I Found a Life More Meaningful Than Making Money (Audio Essay)
By Fang Hao, China
Lately a saying on the internet has been popular, “Without money, how will you support your family ties, solidify your love, and connect with your friends? With your words? Forget it! People are too busy for that!” In a society turned entirely to money, everything is dominated by such pragmatic considerations, everything material and immaterial are tokens that can be exchanged for money, and the number of bills in your pocket decide your value and status. If you have much money, others will scramble to serve and flatter you, but having no money makes others look down on you and make friends and relatives avoid you. As the saying goes “In time of prosperity, friends will be plenty; in time of adversity, not one amongst twenty.” More and more people use money to evaluate everything, believing that only being wealthy can express their individual value and allow them to live a superior life, so many people become slaves to money, willing to sacrifice everything to get more money, even their lives, health, and personal dignity. Once, I didn’t know what was the most meaningful life, so working to make money became my goal, until the day a serious illness brought sudden understanding, made me realize the dark actor behind money, and helped me find a more meaningful life than making money.
The Days When Making Money Was My Life
In the 1980’s, I married into a family known locally for their poverty over my father’s objections. My husband had many brothers and sisters, and they often didn’t know where their next meal would come from. In contrast with my own family, they couldn’t have been more different. But this is when I truly experienced the meaning of the saying, “Money is not everything, but without it you can do nothing.” I was proud, and I decided to rely on my own effort to rid myself of the label “poor” and live a wealthy life that others would envy. So, I sent my daughter, only months old, to be raised by my family, and went to the city with my husband to seek our fortune.
At the time, my husband only had temporary work at a state-run company. His salary was low. To earn more money, I started doing men’s work at a factor—operating large production equipment. Even though the work was tiring and dangerous, I was happy to bear it, I had often heard my father say “No pain, no gain.” Suffering was necessary to live a better life.
After working for several years, we scrimped and saved to build a 3-storey house in the county capital, and life got better. By our village’s standards, we were wealthy. The other villagers admired and looked up to us, and often said, with upraised thumbs, that I was a capable worker, which greatly satisfied my vanity. I thought, “Money is wonderful!” But compared to the people in the city, we were still poor, and were far from a life that would make others envious. So, to live an even better life, I kept struggling.
My years of experience working in the factory taught me that my ability to earn money from labor alone were far too limited. I would only be able to make more, and more quickly, if I were my own boss. So, I looked for business opportunities everywhere and prepared to open my own business. After a period of market research, I saw that health and beauty supplements were a popular industry with high customer turnover. This, I thought, was a good way to get rich! After I discussed it with my husband, I scraped together 200,000 yuan to open a beauty products, cosmetics, and health supplements direct sales shop. To help get my business going, I busied myself with all kinds of training classes like business management, professional knowledge, how to develop customer resources, etc. After a period of effort, I gradually began to get more customers, and my business became more and more brisk. To develop more sources of customers, improve my business, and augment the income, I spent every day among women from rich families, eating and going out to dance halls with them, complimenting them, and flattering them, because only then would they open their wallets and spend at my shop. Even though I loathed doing things in such a false way, to make money, I had to force myself to fit in with this upper echelon of society where people all live wearing a mask. If I was physically exhausted during my days working at the factory, my days doing business were mentally and physically exhausting. But, after several years of struggle and effort, my business prospered and grew more with each passing day. I bought a 5-storey villa in the city center as well as a sedan, and I finally lived the upper-middle class life I had dreamed of every night. My accomplishments earned me effusive praise and compliments from my neighbors, as well as commendations and admiration from my neighbors and friends. My pride swelled, and I felt that the respect, flattery, and privileges given to those with money was wonderful. At this moment, I felt everything I sacrificed had been worth it.
