By Zhao Zhen, United States
Recently, I saw online a couple of phrases that are very popular nowadays: “Live for money, die for money, run after money all your life; lose because of money, be duped because of money, live your life and die for money” and “Look to make money in all things and make your wad of banknotes thicker.” In today’s money-focused society, to have more banknotes is the goal pursued by people nowadays, and “Money is first,” “Money makes the world go round,” and “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” have even more so become the guiding lights along our paths through life. We do not question these statements and we do not give them up. And of course, I was no exception!
My Previous Life of Exchanging Life for Money
I vaguely remember being 19 years old and filled with enthusiasm. In order to make a lot of money as quickly as possible, I studied hard to learn skills during my apprenticeship with an electrical installation team. After I started my own family, I poured all my energy into my work even more and every month I brought home the highest wage of all the apprentices. Later, I worked both day and night in order to make a salary of 400 yuan per day. Often, I would receive a phone call in the night, and I would then have to leave my bed that had only just gotten warm. I’ve never forgotten the sad experience I had whilst working in Japan. I worked at least 12 hours a day, without any holiday or time off; the work was very hard and I was under enormous pressure, which led to me developing heart disease and losing most of my hair. I was still willing to endure all this suffering, however, in order to make money. Like a clockwork machine, I carried on working desperately hard on the front line of making money. Two years later, so that I could make more money, I went to the United Statas. I worked hard for a few years, from doing various odd jobs to being a cook in a restaurant, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about all the hardships I went through. But when I saw the wad of dollar bills in my hand slowly becoming thicker, all the hard work I’d put into making this money was the last thing on my mind.
Afterward, because I had been working so excessively hard for a long time, my body showed me a red warning light as I developed severe gastric problems, cervical spondylosis, a lumbar disc herniation and arthritis in my shoulder joints. When my stomach began to hurt, I came out in a cold sweat all over my body and became completely lethargic. When my cervical spondylosis flared up, I couldn’t get enough blood to my brain and I often felt sick and dizzy…. And so I often had to rush to the hospital. My exhausted body and the dollar bills I’d earned had become an even exchange. I suddenly felt so woeful: In the more than 10 years of hard labor, wanting only to work and not living at all, I’d accrued a thick wad of notes in my wallet, but my health was ruined—why had I ever bothered? I’d wasted half my life exchanging life for money, and yet now I was using my money to buy back my life. Had it all been worth it?
I suddenly thought back and it had seemed to me then that I hadn’t had the time to enjoy the scenery along the way, and half my life had quietly slid past. As I carefully counted all the days I’d spent laboring for money, a feeling of helplessness filled my heart: Could it be that a man’s life could only be like a machine that consumes him, living for the sake of making money and then dying for the sake of making money? Why is life so full of suffering?
The Reason Why Life Is So Full of Suffering
One day, I was fortunate enough to read God’s words, and I found the answer I sought.
God says, “‘Money makes the world go round’ is the philosophy of Satan and it prevails among the whole of mankind, among every human society. You could say that it is a trend because it has been imparted to everyone and is now affixed in their heart. … So after Satan uses this trend to corrupt people, how is it manifested in them? Don’t you feel that you couldn’t survive in this world without any money, that even one day would just be impossible? (Yes.) People’s status is based on how much money they have as is their respectability. The backs of the poor are bent in shame, while the rich enjoy their high status. They stand tall and proud, speaking loudly and living arrogantly. What does this saying and trend bring to people? Don’t many people see getting money as being worth any cost? … Satan corrupts man at all times and at all places. Satan makes it impossible for man to defend against this corruption and makes man helpless to it. Satan makes you accept its thoughts, its viewpoints and the evil things that come from it in situations where you are unwitting and when you have no recognition of what’s happening to you. People fully accept these things and take no exception to them. They cherish and hold these things like a treasure, they let these things manipulate them and toy with them, and this is how Satan’s corruption of man becomes deeper and deeper.”
God’s words made me understand that the ideologies and views such as “Money is first,” “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” and “A man dies for money; a bird dies for food,” come from Satan. Satan uses them to deceive and bind us, and to make us think that to have money is to have everything, that to have money is to have others look up to us and admire us, that to have money is to live an impressive, dashing life, and that only that kind of life is a life of value and meaning. These absurd ideologies of Satan have become our life, and we’ve ended up not flinching away from paying any price in our pursuit of riches. Thinking back to how I had been dominated by these ideologies and views of Satan, I worked hard day and night to make money, I ate meals and took drink at irregular times, I found it hard to get a peaceful night’s sleep and my physical constitution got weaker and weaker, and yet I didn’t give one jot. Later on, thinking that money was life, I left my family and went to Japan and the USA and worked for many years in order to make even more money. Although I did make more money, I was afflicted by one illness after another, like heart disease, gastric problems and spinal problems, to the point where my arms were so tired I couldn’t stretch them out straight, and I lived very painfully. Only through God’s words did I come to understand that this was all down to me having been hoodwinked by these wrong ideologies and misconceptions of Satan; I had been unwillingly controlled and manipulated by my desire for money, and it had turned me into a slave and a sacrifice for money! After coming to this realization, I felt that I should return before God and no longer live by the ideologies and views of Satan, and that I should no longer be a slave for money. Afterward, I began to work normal shifts, and I no longer did endless overtime.
