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3. Riches, the Root of Spiritual Dullness

– Chapter 3 –

Riches, the Root Of Spiritual Dullness

Blind and deaf

The Lord Jesus repeatedly speaks of those who have eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear. How has this come about? Why do some people have eyes, yet don’t see spiritual things? Or ears, yet hear nothing in God’s word? For such people, going to a Bible study would be as pointless as taking a blind man to watch a silent movie, or invit­ing someone who doesn’t appreciate music to a music concert.

Jesus says that the Israelites, the people of God, have eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear:

Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they under­stand. And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being ful­filled, which says, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And under­stand with their heart and return, And I should heal them.” (Mt.13:13-15, NASB)

But if their eyes should see and their ears hear, and if they re­turn to God, He will heal them. The crucial issue is to be healed (to be saved), for you will die if you are not healed spiritually.

Jesus brings up the same point — seeing yet not seeing, hearing yet not hearing — in Mark 4:12 and 8:18, and Luke 8:10. John speaks of the Jews in similar terms in John 12:40 as does Paul in Acts 28:26 and Romans 11:8. This recurring theme in Scripture clearly indicates that we have to pay serious attention to the problem of spiritual blindness and deafness.

In Matthew 13 Jesus is quoting Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet. What was true of Israel in the time of Isaiah was later true of Israel in the time of Jesus and also true of the church today. The passage that Jesus quotes is Isaiah 6:10-11 (note the word “insensitive”):

“Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, under­stand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhab­itant, houses are without people, and the land is utterly desolate.” (Isaiah 6:10-11, NASB)

Destruction and desolation is the end result of blindness and deaf­ness. The failure to be healed will lead to devastation.

Fat hearts

So why are they spiritually blind and deaf? What is the root cause of their dis­ease? In the passage just quoted, NASB says that the hearts of the people have become “insensitive” (see the italics). But the original word in Hebrew does not mean “insensitive” but “fat” (as preserved in KJV, “Make the heart of this people fat”). When we think of fat, we think of cholesterol deposits in the arteries that clog blood circulation and cause cardiac arrest.

Since Isaiah is not speaking in medical terms, we need to find clues that may explain what he means. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. One way of arriving at the mean­ing of a word in a verse is to see how the word is used elsewhere in the Bible. A useful tool for this is a concord­ance. Indeed Dt.31:20 uses the same Hebrew word for “fat” (see the italics):

For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. (NASB)

Here we don’t see the word “fat” because NASB trans­lates the Hebrew word as “prosperous”. The people of Israel were about to enter a land flowing with milk and honey. Like the Jews today, they were a hard-working peo­ple. When given fertile land and favorable circumstances, they be­come pro­ductive and prosperous. But God foresaw that when they become prosper­ous, they will turn away from Him and His covenant, and turn to other gods.

God was prophesying what was yet to happen, telling Moses what the Israelites will do later. They hadn’t even yet entered the Promised Land but God had already foreseen that they will become prosperous in the land and will turn away from Him. God reads people like an open book. In the very next chap­ter, Moses says something similar:

Then Jeshurun became fat and rebelled — you became fat, bloated, and gorged. He abandoned the God who made him and scorned the Rock of his salvation. (Dt.32:15, HCSB)

Jeshurun is another name for Israel, and ironically it means “righteous one”. The Israelites were called to be righteous but they for­sook God when they be­came prosper­ous. They even “scorned” (a strong word) the Rock of their salvation.

Moses wasn’t talking about the Israelites in the third person. He was talking directly to them, telling them what they will do in the fu­ture. Sure enough, God’s own people later turned their backs on Him when they be­came prosperous, in the way described by Isaiah. Their hearts grew fat, their eyes no longer saw, their ears no longer heard. They became spirit­ually sick, a most danger­ous condition to be in. In fact Israel could not be healed until it was destroyed as a nation. The Old Testa­ment recounts for us the end result of their blindness and deaf­ness: destruction.