Human desire is said to be a hole that can never be filled, and the facts proved this saying true. As my business grew, so did my yearning for wealth. I made a plan to expand my company to 16 shops in short order, at which point I would have over ten million yuan in the bank. To further grow my business, I was often away running errands and was rarely at home, so my husband had to take care of everything there. My husband often complained about this, saying I only cared about my business and money, and that I didn’t care about my family at all. I was furious at my husband’s complaints and lack of understanding. I felt insulted and didn’t know who I could confide in. I thought, “Why do I work this hard to make money if not for the family? My family was notoriously poor, but thanks to my years of hard work, we’ve become people everyone admires for having money. Isn’t this the result of all my hard work? If I wasn’t concerned about this family, would I run myself ragged like this?” The different views of myself and my husband led to constant fighting over insignificant issues. My family members didn’t understand me, and added to the usual infighting, struggles, and two-faced nature of the business world, I was constantly physically and emotionally exhausted. Nearly every day my stress showed on my face, I didn’t eat or sleep well, my insomnia got worse, and many kinds of chronic illnesses began to affect me: recurrent mastitis, nerves, chronic heart disease … Seeing that I was exhausted every day, my concerned daughter said to me, with pity, “Mom, you used to be healthy. Why did you get so sick once you started making money? Is money really that important?” My daughter’s words made me think: To get rid of poverty and live a life others would envy, I struggled and drove myself to exhaustion to make money. Even though I had a good life and had made others look up to me, the result was that I drove my body to collapse and my family misunderstood me. Who could know the bitter suffering behind the glamorous exterior? Was this really a price worth paying to earn more money? The torment of my illness and in my soul made me miserable, and I often found myself crying alone.
Encountering God’s Love Amidst Misery
The end of man is the beginning of God. When I was in the most pain and felt the most helpless, God’s gospel of last days came to me. I read God’s words, “The Almighty has mercy on these people who suffer deeply. At the same time, He is fed up with these people who have no consciousness, because He has to wait too long for the answer from humans. He desires to seek, seek your heart and your spirit. He wants to bring you food and water and to awaken you, so you are no longer thirsty, no longer hungry. When you are weary and when you begin to feel the desolation of this world, do not be perplexed, do not cry. Almighty God, the Watcher, will embrace your arrival any time. He is watching by your side, waiting for you to turn back” (“The Sighing of the Almighty”).
God’s words of comfort felt very intimate to me, and I felt God’s love and care for us. I had spent my life struggling endlessly to make more money, I had done men’s work, I often wracked my brain to think of ways to please my customers, spent most of my time away from home on business while I bore the stress of work and business competition, and even though my material conditions had improved, I had made myself sick through exhaustion, and lived in torment … The thought of these things made the bitterness and pain in my heart burst forth. I was like a lost child who had returned to her mother’s side after many years. I cried bitterly as I held the book of God’s words. As I faced illness and heavy pressure in business, my husband didn’t understand, and no one could truly console me, but God had been by my side all the time pitying and watching me, waiting for me to turn around, and when I was at my most miserable and helpless, God allowed me to hear His word and used the warmth of His words to comfort my wounded soul. At that moment, I realized that only God understands me, knows my troubles, and sees the pain in my heart, and only God’s word can give me genuine consolation. Tears streamed down my face as I sobbed in silence. I helplessly fell to my knees and spoke the pain and anxiety I had buried at the bottom of my heart for so many years. That was the moment I realized I had truly found something my spirit could rely on.
After this, I began taking part in church life and reading God’s word with my brothers and sisters. Through meetings and fellowship, I came to understand that God created all things in heaven and on the earth, that God gave us the very breath in our lungs, that God has provided everything we need to live, and that ever since mankind was corrupted by Satan, God has guided and saved people. In the last days, God has come incarnate to express more than a million words to purify and change the corrupt satanic dispositions within us, give us true fear and obedience of God, and allow us to finally attain God’s salvation. The more I read of God’s words, the more relaxed and light I felt, and I found a peace and joy in my heart I had never felt before. Afterward, I spread God’s gospel of the last days to my husband. Through a period of seeking and studying, he was convinced of God’s work in the last days and gladly accepted it. Because my husband and I shared a common faith, and because of the guidance we found in God’s word, we fought less and less as time went on, and even when conflicts occurred, we were both able to self-reflect through God’s word and seek truth to resolve the problems. Finally, the sound of laughter was heard in our house again, and I felt much more relaxed.
