Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1


Chapter 94—Deceitfulness of Riches

Some who profess to believe the truth are lacking in discernment and fail to appreciate moral worth. Persons who boast much of their fidelity to the cause and talk as though they think they know all that is worth knowing, are not humble in heart. They may have money and property, and this is sufficient to give them influence with some; but it will not raise them one jot in favor with God. Money has power and sways a mighty influence. Excellence of character and moral worth are often overlooked if possessed by the poor man. But what does God care for money, for property? The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. The world and all that is therein are His. The inhabitants of the earth are as grasshoppers before Him. Men and property are but as the small dust of the balance. He is no respecter of persons. 1T 536.1

Men of property often look upon their wealth and say: By my wisdom have I gotten me this wealth. But who gave them power to get wealth? God has bestowed upon them the ability which they possess, but instead of giving Him the glory they take it to themselves. He will prove them and try them, and will bring their glorying to the dust; He will remove their strength and scatter their possessions. Instead of a blessing they will realize a curse. An act of wrong or oppression, a deviation from the right way, should no sooner be tolerated in a man who possesses property than in a man who has none. All the riches that the most wealthy ever possessed are not of sufficient value to cover the smallest sin before God; they will not be accepted as a ransom for transgression. Repentance, true humility, a broken heart, and a contrite spirit alone will be accepted of God. And no man can have true humility before God unless the same is exemplified before others. Nothing less than repentance, confession, and forsaking of sin is acceptable to God. 1T 536.2

Many rich men have obtained their wealth by close deal, by advantaging themselves and disadvantaging their poorer fellow men or their brethren; and these very men glory in their shrewdness and keenness in a bargain. But the curse of God will rest upon every dollar thus obtained, and upon the increase of it in their hands. As these things were shown me, I could see the force of our Saviour's words: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Those who possess the ability to acquire property need to be constantly on the watch or they will turn their acquisitiveness to bad account and not maintain strict honesty. Thus many fall into temptation, overreach, receive more for a thing than it is worth, and sacrifice the generous, benevolent, noble principles of their manhood for sordid gain. 1T 537.1

I was shown that many who profess to be Sabbathkeepers so love the world and the things that are in the world that they have been corrupted by its spirit and influence; the divine has disappeared from their characters and the satanic has crept in, transforming them to serve the purposes of Satan, to be instruments of unrighteousness. Then in contrast with these men I was shown the industrious, honest, poor men who stand ready to help those who need help, who would rather suffer themselves to be disadvantaged by their wealthy brethren than to manifest so close and acquisitive a spirit as they manifest; men who esteem a clear conscience and right, even in little things, of greater value than riches. They are so ready to help others, so willing to do all the good in their power, that they do not amass wealth; their earthly possessions do not increase. If there is a benevolent object to call forth means or labor, they are the first to be interested in and respond to it, and frequently do far beyond their real ability, and thus deny themselves some needed good, to carry out their benevolent purposes. 1T 537.2

Because these men can boast of but little earthly treasure, they may be looked upon as deficient in ability, in judgment, and in wisdom. They may be counted of no special worth, and their influence may not be esteemed by men; yet how does God regard these poor wise men? They are regarded precious in His sight, and, although not increasing their treasure upon earth, they are laying up for themselves an incorruptible treasure in the heavens, and in doing this they manifest a wisdom as far superior to that of the wise, calculating, acquisitive professed Christian as the divine and godlike is superior to the earthly, carnal, and satanic. It is moral worth that God values. A Christian character unblotted with avarice, possessing quietness, meekness, and humility, is more precious in His sight than the most fine gold, even the golden wedge of Ophir. 1T 538.1

Wealthy men are to be tested more closely than they ever yet have been. If they stand the test and overcome the blemishes upon their character, and as faithful stewards of Christ render to God the things that are His, it will be said to them: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” 1T 538.2

I was then directed to the parable of the unjust steward: “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?” 1T 538.3

