LEARNING TO SPEND MONEY PROPERLY
Finally, we have to learn how to spend our money properly. When I was young, I read an article written by Benjamin Franklin of the United States in which he said that making money is easy and that spending money is hard. At first I did not agree with what he said because I believed that it is very hard to make money but not very hard to spend money. However, after reading through the article, I was deeply touched and greatly benefited. The article says that if a person does not spend his money properly, he will buy himself disaster. Very few people, however, know how to spend their money rightly.
Concerning the matter of financial support for the carrying out of the entire move of the Lord here, the need is extremely great. For example, the needs include the producing of one thousand full-timers, the propagation to the towns and villages, and the building of a big meeting hall. I have told all of you that we are all in the same boat. We must be in one accord and offer as much as we can. Although the full-timers are the object of church support, they should still try their best to be frugal. I have exhorted the elders to do their best to provide adequate care to the full-timers by finding out clearly about their family background, their personal situation, and their health condition. In the same way, I exhort all of you who are full-timers to open up and have fellowship with the elders if you have received too little; on the other hand, if you have received too much, you should learn to give some away to care for the need of the churches and the saints.
Let me give you a little personal testimony. We all know that the Lord is our riches, yet we also love money. In January of 1937, together with some co-workers from the northern part of China, I went to Shanghai to attend Brother Nee’s conference in which he released the messages, Concerning our Missions (later republished as The Normal Christian Church Life—trans.). After the conference I was invited to visit Hangchow and Nanching. While I was holding a conference in Nanching, a brother from Hankow who was attending the conference received a telegram asking him to go home immediately because his wife was seriously ill. Upon hearing the news I was burdened in my spirit to give him some money. However, inwardly I was unwilling to do it. I said to myself as well as to the Lord, “Before I return to Tientsin, I still have to go to Tsinan, Tsingtao, and Chefoo. The money that I have is just enough to cover my traveling expenses. Thus, if I give away some of my money, I will have a lack. Now what shall I do?” Furthermore, I considered the fact that I had neglected the care for my wife and my three children since I had been away from home for several months. I was really in a dilemma.
The Lord, however, would not let me go. Finally when that brother was about to board the car for departure, I gave him three-quarters of the money I had with me. As soon as I gave away the money, I was relaxed and happy, feeling relieved in my spirit. However, I was still concerned about my own immediate expenditures. Then something wonderful happened; right after I saw that brother off, I went back to my lodging place and locked the door. As I was about to retire for the night, suddenly there was a brother knocking on my door. Right away I knew within that it was the Lord’s provision. After opening the door, I received an amount which was five or six times more than what I had given away. At that moment I had a real sense of shame and felt that I had really offended the Lord.
That was just the story on my side. Simultaneously, something wonderful also happened in my home in Tientsin. During my absence, my wife with our three children was so impoverished that they were about to run out of food. Since we had learned not to reveal our need, my wife asked the three children to kneel down beside the bed with her, and they prayed to the Lord, telling Him that they would be running out of food the next day. The Lord is truly living and worthy of our trust. Just as she was rising up after she had finished praying and was going to put the children to bed, an elderly sister came. That elderly sister had not had any previous contact with my wife and had not been attending the meetings regularly. Furthermore, she was a Cantonese and spoke only Cantonese, of which my wife could not understand a word. Being very wealthy, she came to my home by car. Upon entering my home, she said a few sentences to my wife which meant: “This is what the Lord has prepared for you.” Then she went away, leaving behind a large amount of money. My wife said to my children immediately, “Look at this. We just prayed, and the Lord sent an elderly sister to give us something right away.” Later that elderly sister told us that on that night she was reminded of my wife and our three children and suddenly felt so troubled within. Then the Lord said to her, “Send them some money quickly.” She asked, “Would it be all right if I went tomorrow?” The Lord said, “No! Go quickly right away.”
Brothers and sisters, this is truly my testimony. I was in one kind of situation while I was traveling, and my family was in another situation at home. The Lord took care of all of us. Therefore, we should not worry about our future. Rather, we should believe that we are in His hands and that He will take care of us and sustain us in a practical way. If the support you receive from the church is scanty, do not complain but rather look to the Lord. If the support is plentiful, do not waste it all, but always save some for the Lord’s use. When I was in Shanghai, Sister Ruth Lee told me personally that when she and her co-workers were going to take the streetcar, they would count the cost and try to save as much as they could. Sometimes they would rather walk and save the few copper coins for the Lord. I also learned such a lesson. For example, whenever I wrote a letter, I would use an aerogram in order to save a dime or a few pennies. This was the kind of living that the co-workers at that time learned to live. We all need to learn such a lesson.
We should not fear that the Lord will neglect us. Until today I have been receiving more than ten thousand U.S. dollars from the Lord yearly. However, I still try to be as frugal as possible in my living so that I can have more to give away. Sometimes I take care of some needy saints, especially the Chinese co-workers, and sometimes I take care of the needs of the churches for building meeting halls in different places. Therefore, we should not have the notion that since the Lord has given us so much, we are free to spend it all. No! Even if the Lord gives us much more than we need, it is still the Lord’s money. Even though the money is in our hands, still it is the Lord’s money. Therefore, we have to learn to spend it carefully, trying our best to save as much as possible for the Lord’s use.
Our living on the earth is entirely for the Lord. We should not be thinking about trying to significantly raise the quality and standard of our living. Rather, we should live a normal and proper life, being regulated in our daily activities at home, including our eating. When we need to spend, we would spend wisely; when we need to eat, we would eat properly. On the one hand, we should never sacrifice our health for the sake of saving money, for this would be an offense to the Lord. On the other hand, we should not waste even one penny. For the necessities of living, we should spend on the crucial things we need according to the rules of health, eating nutritious food and using suitable things, but we should not spend money for any unnecessary things. Using myself as an example, I still have a suit that I have had for eighteen years and a pair of shoes that I bought in England in 1958, both of which I am still wearing today. We must learn to spend within the appropriate bounds.
What I have said is not a small thing. Rather, this is for the building up of our proper living. Please remember that one day we all will stand before the judgment seat of the Lord to give an account of everything. We will have to explain to Him concerning how we speak, how we spend our money, and how we deal with others. This should serve as a reminder to us that if we really intend to be His witnesses, we should not just speak in a vain way. Rather, we should exercise our conscience so that we will be able to testify for ourselves that we are absolutely walking according to the spirit and doing everything before the Lord.
Therefore, I hope that we would all remember these few matters and apply them in our daily life, practicing every single item. We should not just talk and then not practice. We are different from Christianity. Not only do we acknowledge the truth and endeavor to be built up in the truth so that we have both depth and height, but we should also be right and proper in our practical living. I am convinced that if we practice all these things, we will be those whom the Lord desires and who can be used by Him to send His truth to the whole world, so that the gospel of the kingdom might be spread to the whole inhabited earth (Matt. 24:14) for the discipling of all the nations (28:19).
(The Economy of God and the Mystery of the Transmission of the Divine Trinity, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)