Afflicted With Cancer, Saved by God’s Love
But before long, changes from headquarters in the company’s rules, the high price of products, and a depressed market caused three of the syndicated shops of the same type in my city to close in succession, leaving mine the only one. Business was bad, so several employees and my store manager resigned. I had no idea how to cope. I thought that I had sacrificed so much effort and pain to build my business, and if I simply abandoned it, all I had done would go to waste, and all my suffering would be for nothing, so I wasn’t ready to let it go. To ensure my company could continue operating normally, I took on the work of four people by myself, I was often unable to eat on time, and I was often busy with inventory until deep into the night. I was exhausted, and often couldn’t sleep. Given how busy I was, I very rarely prayed to God or read God’s word, and slowly, my heart drifted away from God. Just as I was being sucked into the whirlpool of earning money, something unexpected happened.
One day, I accidentally discovered a hard lump next to my right breast. After an examination, the doctor told me that my recurrent mastitis had metastasized into second-stage cancer, and that the possibility of treatment was small. The doctor’s word was like thunder from a clear sky to me. I was shocked. I didn’t dare believe it. I went to another two hospitals for examinations, and received the same results. I felt myself go utterly numb in that moment. I had no choice but to accept this suffocating fact. In the days that followed, the word “cancer” constantly surfaced in my mind like a curse. If I had cancer, it would mean losing my life, my family, everything … I couldn’t help but think, “Is this really how my life will end? Is this really the final chapter of my life?” Just thinking of it made me sob uncontrollably. Every time I felt sick, I was terrified I would die. I lived every day in fear and helplessness, worrying that death could at any time. In my pain, I couldn’t help but reflect: I was busy for most of my life, and I only wanted to make money and live a good life, and in the end, after I had the money, my life was almost over, so what was the use of money? I didn’t know where to turn.
In my torment and helplessness, my brothers and sisters encouraged and consoled me, fellowshiped on God’s word to me, and encouraged me to understand God’s will, have faith in God and rely on God to pass through the difficulties. Therefore, I went before God and prayed, “God! I struggled for more than a decade to make money. Even though I’ve lived a life that all others would envy, and others admire and look up to me, only I know the bitterness and pain I’ve borne. Now, I also have cancer through overwork. I felt very helpless and painful. God! I don’t know what to do. Please guide me to understand Your will and know how to get through this situation.” After praying, I thought of God’s words that say: “Praise God in the midst of illness and enjoy God in the midst of your praise. Do not lose heart in the face of illness, keep seeking and never give up, and God shall shine His light on you. How faithful was Job? Almighty God is an all-powerful physician! To dwell in sickness is to be sick, but to dwell in the spirit is to be well. If you have but one breath, God will not let you die” (“Chapter 6” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning). God’s words gave me confidence and strength, and I could feel the authority and power of God’s word. God is the Creator of all things, and the fate of mankind is in God’s hands, so wasn’t my life and death also ruled over by God? Without God’s approval, cancer would not kill me. I must have faith in God. Whether my illness would be treated and whether I would finally live or die was in God’s hands, and I only wanted to entrust the matter to God and obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements. I had wasted much of my life in the past, but now I was willing to believe in God and worship Him in the time I had left. With the guidance of God’s words, I felt supported in my heart and was not so frightened.