Only After Falling Into the Same Old Trap Did I Truly Discover the Meaning of Life
I had been deceived too deeply by Satan, however, and money, fame and fortune had already laid their roots in my heart—it would not be so easy to remove them. When I heard my boss say that his company had been in business for 15 years, had made 5 million US dollars and that he’d recently bought a luxury villa, my heart was agitated for a long time after. Yes, life is for living, I thought. Am I really supposed to live my life without accomplishing anything? Opening my own restaurant was my dream, and if I had my own restaurant I wouldn’t have to be looked down on by anyone ever again. Without realizing it, I once again began to work hard to make money and to live again my old life of exchanging life for money. Instead of attending church gatherings, I was at work doing overtime. Before too long, I caught the flu and my heart disease flared up again, and it was really painful.
Just as I was in pain, God once again extended a hand to save me. A sister in the church sent me the movie Woe or Blessing and I watched the protagonist travel to Japan to work in her pursuit of money, heedless of her own health, and then she ended up not making any money but having to be admitted to hospital. I sighed, and thought that this was indeed a true portrayal of my own life! Just as a passage of God’s word in the movie says, “People spend their lives chasing after money and fame; they clutch at these straws, thinking they are their only means of support, as if by having them they could keep on living, could exempt themselves from death. But only when they are close to dying do they realize how distant these things are from them, how weak they are in the face of death, how easily they shatter, how lonely and helpless they are, with nowhere to turn. They realize that life cannot be bought with money or fame, that no matter how wealthy a person is, no matter how lofty his or her position is, all people are equally poor and inconsequential in the face of death. They realize that money cannot buy life, that fame cannot erase death, that neither money nor fame can lengthen a person’s life by a single minute, a single second.”
The understanding the protagonist comes to made me feel deeply affected, as though it was my own personal experience: “Satan uses money and fame to bind and control man. But we cannot see through Satan’s schemes, and we cannot see that money and fame are Satan’s methods for harming people, for this reason we are sucked into this whirlpool from which we cannot extricate ourselves. In spite of ourselves, we are fooled and harmed by Satan.” Yes indeed. Because I am unable to understand thoroughly Satan’s cunning schemes and devious means, I thought, I can only be unwillingly toyed with and harmed by Satan. I remembered the half of my life I’d spent being deceived by Satan, wholeheartedly pursuing money, and I had been willing to sacrifice my health in order to make more money. Yet I, who had been in the prime of my life, was now constantly ill and always taking medicine and living in such pain—what did it all mean? What was more important, money or life? I suddenly thought of an old friend who had worked in the US for 8 years before being diagnosed with late-stage cancer. He had only lived for another three months after that before he died. Someone else who had worked in the US for over 10 years and made a lot of money also contracted an incurable disease, and he died leaving his entire family behind. All these dreadful things state a fact: No matter how high someone’s status is, or how wealthy they are, they cannot buy the chance to extend their life, and they cannot take anything with them when they die! Just as thesaid, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mak 8:36-37). If I could not see through Satan’s cunning schemes and continued down the same old road, pursuing money and looking to earn an ever-thicker wad of banknotes, exchanging my life for money, I would only come to a sad end!
Saying Farewell to the Past and Ushering in a New Life
I saw more of God’s words, “There is a simplest way to free oneself from this state: to bid farewell to one’s former way of living, to say goodbye to one’s previous goals in life, to summarize and analyze one’s previous lifestyle, philosophy, pursuits, desires, and ideals, and then to compare them withand demands for man, and see whether any of them is consistent with God’s will and demands, whether any of them delivers the right values of life, leads one to a greater understanding of the truth, and allows one to live with humanity and human likeness. … After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you, try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to have no choice, and to become a person who worships God.”
God’s words showed me a clear way to practice. If I wanted to shun Satan’s wicked temptations and say farewell to my old life of exchanging life for money, then I had to let go of my wrong life pursuits and no longer live by Satan’s fallacies, but instead conduct myself as a person and walk the onward path in the light of God’s words! Through my personal experiences, I saw that my previous outlook on life, which was that I considered money to be life, was actually Satan toying with me and harming me. It was a chain Satan had put on me, a nothingness that was gone in the twinkling of an eye. In the time I have left to me, I thought, I can no longer allow myself to fall into Satan’s cunning schemes. I am made by God and I should seek to worship God and obey God and live under God’s sovereignty and guidance. Only that is a life with a genuine future and true value.
One day soon after, my boss’ wife called me telling me to go to the restaurant and help out. But I thought of all the times I had previously worked myself to the bone for money, and I declined her request, for I had already made a new plan for the rest of my life: Rest more and look after my health and, under the premise of not causing any delays to gatherings or the performance of my duties, to just find a job that I could do my best at! For the rest of my life, I would let God be my Sovereign!
The author would like to share the following:
I rejoice to let go of my pursuit of money and attain God’s salvation;
I’m willing to treasure the time I have left in life and follow God and worship God.