“The love of money is the root of all evil.”, and “Self praise is no praise.”, are two very old and well known sayings. The first saying has always been inaccurately interpreted. The second saying, similarly, has always been, not only misunderstood but wickedly used in attempts to destroy the self image of others.
The source of the first saying is the Holy Bible. The origin of the second saying may be lost in time even though we know when it first appeared in writing.
The book of 1 Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (King James Bible)
The saying, “Self praise is no recommendation” first appeared in writing in the early 19th century. It however, may have been in use verbally, in one variant or another, long before this time.
Concerning the Biblical quote above, 1 Timothy 6:10, it can be read thus, “For the love of money is the root of all evil [of the type]: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (Textual content in square brackets is added by this writer.)
The love of money can lead to one or more of “all” of the “evil” practices which can be related to the love of money. In the case of this quoted passage, the evil practices pursued are the coveting of money “which while some coveted after,” and the rejection of God’s intended way of life for us “they have erred from the faith,”.
They (who covet money and reject God’s intended way of life for us) experience the consequence of their sinful action even in the temporal life “and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.
Those who covet money as mentioned above, ignore the tenth commandment in the Holy Bible, Exodus 20: 17; Deuteronomy 5: 21. The passage quoted above clearly expects us to practice this commandment even in relation to matters involving money.
‘The love of money is the root of all money-based evil.’, is a more accurate usage of this saying. The traditional usage of this saying, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’, seems to suggest that the love of money is the motive behind all evil.
Evil existed long before the advent of man, and longer still before the creation and use of money. The love of money, therefore, could not be the root of all evil. There also is evil practiced by man that has no connection to money or its use.
“Self praise is no recommendation”, is the earliest written variant of this saying. Like all other sayings, this saying was created by simple rural folk in response to certain situations involving people and property. The type of person and situation for whom this saying was created, were perhaps aptly addressed by the saying.
This saying, however, was not created for use against persons whose performance in their field spoke well of them. A person’s work can and should recommend them, according to the quality of that work.
Using our old familiar sayings is convenient, conservational, nostalgic and can save us a bit of time, so let us continue to use them; but let us use them with a little more understanding for increased accuracy and effect.
By Edward Fagan