One day the word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel, “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious house. They have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezek.12:2) It was because of rebelliousness that the people had be­come blind and deaf, such are the dread­ful consequences of prosperity. In Scripture, rebel­lious­ness is pun­ishable by death:

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discip­line him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. (Dt.21:18-21, NIV, italics added)

If a son is “stubborn and rebellious,” not even his parents are to spare him the death penalty. Yet in the Bible there is not a single case, with one notable except­ion, in which a son is put to death with the consent of his parent or parents. Which parents, no matter how rebell­ious their son, would take him to the city gates to be put to death? No parent, I think, is capable of doing that. The only one who has ever used this Deuterono­mic pro­vision was God Himself, but not because of any rebell­iousness on the part of His Son. The very next verse says:

And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree … (Dt.21:22, NASB)

Paul links this verse to Jesus: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal.3:13). In the New Testament, the tree is a symbol of the cross. This shows God’s absolute commitment to us, for He “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom.8:32) even though it is we who deserve death for our sins.

But that statement has a flip side: If God did not spare His own Son, neither will He spare us if we are rebellious. “For if God did not spare the nat­ural branches, neither will he spare you” (Rom. 11:21). The natural branches refer to Israel; the “you” refers to the Gentile Christ­ians. We must not think that we, just because we are sons of God, will be spared by God no matter how unright­eously we live. God did not spare His own Son who was right­eous. In the light of Scripture, neither will He spare you if you are rebell­ious, or if your eyes do not see and your ears do not hear.

Treasure on earth

So far in our survey of the Sermon on the Mount, we skipped over a key pass­age which we now bring up for discussion:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for your­selves trea­sures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of dark­ness. If there­fore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the dark­ness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mam­mon. (Mt.6:19-24, NASB)

“Mammon” is an Aramaic word for riches and possessions, and includes things such as gold, silver, land, property. Aramaic, related to Hebrew, was the com­mon lan­guage spoken in Palestine in the time of Jesus. He is saying that where your trea­sure is, there your heart will be. If you store your treasure on earth, your heart will be on earth. If you store your treasure in heaven, your heart will be on heaven. But you cannot be com­mitted to two mas­ters. You cannot serve God and mam­mon, for you must choose the one or the other. Dual commit­ment is not an option because it is par­tial commitment, and partial com­mit­ment is ultim­ately no commit­ment.

Superstition and the worship of mammon

In a Time magazine article on the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, there is an interesting statement: “Together with the worship of mam­mon, belief in feng shui appears to be Hong Kong’s dominant religion.” The article is saying that Hong Kong’s religion is the worship of mam­mon, money and poss­essions. A conse­quence of this is the widespread belief in feng shui or geomancy. Feng shui, literally “wind, water” in Chinese, is the practice of magic or spiritism in con­nection with land or geography. The feng shui masters were say­ing that the structure of this new building lacked good feng shui in terms of wind and water, or of the spirits associated with these elements.

I notice that those who love and worship mammon are in­clined to be superstitious. This is true not only in Hong Kong but also in the West. In North America and other places, the newspapers have a Daily Horoscopes column. Many people do not start their day without consult­ing their horo­scopes, to get advice from astrologers on what they should or should not do that day.

Superstition is everywhere. Some say it is bad luck to walk under a ladder or to encounter a black cat. Many consider the number 13 to be unlucky. Most apartment buildings don’t have the 13th floor. When I was in Israel, I stayed with a friend who was living in build­ing 13, on the 13th floor, in apartment 52, which is 4 x 13!

A false gospel: Believe in God and get rich!

As we shall see, the New Testament says a lot about riches but in a neg­at­ive tone. That is because riches cause the heart to grow fat, leading to a spiritual disease that makes our eyes blind and our ears deaf. This is not a matter of theory but of reality. Unless we face this is­sue, there is no point in talking about commitment for we cannot commit to God and to riches at the same time.

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker are two of many Christian leaders who twist the gospel to say that you can worship God and get rich (Jim Bakker has since rejected this false teaching). They teach not only that serv­ing God is compatible with serv­ing mammon, but that if you wor­ship God, you will get lots of mam­mon! Hence believing in God is the way to get materially rich. Isn’t this a wonderful gospel? If you preach it, you will get many converts.