If men fail to render to God that which He has lent them to use to His glory, and thus rob Him, they will make an entire failure. He has lent them means which they can improve upon by losing no opportunity to do good, and thus they may be constantly laying up treasure in heaven. But if, like the man who had one talent, they hide it, fearing that God will get that which their talent gains, they will not only lose the increase which will finally be awarded the faithful steward, but also the principal which God gave them to work upon. Because they have robbed God, they will not have laid up treasure in heaven, and they lose their earthly treasure also. They have no habitation on earth, and no Friend in heaven to receive them into the everlasting habitation of the righteous. 1T 539.1

Christ declares: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”—cannot serve God and your riches, too. “The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him.” Mark the words of Christ to them: “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men [which is riches acquired by oppression, by deception, by overreaching, by fraud, or in any other dishonest manner] is abomination in the sight of God.” Then Christ presents the two characters, the rich man who was clothed with purple and fine linen, and who fared sumptuously every day, and Lazarus, who was in abject poverty and loathsome to the sight, and who begged the few crumbs which the rich man despised. Our Saviour shows His estimate of the two. Although Lazarus was in so deplorable and mean a condition, he had true faith, true moral worth, which God saw, and which He considered of so great value that He took this poor, despised sufferer and placed him in the most exalted position, while the honored and ease-loving man of wealth was thrust out from the presence of God and plunged into misery and woe unutterable. God did not value the riches of this wealthy man, because he had not true moral worth. His character was worthless. His riches did not recommend him to God nor have any influence to secure His favor. 1T 539.2

By this parable Christ would teach His disciples not to judge or value men by their wealth or by the honors which they received of others. Such was the course pursued by the Pharisees, who, while possessing both riches and worldly honor, were valueless in the sight of God and, more than this, were despised and rejected of Him, cast out from His sight as disgusting to Him because there was no moral worth or soundness in them. They were corrupt, sinful, and abominable in His sight. The poor man, despised by his fellow mortals and disgusting to their sight, was valuable in the sight of God because he possessed moral soundness and worth, thus qualifying him to be introduced into the society of refined, holy angels and to be an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. 1T 540.1

In Paul's charge to Timothy he warns him of a class who will not consent to wholesome words and who place a wrong estimate on riches. He says: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1T 540.2

Paul in this letter to Timothy would impress upon his mind the necessity of giving such instruction as should remove the deception which so easily steals upon the rich, that because of their riches they are superior to those who are in poverty, that because of their ability to acquire they are superior in wisdom and judgment—in short, that gain is godliness. Here is a fearful deception. How few heed the charge which Paul commissioned Timothy to make to the rich! How many flatter themselves that their acquisitiveness is godliness! Paul declares, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Although rich persons may devote their whole lives to the one object of getting riches, yet as they brought nothing into the world, they can carry nothing out. They must die and leave that which cost them so much labor to obtain. They staked their all, their eternal interest, to obtain this property, and have lost both worlds. 1T 541.1

Paul shows what risks men will run to become rich. But many are determined to be rich; this is their study, and in their zeal eternal considerations are overlooked. They are blinded by Satan and make themselves believe that it is for good purposes they desire this gain; they strain their consciences, deceive themselves, and are constantly coveting riches. Such have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. They have sacrificed their noble, elevated principles, given up their faith for riches, and, if not disappointed in their object, they are disappointed in the happiness which they supposed riches would bring. They are entangled, perplexed with care; they have made themselves slaves to their avarice and compelled their families to the same slavery, and the advantages they reap are “many sorrows.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” Men are not to hoard up their riches and take no good of them, depriving themselves of the comforts of life and virtually becoming slaves in order to retain or increase their earthly treasure. 1T 541.2

The apostle Paul shows the only true use for riches, and bids Timothy charge the rich to do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; for in so doing they are laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come,—referring to the close of time,—that they may lay hold on eternal life. The teachings of Paul harmonize perfectly with the words of Christ: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” Godliness with contentment is great gain. Here is the true secret of happiness, and real prosperity of soul and body. 1T 542.1