Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 12, 1897

Selfishness in Business Deals

“Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

February 11, 1897

Previously unpublished. +Note

I feel greatly burdened over the case of Brother Lawrence. I was in an assembly this night, and the Spirit of the Lord wrought upon me. There seemed to be a strange atmosphere in the room, not fragrant and uplifting, but very depressing. I was conversing with Brother and Sister Lawrence, and said to them, “Have you not something to say? Cannot you relieve the situation?” But no move was made. Then One came into the meeting, who turned to Brother Lawrence, and said, “You are not clear before God. Through your entire life you have not been as a man who has tried to do Him service. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 1

“You are impregnated with selfishness, and have not a practical knowledge of what it means to accept the truth in all its bearings. What has been your sowing? What has been your influence upon those in connection with you? What have you done as a laborer together with God to advance His kingdom? Your main endeavor has been to figure for yourself, to buy, and sell, and get gain. You have been having an opportunity for test and trial; but your experience has been of a character that falls far short of the measure of God. Your selfish traits of character are brought into all your daily life practice. Your life and talents are a trust from God; but you have lived for self and worked for self.” 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 2

You should make it your business, Brother Lawrence, to understand what you are sowing, for every day your influence is bearing its record to God. In just such actions as the purchasing of your cow, you reveal on whose side you stand. You bought the cow from the school, and paid three pounds for it. You found it a good cow, and one that would be of real value to the school. Had you wanted to help the school, when you were ready to sell the cow, would you not have given them the benefit of the good bargain you made in buying the cow from them? Would you not have been willing to return it to them for what you paid for it? But instead of doing this, you asked them £4.10 for the cow from outside parties, and would not sell it to the school for £4. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 3

What would another have done who considered that if there was any advantage to be gained, a even so much as one dollar or one penny, it justly belonged to the school? You should have felt that all these transactions in a very real sense touch the very foundation of a consecrated Christian life. If it were possible that your influence extended no farther than yourself, such acts result in evil, for they confirm your already strong habits of selfishness. But you cannot do wrong without influencing others. Your influence with those connected with the school will not be of the right character. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 4

If you gain an influence, you will be tempted to take credit to your self as possessing superior traits of character. But your sharp practice is written in heaven as dishonesty. You have not employed your talents of influence and money in such a way as to reap a reward in the kingdom of heaven as the result of trading to the best advantage. You have shown selfishness here as in your practice all through your life. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 5

In regard to the cow, the right course would have been for you to say to your brethren, “I find this a choice cow. I have an interest in the prosperity of the school, as I see it struggling hard for an existence to carry forward the work that God would have done. I would not take one penny of advantage of the school. I return the cow to you for what I offered for it, as a valuable article that you will need when the school is started. It is worth more than I paid for it, but you can have it for the same price. And if you cannot pay the money, I will donate that much for the benefit of the school, for I recognize it as the work of God.” This would be no more than others are doing. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 6

This is a test point. But you are so wrapped up in your own self that, unless changed by a thorough transformation of character, you will not in the future pursue any different course from what you have pursued in the past. The Lord looks deep into the secret motives. Unless there is a change in you, wherever you may be you will work to advantage yourself. You take much pride in the idea of the talents you possess. But what are they? You have wrapped them in a napkin; very little ever gets into circulation. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 7

What if all who came in connection with this missionary enterprise conducted themselves as you have done in this matter? How much would the work of God be advanced? You have talent, which you expend in business lines and in a variety of ways, if it suits your tastes and inclinations and you are paid for it all that you ask. But what consecration have you made to God in using your entrusted energies to exert an influence in behalf of the school and for the cause of God? 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 8

You did take the lead in the work at first in mingling amusement with labor, which suited your taste well, but spoiled some of the youth for out and out labor. There was much talking done; you related your adventures to amuse, but did you take a deep and earnest interest to lead the youth to Jesus as you had opportunity? Did you consider, “Ye are laborers together with God” to build up the work of Christ? [1 Corinthians 3:9.] While engaged in business matters, where was your interest and energy in spiritual things? Did you influence others by word and example to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord?” [Romans 12:11.] 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 9

The truth is, You do not bring religion into your business life, and that is why you do not sense the reality of spiritual things. You lose your God-given opportunities of making your influence felt in spiritual lines. You have an influence, and how important that it shall in a decided manner reveal principles that will help others. You say you supposed you had little influence, but truly you can consider that your character is of great value. Have you in that cow trade had a holy determination to overcome your avaricious spirit, and in this instance set an example of disinterested benevolence, that in you practice you might have an influence for Christ? 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 10

Again, when the school funds were so low, you wanted six shillings per day for your wages. Had you adjusted yourself to circumstances, you would have accepted one dollar a day, and been glad to get it. What use were you making of your talents, of the golden opportunities of using you time as a donation to the Lord? During this time of idleness you were sitting on the stool of temptation when you might have been exerting an influence for good in visiting those who were in need of just the help you ought to have been prepared to give them. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 11