There is some truth to this teaching but not in the way we expect. A business­man friend of mine whom I know very well came to know God some time back. Before he became a Christian, he had a business that was doing not too badly. He was making head­way in his business but for a couple of years he was progressing slowly.

But when he became a Christian, his business took off like a roc­ket and he had to employ more people. Then an American company gave him exclus­ive rights to their products and to be their sole represent­ative in his country. All their products had to be bought through him. The American company asked him to set up branches throughout the count­ry to sell their products. So his small hole-in-the-wall business was poised to become a nationwide business. You would expect him to be happy. The Bakkers were right after all: believe in God and you will get rich!

I thank God that my friend was more discerning than that and was suspicious about what was going on. He said to me, “Before I became a Christ­ian, I was always hoping for some­thing like this to hap­pen. But now that I’m a Christian, I’m not really happy about it.” I asked him why he was unhap­py, and he said, “Because I’m too busy to be quiet, to read my Bible, to pray.” He then added, “I want to quit this business.”

Satan tempts us with riches

What do you think of my friend’s situation? If God was the one who made him successful in the first place, shouldn’t he be happy about it? But he was not. Was he being ungrateful to God for the business boost? And was it a blessing from God in the first place?

The matter is not as straight­for­ward as it may seem. Let me warn you that when you believe in God, Satan will try to tempt you with riches. What is the scriptural basis for saying this? As soon as Jesus got baptized, Satan offered him the world if he would only turn back from his commit­ment to God. We could imagine Satan saying to Jesus or to my business­man friend, “Don’t be foolish. Let me give you the world and make you rich! You just got baptized but this won’t nullify your baptism.”

Satan knows that making you rich is the way to give you spiritual heart disease. What is more, he will disguise himself such that the undis­cern­ing Christ­ian will say, “God has blessed me!” Satan was try­ing to do this to my friend. After my friend got baptized, his business took off. But he felt that something was fishy because he knew that God doesn’t work like that. He sensed that it was Satan who was giving him the world. Satan has the power to make you rich. There are no doubts about it. In fact Satan offered Jesus the whole world:

The devil took him to a very high mount­ain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Mt.4:8-9)

How’s that for an offer? Have you ever earned the whole world in a few seconds? What is your current salary? Even if you are paid well, that is peanuts compared to what Satan can give you. Ever since I came to know God, I have lost count of how many tempt­a­tions have been put before me. I am amazed at the ways the world has been offered to me time and again. To this day I am still scratching my head, wonder­ing where all these things came from, though I eventually rejected them.

The broad road

When I first came out of China, I was allowed to take ten Chinese dol­lars along with me; everything else had to be left behind. I was al­most penni­less. I arrived at Kowloon Station in Hong Kong. After having spent my money on the train fare, I was wondering how I was go­ing to get to the hostel. So it was good that an elder from our church in Shang­hai was waiting for me at the station and took me to the hostel.

Soon after arriving in Hong Kong, I was offered a full uncon­dit­ional scholarship to study in the United States. I said to the one who was pre­senting me the offer: “Amazing! How did you hear about me? I just came out of China.”

She said, “Oh, we have heard about you.”

I asked, “What strings are attached? What are your conditions? What do you want from me for this scholar­ship?”

Can you imagine the United States government offer­ing a scholar­ship to someone who had just come out of China? The offer came to me through a missionary acting on behalf of the American govern­ment.

She said, “There are no strings attached”.

I was incredulous and asked, “You’re offering me a scholar­ship to the United States with no strings attached? You must have something in mind. People don’t give away money for nothing.”

She said, “There are no conditions. You don’t need to repay any of this. We don’t want anything from you. The only thing we ask of you is that you be a friend of the United States.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, that’s all.”

“I just came out of China, so how am I going to enter the United States?” (At that time there were no diplomatic relations be­tween the two count­ries.)