Afterward, I stopped busying myself with my struggle for money, and instead spent more time reading God’s word and attending meetings and fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters. Their fellowship allowed me to understand much more of the truth. I realized that despite living for so many years, I had never known anything of life’s mysteries. I learned such things as how mankind was corrupted by Satan, how God saves mankind, what a meaningful life is, and God’s concern and intentions in saving mankind. I was submerged entirely in God’s love and experienced a joy and happiness I had never felt before. At the same time, I relied on God and continued my treatments. What I did not expect was that during one of my examinations, I discovered the lump in my breast was benign. I was very surprised. How could this be possible? The doctor said unbelievably, “It’s really a miracle!” In my heart I knew very clearly that this was the miraculous work of God. Later, I had an operation, and afterward, my body recovered very quickly. I was incredibly excited. I saw people around me who had the same disease undergoing radiotherapy, chemotherapy, removing their breasts, struggling to the end and having to choose between having their breasts removed or death, but I survived with my body entirely intact. This was God protecting me! Tears of gratitude poured from my eyes, and I once again offered praise and gratitude to God.
The Dark Actor Behind Wealth
After experiencing this, I deeply understood that God was giving me a second chance at life, but I also remembered how I had spent my life chasing after money, and nearly lost my life because of it, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I worshiped money to such a degree that I would even sacrifice my life for it? I also thought of how there were many people just like me, all of whom struggle bitterly for money and finally lose their lives slaving away for it. What controls us so that we are driven to do these things? I sought answers in God’s word, “‘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. People went from not accepting this saying to growing used to it so that when they came into contact with real life, they gradually gave tacit approval to it, acknowledged its existence and finally, they gave it their own seal of approval. Isn’t this process that of Satan corrupting man? … 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? Don’t many people sacrifice their dignity and integrity in the pursuit of more money? Don’t many more people lose the opportunity to perform their duty and follow God for the sake of money? Isn’t this a loss for people? (Yes.) Isn’t Satan sinister to use this method and this saying to corrupt man to such a degree?” (“God Himself, the Unique V”). “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” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).
God’s word reveals the true condition of corrupt mankind—every one of us scrambles and struggles endlessly for wealth, fame, and fortune, but none of us realize this is harm inflicted by Satan. Influenced by the satanic rules “Money is first,” “Money is not everything, but without it you can do nothing,” “A man dies for money; a bird dies for food,” and “No pain, no gain” and so on, we fallaciously believe that having money is our asset in life, and that with money, we will have everything. We think of money as our only reliance and sustenance. In order to get more money, we, like money-making machines, work hard every day, and even sacrifice our own health and life. For money, I had repeatedly done heavy labor at the risk of my life; for money, I had learned rhetoric and flattery; for money, I had ignored the limits of my body and taken on the work of four people. These famous sayings of Satan had become my life, the only pursuit and goal in my life. For over ten years of hard work, I gained an excellent material lifestyle, and the praise and admiration of the people around me. My vanity was greatly satisfied, but I had paid a cruel price for these things: I had crawled and tumbled in the business, my disposition had become false and cunning; being busy for so long had made me ignore my family and led to discord in my relationship with my husband; through overwork, I had suffered from insomnia and got various illnesses, and I almost died from cancer…. I had tasted my share of being trapped in Satan’s net of bitterness and pain, and more so had tasted the terror and helplessness of imminent death in my heart. Money could only temporarily satisfy my fleshly desires, but it couldn’t buy back my life or extend my life by one bit. Now, I saw clearly that pursuing money was meaningless and worthless, and that Satan had used wealth to tempt us, corrupt us, and harm us, that it had entrapped us ever deeper in the whirlpool of pursuit of wealth, in the end we would have been consumed by Satan. It was God’s words that enlightened, guided me, and allowed me to see through Satan’s trick. Without it, I would have been harmed, or even killed, by Satan without knowing what was happening to me. When I understood these things, I immediately swore an oath to correct my past mistakes, no longer work overtime to earn money, and no longer be a slave to wealth. The amount of money I would earn in this lifetime was fated, and as long as I worked normally and obeyed God’s orchestrations and arrangements, I could be content knowing I would have sufficient food and clothing. What people should pursue above all is the truth, practicing God’s word in all things, and relying on God’s word to live, because only in this way can we live out the most meaningful life.
