more money, perhaps we are evil, too! What a message!

Money is definitely powerful. Yet, going back to Jesus’ life (and many other great masters), clearly there can be great power without money! And clearly, using Osama Bin Laden as an example, money can be used to create evil. (We do not have to look far to find other examples of those who have used their money for questionable purposes.)

But money is neutral. It is people who create power, evil, good, and all in between.

“Money is the root of all evil,” is such a common phrase that it has been turned into many other quotes:

“Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.”–Louisa May Alcott

“Money, the root of all evil… but the cure for all sadness.”–Mike Gill

“The person who said money is the root of all evil just flat out didn’t have any.”–Stuart Wilde

“The love of evil is the root of all money.”–American Proverb

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”–George Bernard Shaw

“So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?”–Ayn Rand

“The lack of money is the root of all evils.”–Mark Twain

My personal belief, from my rational, adult self, is that money is not the root of evil at all. But I invite you to look at your beliefs around this statement. Money is clearly powerful. What is money to you?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

tony May 16, 2011 at 4:31 am

Your blog has great content and flows really well. I love the use of quotes and your humour. You may want to add twitter and fb buttons at the bottom of each post as it would make it much easier to share what you have here. Either way, keep up the great work. Tony


marilyn May 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Thanks for the kind words and the great suggestion, Tony. I’ll definitely figure out how to add those buttons!


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