The entire quotation is: "For the love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)" So, just as you said, it isn't the money, but the want for it.
Is the quest for truth just lust? I spend many hours reading solely for the acquisition of additional knowledge (or so I have been able to convince myself). There must be some distinction between material and intellectual goods. If not, I know many guilty of avarice, including myself.
It appears there is a fine line that separates innocent, noble reasons for acquisitiveness and the crass consumerism/conspicuous consumption you speak of.
I'll admit, my reasons for going back to school and getting my degree ("bettering" myself) were entirely materialistic. I'm tired of living in apartments--I want a house. I'm tired of getting around on bicycles and used cars and motorcycles--I want a new car, with a warranty.
I'm tired of merely dreaming about doing track days on a sportbike, or taking long, lazy two-up weekend trips on a sport-touring machine--I want to buy my dream bike. I'm tired of not being able to afford nights out, or good food, or broadband. I'm tired of unexpected bills taking huge chunks out of my careful budget.
At this point, it really is all about the Benjamins. Oh, I'm not seeking greater status or looking for a way to inspire envy in my buddies. But I went back basically so I could buy *things*. I had enough of the alternative, not being able to buy much of anything.
And you see, my self-interest is leading me to become a productive member of society (a comprehensive financial planner, by the way), an earner and a consumer. Resources will flow my way, and I'll spend those resources on a number of products. In short, greed is moving me to become productive, as it does for so many others--this collective greed allocates the resources efficiently, as if by an invisible hand.
I resent status-seekers (such as the RUBs--rich urban bikers or folks in their fifties who've never ridden a motorcycle in their lives and go out and buy the biggest Harley available for their first bike, because they're trying to buy into some sort of manufactured image) as much as you, but I wouldn't go so far in condemning all conspicuous consumption.
Also, a select few material objects have made me genuinely happy (while I owned them, which I suppose is the catch)--my RX-7 and one of my motorcycles, for instance. I *loved* those things.