“Leave it to us. We’ll take care of your visas and papers.”

“Okay, another thing. If I study medicine, that may take seven or eight years. Do you know how much that costs?”

“No problem.”

“Maybe I’ll go for a Ph.D., ten years.”

“Ten years is fine.”

“Which university will I be going to?”

“Any university you want.”

If I picked Harvard, that would be okay. If I picked MIT, that would be okay too. Amazing! The government will take care of every­thing. The only condition is to be a friend of the United States.

I said, “Look, I’m just a young man who came out of China. I’m a nobody. Why is my friendship important to you?”

“Because we know that you will become a leader of your people.”

“Well, I must say that you are very clever.”

It is clever to buy a friend in his time of financial need. Jesus talks about mak­ing friends by means of unrighteous mammon (Lk.16:9). Making friends by means of money is important in the world.

Even if I studied ten years at a univer­sity, the total cost in those days would have been tens of thou­sands of dollars. That’s pea­nuts to a gov­ern­ment that puts billions of dollars into foreign aid. And those tens of thou­sands would be spread over several years. The actual cost per year would be only a few thousand in terms of the dollar fifty years ago. That would be a drop in the bucket for a government budget of bill­ions of dollars. And with that they can buy a friend for the future.

I am still wondering why they think I was going to be a leader. Was it in terms of ability? Their eyesight is interest­ing too, being very sharp in the ways of the world. As Jesus says in Luke 16:8, “the sons of this age are wiser in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” — the people of the world are wiser and shrewder than Christ­ians. I have observed that non-Christians are wise and clever in what they do.

So the world was offered to me on a platter, just like that. She said, “Do you accept the offer?” I said, “I do nothing apart from God’s instructions. I will ask Him if I may accept the offer, and then get back to you.” She said, “All right.”

I went back to the hostel and knelt before God, saying, “Lord, is this from you?” At that time I had no job or money. I had just come out of China, and there were vast numbers of refugees like me in Hong Kong, also jobless and living in poverty. The situation in Hong Kong was terri­ble and chaotic. Yet I was given a golden opport­unity probably offered to few people in the world. I prayed before God and He said “no”. I had no job or money but no means no.

When this missionary saw me a few days later and asked for my decis­ion, I said, “I deeply appreciate your kind offer and I thank you. But my God does not allow me to take the scholar­ship.”

The missionary was surprised but showed no anger or unhappi­ness. She simply said, “Any time you want this scholar­ship, it’s yours.”

“Really? Even in ten years’ time?”

“Yes, even in ten years’ time. The scholarship is always open to you. If you should ever change your mind about the offer, contact me and you will have this scholarship.”

But I never took it. Instead I walked on a hard road of poverty. For many years after, I would often live from hand to mouth and did not have a cent in my pocket. But I have never regretted my decis­ion or felt the temptation to accept the offer. Since my Lord said no, that was the end of the matter. If I had taken the easy road, I would have a good life with every­thing paid for. But this will come at an enor­mous price: I would have lost all spiritual power. My heart would have grown fat; my eyes would have been blind; my ears, deaf. I would be useless to God. There is the broad and easy road of mam­mon versus the narrow and hard road of following God.

I have turned my back on the world many times and I don’t regret it. When I was about to finish my studies in London, another offer came along: my professor proposed that I do a doctorate. Once again, opport­unities opened up before me. He said I could take up a teach­ing assistant­ship at the university. It seems that he wanted to groom me to be his successor and to take over his post at the depart­ment one day. I thanked him but told him I wasn’t inter­ested in the doctorate or in pur­suing that line of study anymore.

Again and again at decisive points in my life, there was a fork in the road that forced me to choose between the narrow road and the broad road, between God and mammon. Each time I was walking on a diffi­cult road of following God. It would have been much easier to take the broad road but Jesus says you cannot serve God and mammon.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

We continue our study of what the Bible says about riches. The Bible has a lot to say on this topic, yet it is one that is seldom taught in the church from the perspective of Scripture. Today you seldom hear a sermon on what the Bible really says about riches. That is because no pastor wants to offend his hearers. As we shall see, when the New Testa­ment speaks on the subject, it has a negative tone to­wards riches. If we are to be faith­ful to God’s word and to God him­self, we need to examine the mat­ter with an open and honest heart.

