THE NATURE AND SUBSTANCE
OF MONEY BEING UNRIGHTEOUS
Luke 16 mentions the unrighteous steward and the unrighteous money. There the Lord commended the unrighteous steward for his wisdom. He used his master’s money to make friends. There is a difference between the parable itself and the teaching that comes after it. The parable itself goes from verse 1 to verse 7, whereas the teaching begins from verse 8. Here it says that the sons of this age are more prudent than the sons of light in their own generation. This one changed the bill of one hundred measures of oil to read fifty, and the bill of one hundred measures of wheat to read eighty. This is unrighteousness in procedure. Surely it is wrong. But after this, the Lord teaches us to bring people into the eternal tabernacle with the mammon of unrighteousness. Here we have the money itself as being unrighteous. Not only is the procedure unrighteous, but money itself is unrighteous. In the parable itself, it says that the procedure is unrighteous, but in the teaching it says that the money is unrighteous. Money itself is unrighteous in nature and substance. Here it does not say that wheat is unrighteous, or that oil is unrighteous. Instead, it says that the person is unrighteous; he is an unrighteous steward. And in the teaching it says that even money itself is unrighteous. Some people think that since unrighteous money can give us friends and cause others to be saved, and it can send people to the heavenly eternal tabernacle, this must mean that money is good. But we have to realize that before God the nature and substance of money is unrighteous. Today we need to repent for our attitude toward money. Money stands in opposition to God. We cannot allow one thing that is in opposition to God to exist. Either we serve God, or we serve mammon. Mammon demands man’s worship, in the same way that God demands our worship. Once this matter is settled, our service to God becomes simple.
During these years, concerning money, the co-workers can boast that they have not been tied down with jobs for a living. Although the other brothers and sisters have more occasions to be exposed to money, they have to remember that they are serving God just as the co-workers are. We do not expect anyone among us to be a steward for his whole life and yet find nobody to receive him into the eternal tabernacle.
THE WAY TO DEAL WITH MONEY
that Comes by Unrighteous Means
When the Israelites left Egypt, they were supposed to take with them as much gold as possible (Exo. 12:35-36). If the money that we have comes from righteous means, we can give as much as we want to. But if it is gained through unrighteous means, we have to return it. Some people will never let go of the money in their hands. From now on, we have to maintain our Christian standing. We should have the sense that, in the matter of money, we can rise above others’ heads. Others consider money as their life, but we do not. Money that we gain through righteous means can be kept, but money that we gain through unrighteous means should be returned.
Avoiding Occupations that Do Not Increase
the Value of Goods
With some kinds of money, it is all right to make it as a businessman, but not all right to make it as a friend. These are things that we can have no part in. In short, we can only deal with this question by taking care of the principles; we cannot deal with it in detail. It is wrong to buy with a view to speculate. But if a man moves some goods from one place to another, it is a work of labor, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, if there is the need for bribery in the process of doing this, we are faced again with temptation. In choosing our occupations, we should take the broadest possible way, and we should avoid dangerous bridges as much as possible, because with such bridges there is always the danger of falling, and the fall can be quite serious. Always remember that the mentality of a businessman is on making money. This mentality does not revolve around need, but around money. It is not a question of righteousness or unrighteousness, but a question of our occupation.
Brother Weigh Kwang-hsi asked: Is an occupation with the insurance business all right? (Everyone smiled, but there was no answer.)
Brother Nee: Today, we should walk on the safe side as far as our occupations are concerned. It is not worthwhile for us to stumble because of our occupations. If I am to look for a place to live, I will never settle at the border next to Siberia. It is foolish to do that, because I would be the first one to be shot should someone come across the border. The wise way is to settle farther away from the border.
If we want to serve God, we cannot remain at the borderline. We can answer Brother Weigh’s kind of questions a thousand times, and the problem will still not be solved. The safe way is to move a little farther away from the border. The main thing is that our occupations should not be a mere increase in dollars, but should be an increase in the value of goods. Any work that is of a service nature is always more noble than works that are purely commercial in nature. A Christian should maintain a high standard in the occupation he chooses. We have to study the noblest way for money to be earned. There is a difference between running a woodcraft store and being a carpenter. A carpenter improves on something from nature, whereas a store owner merely sells woodware; the latter is commercial in nature. It is wise always to stand on the safe side as far as our occupations are concerned.
Perhaps Paul did not have the time to sell the tents himself. Perhaps Mark sold them for him. If that was the case, Mark would have been acting as an agent. This kind of business can still be considered permissible. If I go into some kind of manufacturing business with three or five brothers, and one of us works as the sales agent, this is different from pure buying and selling. Hence, we see the need of coordination here.
(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 56, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)