You should have taken your Bible, and visited and opened the Scriptures to others. You could have prepared a comfortable place for your wife to live in. But instead of doing this, you were pitying and sympathizing with yourself because you were not employed to work at your own price, because there was no money to pay you the wages you supposed you ought to have. Had you said, “I have only myself and wife to keep; I can live on one dollar a day, and I will take that. There is work that needs to be done, and I will do it even if I get nothing for my time,” you would have been introducing the right kind of leaven. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 12

It is the persons who will manifest just such a spirit as this, and will do just such actions, who are needed upon the school ground to abide here as laborers together with God. These will be reliable men, who will help when help is needed. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 13

But such acts as these, you are not in the habit of doing. God now calls you to act a different part from what you have been acting in the past if you would advance in spiritual life. In the past your plans and study have been for self: they have not been of the right character; they have not had a fragrant odor. Your distressing economy is not commended in heaven. By the outgrowth of the root of selfishness you have made the life of your wife oppressive. You have been hiding your Lord’s money rather than using it to bless yourself, your family, and those around you. You have yet to learn that the talent that has been entrusted you is to be put out to the exchangers that it may grow by circulation, and open before the user new fields of usefulness. You are spiritually dead. You have been shutting yourself up to yourself, priding yourself upon your possession of talents of ability and of money, while doing nothing whatever with that money and that influence. You are as deceived a man as any man can be as to your true position before God. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 14

Weeks ago I was awakened with a message from God for you. I was shown that your parsimonious practice is withering up your life from the roots. You are self-complacent. You can talk, but do not practice. God does not accept your service. In the establishment of a school here in Cooranbong, you have had an opportunity to reveal the love you have for the missionary work. Do you realize that all you have is of God, that your natural endowments of character may be a blessing or a curse? 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 15

The Lord allows the circumstances by which we are surrounded to exist in order to determine what our influence shall be. They are deciding our character for eternity. God reads the motives that prompt every action. He knows the heart, and that the extent of the usefulness of each in the upbuilding of His cause will be as they shall reveal unselfish interest in His service. He wants each one of His children to fill out the great plan that He has given them in this life, and He supplies the strength of character that their surrounding circumstances may require. He brings every soul in close contact with Himself. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 16

Christ has placed you in circumstances of life where from hour to hour you may develop the character of Christ. You have a talent of influence which is to be used not in a general way alone. Day be day every business transaction is passing beyond your reach, beyond recall. God presents to all large and small opportunities of exerting an influence for good in the various changing circumstances in which we are placed. He works to bring about these opportunities, which are constantly coming and going, to show who are whole hearted and devoted to His service. But you have brought great blindness upon yourself by your habits of life. Your senses have become perverted. You do not discern that the Word of God condemns your life practices. Christ asks you, “Who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” [Galatians 3:1.] A bewitching power has allured you: you are deluded as to correct principles to be carried out in the Christian life. And there is nothing that can break this spell save the power of God. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 17

Just as the body needs vitalizing air at all times, so the soul needs a vital connection with God. Christ declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” [John 6:53-57, 63.] The truth, which the Spirit teaches in the Word of God, should be mingled with all we do; it should control all our actions. The Holy Spirit is a witness of all our transactions; it should be our guide in all business relations. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 18

Whatever your profession may be, Brother Lawrence, you are not a Christian. You have lost the oil of grace out of your heart. The principles that you have manifested in trade with your brethren are all before us, and they decide the question. You have dismissed the Word of God from your counsel; you have consented to for go the use of reason in the highest of all interests that can affect humanity. You have laid your soul a sacrifice upon the altar of mammon. Instead of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, you have forwarded your own selfish interests. You have deliberately set aside one of the simplest, plainest, and most positive injunctions contained in the Word of God. You have practiced fraud. Jesus asks you the question, “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Matthew 16:26.] 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 19

You do not keep the commandments of God; your love of gain makes you [so] that you cannot trade fairly on Christian principles. Cupidity has been one of your chief characteristics. You have sought to obtain all the advantages you possibly could in buying, and you have repeated the same in selling. You would take double what you give for an article if you could get it. The bewitching power of Satan has held you fast, that you shall be anything but a Christian in your life practice. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 20

You are a speculator. No man who will deal as you have done will be the one to advance the work and sustain right principles. The Lord is dishonored by such. Self is made a center. We are here for the purpose of educating on strict Bible principles. And we want men who will tell the truth [even] when it will work against their own interest. Whatever deal men may have with you, they must be on their guard, else you will advantage yourself at their loss. Apparently you have no scruples of conscience in the matter, because you have educated yourself in this line of business deal. But God reads it all, and he will not favor you in this kind of work. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 21