Escaping Bondage and Walking the Correct Path in Life
When I was determined to pursue the truth, a friend said to me one day, “Right now a product is selling very well, and I’d like to cooperate with you. I don’t need any investment. You provide customers and shops. I will provide the merchandise, and we can split the profit by half. If you agree, I’ll buy it tomorrow!” When I heard this, I thought, “You want to do business without any investment from me? Isn’t this a wonderful thing?” I agreed without further thought. After my friend left, there was unrest in my heart, and when I finally calmed myself, I thought, “I already operate a chain shop, and it’s very hard. Even though I don’t need to invest in this, it will add another brand to my offerings, and there undoubtedly will be a price to be paid in energy and time. In the past, I had almost sacrificed my life in my struggle for money, and if God hadn’t saved me, how would I be alive today? Was I really going to go back to that path?” Afterward, I came before God to seek answers, and read this passage of God’s word, “The sadness of man is not that man seeks happy life, not that he pursues fame and fortune or struggles against his own fate through the fog, but that after he has seen the Creator’s existence, after he has learned the fact that the Creator has sovereignty over human fate, he still cannot mend his ways, cannot pull his feet out of the mire, but hardens his heart and persists in his errors. He would rather keep thrashing in the mud, vying obstinately against the Creator’s sovereignty, resisting it until the bitter end, without the slightest shred of contrition, and only when he lies broken and bleeding does he at last decide to give up and turn back. This is true human sorrow. So I say, those who choose to submit are wise, and those who choose to escape are pig-headed” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). God’s words of pity and blame touched my heart with every line, and made me feel God’s pain and sadness at me being trapped in Satan’s net with no way to extract myself. When I thought back on how I had suffered to make money and how God had saved me, I felt very guilty. Time and again God had saved me from the camp of Satan, but I stubbornly remained confused and unaware, remained trapped in Satan’s net against my will in all matters related to making money, didn’t seek God’s will at all, continued to pursue wealth, fame, and future, and didn’t want to give up any opportunity to make money at all. I thought of how I had lived by satanic principles of survival in the past and wasted half of my life suffering and striving purely in pursuit of wealth, fame, and fortune, and in the end had gained nothing. I received no value or meaning from it. I had just recovered my health, and immediately my friend wanted to do business with me. Wasn’t this Satan using my friend to tempt me and again entrap me in the whirlpool of making money, to make me leave and betray God and again return to its camp where it would toy with me and harm me? But now, I was awaked, I knew that Satan was truly despicable, and I blamed myself for being so deeply harmed and entrapped in these schemes by Satan. It was then that I became determined to no longer hurt God’s heart. I had to stand firm and testify for God and humiliate Satan! So, I resolutely refused to accept my friend’s business proposal.
Today, I spend more of my time believing in God and pursuing the truth. In the church, I also do my utmost to fulfill my duties as a creation，I have entrusted my business matters to God. I no longer struggle under my own power in business, but instead obey God’s plans and arrangements. Sometimes, when I spread the gospel with my brothers and sisters, I bring people who have had the same experience as myself and lived in torment before God. When I finally let go of the pursuit of wealth in my heart, I not only felt a spiritual freedom and release I had never felt before, I also experienced one of God’s miracles. Sometimes, I am so busy spreading the gospel that I have no time to supervise my shop, but afterward, my customers come to me personally to buy things. Sometimes I go for days without any business, but every month, several fixed customers place large orders, and I still do the same level of business. This makes me see that all things are arranged by God, and that how much wealth we have isn’t something we can depend on our own effort to decide. This is something entirely granted to us by God. In what seems like the blink of an eye, I have believed in God for many years. Through reading God’s word, I deeply experienced that only God is the truth, way, and life, only God can bring light to people, only by worshiping God, pursuing the truth, turning from our mistaken views on things, and allowing God’s word to become our guide to action can we truly begin walking the correct path in life and living a meaningful life. Thank God！