“Filthy lucre” is money, but not all money is filthy. The KJV and ASV use this term five times. Other Bible versions translate this “unlawful gain.” Elders in the church must not be “lovers of money” [“filthy lucre,” KJV, I Tim 3:3]. Money is morally neutral, neither good nor bad in itself. There are three ways money becomes ‘filthy lucre.’
Money gained evilly. Money that is stolen, received as a bribe to pervert justice, or gained by lying, cheating. Misrepresenting value is “ill gotten gain.” A “false balance is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov 11:1). To copy something and then claim it as one’s own is a form of theft. (Eph 4:28).
Money used for evil purposes. Money spent or gained by prostitution, drunken revelry, or for gambling are examples of fleshly works (Gal5:19-21), or money gained dishonestly. Money should be spent on things needed and to bless self and others.
Money that takes the place of God. “In God we trust” is inscribed on our money. This reminds us that our trust is not in money itself. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Tim 6:10). If a drive to get rich governs our life, we have fallen “into temptation, into a snare … and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin” (I Tim 6:9-10). One does not have to be rich to desire to be rich. A poor man can covet wealth. [Thanks to Cecil May, Jr. for help.]
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