Let any man bring before his conscience the details of any bargain of which he has been proud at the time, and for which he has called himself a sharp detector of goods or stock. Let him consider his action as if in view of the whole universe of heaven, whether there has not been deceit or falsehood in it. Has he not shown a frankness in regard to some defects, thus creating confidence in himself as an unusually honest man who would scorn to take advantage of any one? Has he not dwelt upon the advantage of the thing he has bought, and is now selling again for a larger sum? Has he not pretended that it was a matter of indifference to him; and by his “I do not care” attitude has he not obtained an article on better terms? Has he not kept back from the man with whom he was dealing facts which, if he knew, would make him alter his terms? All these things are generally practiced in worldly policy, and if reproof were given for these things, the reprover would be looked upon as an intruder. But this deception in buying, this over-reaching in trade, is written in the books of heaven as untruthfulness. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 22

I feel only deep sorrow for Brother Lawrence. He knows not what peace and rest in Jesus means. His eager, selfish spirit is depriving him of an experience which would ensure Christian growth. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 23

Our children and youth need by word, by pen, by voice and practice, to have a strict Bible example kept before them. By acts of deception, much harm may be done. The man who follows such a course of action may feel a sense of satisfaction at the advantage he has gained; he may think that it reflects credit on himself. But he has overreached in trade; he has allowed his neighbor to cheat himself. When his sharp discrimination might have been used to the advantage of his neighbor, he has used it to advantage himself. The man who thus watches for his chance to make large profits for himself is frequently a selfish, avaricious man. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 24

There are many ways in which to profit one’s self at the expense of another: but “it is written” should be our motto. Keep close to the Word of God. In bartering and buying and selling there wanteth not sin. The truth received into the heart and carried out in the life is our only safety. God’s abiding presence is of more value than all the scheming devices in trade. God is a God of truth. His work, from beginning to end, is a setting forth of the eternal principles of truth. Truth and holiness have been almost blotted from the world. His truth has been changed into a lie. But God would have us study His character, live His law. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 25

I have been compelled to speak very decidedly, and you may feel that I urge your peril upon you in strong colors. But this is not the case. You need, O so much you need, to be convicted and converted. You need to cut away from your life your supreme selfishness, else the Lord’s Spirit will be grieved away entirely, and you will charge upon others the cause of your disaffection. Your only hope is to fall upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, and be broken. Self is to die, and you are to be born again. All through your life you have not obeyed the requirements of God. Selfish habits have been interwoven in all your practices. You have not seen in a clear light that Jesus Christ hath “evidently been set forth crucified among you.” [Galatians 3:1.] Belief in the crucifixion of Christ, set forth by the messengers who bear the truth, has not become an object of faith. If it had, you would have pursued an altogether different course of action. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 26

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you?” [Verse 1.] Every part of this text is applicable to us who have had light and still greater light. The apostle speaks as though it were singular that we should disobey the truth, and ascribes it to sorcery or a fascination that holds the human agent in deception, that he is not really willing to see. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 27

The sacred principles of truth have been so clearly kept before you that it could be truthful said that Christ has been crucified among us. The apostle asks then, “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” [Verse 1.] As the Lord’s servant, I beseech you to cease studying self. Look earnestly at the life and practice of the Lamb of God. If His unselfish life is studied and obeyed, there will be an entire transformation of the whole man. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 28

I write to you hoping and praying that this light given to you of God will make an entire change in your spirit and life. The God who watches over the sparrows, that not one falleth to the ground without His notice, also say that the hairs of your head are all numbered. You may suppose that the little things of life, which neighbor practices with neighbor, may be done without the guidance of the Word. But Christ Himself could not resist temptation but by that Word. “It is written” was His weapon for every attack. You will have to study that Word before you can know what is written. You have yet to prove that you have put on the armor of light, and that you are a soldier of Jesus Christ. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 29

“And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of his world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:1-7.] Can this Scripture be applied to you? Here the same formation of character is presented to us as was presented to Nicodemus in the words, “Ye must be born again.” [John 3:7.] 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 30

You are utterly destitute of spiritual life. You have followed the maxims of men. You have gone in the footsteps of the transgressors of God’s laws. You have not loved your God supremely, or your neighbor as yourself. But when you are indeed infused with the Holy Spirit, you who are now dead will be quickened and renewed. He will deliver you from your bondage to self. He will save and ennoble you. Your thoughts will widen, and will be of an altogether different character than what they have been for years. Thus the great transformation of the divine image will be wrought in you. 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 31

But do not imagine that you are now walking in the footsteps of your self-denying Redeemer, that all you have to do is to keep on just as you are, and your salvation is secure. Because you commenced some time in your life to run the Christian course, it is not safe for you to suppose that you are following on to know the Lord. Are you sure that you will persevere unto the end, and obtain a crown of life? Only by enshrining the truth in your heart and doing the will of Christ will you secure the rich reward of the “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” [Matthew 25:23.] 12LtMs, Ms 12, 1897, par. 32