The first statement in the Sermon on the Mount is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.5:3). Note the two words “in spirit”. Many people are hap­py with “in spirit” because to them it spiritualizes away literal poverty. A spiritually poor person, it is hoped, can still have lots of money. But such an attempt to justify riches will not work.

Whenever Jesus uses the word “poor” in the four gospels outside this verse (Mt.5:3), he always refers to literal poverty, not spiritual pov­erty.[1] This is seen for example in Mt.19:21 (“sell what you possess and give to the poor”) and even in Mt.11:5: “the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.” It is remarkable that the gospel, the good news, is preached to the poor.

Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 61:1 of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, “poor” always refers to those who live in literal poverty, not spiritual poverty. We can­not survey the Old Testament here, but if you look up “poor” in the Old Testament section of a concord­ance, you will see that it always refers to the literal poor. For example, Amos 2:6-7 says that poor and needy are sold for a pair of sandals:

The Lord says: I will not relent from punish­ing Israel for three crimes, even four, because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and block the path of the needy.

Two chap­ters later, we see again the exploitation of the poor:

Listen to this message, you cows of Bashan who are on the hill of Samaria, women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring us something to drink.” (Amos 4:1)

In prophetic sarcasm, Amos calls the rich women the cows of Bashan. Bashan is a region in Israel with good grazing land where cows get fat. God will judge these rich women who were oppressing the poor:

Therefore, because you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him, you will never live in the houses of cut stone you have built; you will never drink the wine from the lush vineyards you have planted. For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the gates. (Amos 5:11-12, all passages quoted from Amos are from HCSB)

Why the recurring theme of the oppression of the poor? Amos is warning that Israel will be destroyed as a nation be­cause it has been oppressing the poor. That is the point. God will pour forth destruction on Israel. The exploitation of the poor is seen again three chapters later, in Amos 8:4 (“you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land”) and 8:6 (“that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals”). In verse 7 God says, “I will never forget all their deeds,” and then spells out in terrifying detail the com­ing des­truct­ion of Israel as a nation (v.8ff). God feels strongly about the treat­ment of the poor.

Let us summarize. Jesus says that the gospel is preached to the poor. In saying this, he is quoting from the Old Testa­ment. When­ever the Old Testament speaks of the poor, it always re­fers to those who live in material poverty, not spiritual poverty.

We can confirm our understanding of “poor in spirit” by compar­ing Scripture with Scripture. What Jesus says in Matthew 5 about the poor is repeated in Luke 6:20-25:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:20-25, NIV)

Note the two underlined statements. Exegetically, if the “poor” in v.20 are the spiritually poor (as supposed by most Christians), it would follow that the “rich” in v.24 are by correspondence the spiritual­ly rich. But if that is the case, why would Jesus say, “Woe to you who are rich”? The word “woe” would be totally inappro­priate because the spiritually rich are blessed in God’s eyes, not cursed. Hence Jesus must be refer­ring to the literal rich in v.24 and the literal poor in v.20. We cannot turn “poor in spirit” into a spiritualized poverty.

Why then does Jesus use “poor in spirit” instead of “poor” in Mt.5:3? That is because literal poverty does not in itself guar­antee God’s bless­ing. Many poor people love riches as much as rich people do. It’s not only the rich but equally the poor who are greedy. Jesus speaks of “poor in spirit” because merely being poor is not good enough. There has to be the spirit­ual willing­ness to be poor in the sense of not being greedy for riches. If you are poor yet long for riches, you are not fun­dament­ally different from the rich. The only difference is that the rich have money and the poor do not. The poor hope to get rich one day, per­haps through the lottery. If their heart’s desire is for riches, they won’t be blessed by God either.

We can put the matter like this: You can be poor without being right­eous or spiritual, but you cannot be righteous or spiritual without being poor.

Practical living

Most people see nothing wrong with loving money. This way of think­ing has been ingrained in us all our lives. “I love money but I also love God. What’s wrong with that?” This is one of the biggest obstacles to com­mit­ment.

Jesus tells us not to store up riches on earth for ourselves, yet we do this thing every day. When I get sick, how will I pay the hos­pital bills? I also need a house to live in. I need to buy furniture. Am I going to sit on the floor? When you get married or have a baby, you will rack up ex­penses. You need to save up now. No money means no marriage, no baby, no house. When you reach retire­ment, who will support you? You can’t live off your parents because they may need your support. What about your children’s educat­ion? If you don’t save up now, how are you going to pay for all these things?

And shouldn’t we be practical in life? Why live in the clouds? We have to keep our feet on solid ground. Without money, we won’t sur­vive in the world. It’s fine to talk about total commit­ment to God, but since we live in the world, we have to be realistic. When you get on the bus, you have to pay the fare. Are you going to wait for a kind person to pay for your journey?

So we reason: “The Christian life is not practical. But we are prac­tical people who know the importance of money though we’ll try not to love money too much. The Lord says not to store up riches on earth, but that’s not possible in the modern age. Who doesn’t have a bank account these days? You can’t even pay your bills without an ac­count. A bank account has money, so that would be storing up riches, right?”

So how do we put into practice the Lord’s teaching of not storing up riches? We need to think deeply on this. In the next chapter we will con­tinue on this topic.

A personal sharing: Jesus’ teaching really works

Meanwhile I can testify that I have lived according to the principle of not storing up riches, and I am still around! I know first-hand that it works. Ever since I came to know God, I have never saved up anything from my earn­ings to this day. In any case, I didn’t earn anything worth talking about. In my student days, when I was serving in a church in London, I hadn’t been paid for years of work. Though I led the Bible study every week, preached sometimes two Sundays a month, led some other groups, and spoke at church confer­ences, I didn’t receive a penny of pay for several years of work. And I didn’t seek any pay either.

Later when I served in a church in Liverpool, I also received no pay. I declined a salary and was supported by voluntary named offerings. Most of the church people didn’t know I was sup­ported only by such offer­ings. They didn’t know that the money put into the offering box didn’t come to me, and that I wasn’t paid by the church.

Before moving to Canada, I had to declare my net worth as a new im­mi­grant. I had to fill out a form, yet I had no money to declare. I thought to myself, “If I’m entering Canada and can’t even declare a few dollars of net worth, they will wonder what kind of immigrant I am.” If I put down $50, the immig­ration officer will think, “This guy has a wife and a kid. And this family arrives in Canada with $50?”

I said, “Lord, what will I put on this form?” After waiting be­fore God, I said, “If it’s alright with you, I will put down $1,000 by faith.” I didn’t have $1,000 Canadian, but I declared the amount by faith.

When I arrived in Montreal, the immigration officer asked me, “You put down $1,000 in your form. Have you got it?” I said, “Hold on, let me count.” I pulled out everything I got. I asked my wife to put everything on the table. We counted $1,004. That was our total worth. In all the years of serving in the church, I was able to put $1,004 on the table, most of which had been given to us as farewell gifts just before we left Liverpool.

When you move to a new country, you need to buy things. Coming from England, we didn’t have clothes or boots suitable for the Canad­ian winter. These things are expensive but God supplied us with every­thing we needed.

We have never saved up a reserve from our income. At the end of every month we would be down to zero, and we want to keep it that way. Does being penni­less mean that we are in financial difficulty? Not at all! In fact we have never lacked anything.

If you don’t live the Bible, how can you teach the Bible? If I haven’t lived the Bible, I wouldn’t be able to expound this teaching on riches with any conviction.

[1] Matthew 11:5; 19:21; 26:11; Mark 10:21; 12:43; 14:7; Luke 4:18; 6:20; 7:22; 14:13; 14:21; 16:20,22; 18:22; 21:3; John 12:8.


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