12. Only Honesty Brings Human Likeness
By Shizai, China
My husband and I are in the office furniture business. We started out doing business really honestly, doing exactly what customers asked, without mixing in anything counterfeit. But a year went by and after all the fees we had to pay, we only had just enough to live on. The owners of the store next door were in the same business, but they earned a lot more than us. I was confused: Why couldn’t we ever make as much as them? I wanted to go watch and learn, to see how they were making their money. One day a customer came into their store and ordered a sofa, a front desk, and a table and wanted them all to be top of the line. I saw the owner promise them it would all be of the best quality, but as soon as the customer left, he took third-rate products from their factory and substituted them for the first-rate products and sent them off to the customer. He made over 10,000 yuan in no time at all. Seeing them employ this kind of tactic was really shocking for me. I thought, “So that’s how they do it! Isn’t that cheating the customer? That’s not a very honest way to do business.” But then I thought, “We’re in the same business but they’re making more and living a better life while we’re just getting by. There’s too much of a disparity.” I figured I could learn a few things from them. So to make more money, I started ignoring my conscience and selling things like the neighbors did.
One time a customer came in to stock up on office supplies and asked for everything to be high quality. I assured him over and over, saying it would be nothing but the best and would have a lifetime guarantee so he’d feel comfortable making the purchase from us. After he left, I switched out what he’d chosen for third-rate products that looked exactly like the good ones because they cost a lot less money. I felt really uneasy while delivering the order. I thought, “If he finds out and demands a refund, it won’t be just losing money. He’ll accuse me of being a swindler right to my face.” This thought made me feel even more nervous. My heart beat faster and I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I was surprised when he checked the order and didn’t notice anything and I could finally relax a bit. When that bill was settled, I’d made extra tens of thousands, and even though I did have feelings of guilt coming up and knew it was dishonest and unethical, I couldn’t help but feel secretly pleased at earning that much money so quickly. After a while, my constant lying and cheating did cause quite a few problems for me. Sometimes when I sold something counterfeit, the customer would later call me to have it fixed. But that fake stuff didn’t have any after-sales service, so I’d have to find all sorts of excuses to put them off. Sometimes someone would say angrily, “You business owners don’t take any responsibility after selling something. You’re completely untrustworthy!” Hearing a customer say something like this wasn’t easy for me, but then I’d figure everyone else did business that way, so wasn’t it perfectly normal? That feeling of guilt gradually disappeared.
A few years went by and even though I’d earned some money and was living more comfortably, I didn’t feel any joy in my heart. Instead I just felt on edge all the time because I’d sold so much counterfeit stuff, afraid of the day a customer would find out there was a quality issue and call to demand a refund or report me. That would cost me a lot of money. It could also cost me my reputation, and people might talk behind my back. Hoping to avoid this, I was constantly thinking about how I should smooth things over if I ever did get that kind of call. Living that way was exhausting for me. I often thought, “If I just do business honestly and order what the customer asks for without giving them second-best, I wouldn’t have to worry about this all the time. But there’s so much overhead for my business and home. If I do business honestly, getting what customers request, I wouldn’t make much money. Don’t they say ‘There’s no such thing as an honest businessman’? Isn’t that just the way things are these days? I can’t earn enough without cheating so I’ll just focus on the money.” And so, even though my conscience sometimes felt uneasy, I kept using underhanded business tactics to earn more money.
In 2004, my sister-in-law shared Almighty God’s work of the last days with me. By reading God’s words I became certain it was God’s work of the last days and started living the church life. One day I read this in God’s words: “My kingdom requires those who are honest, those who are not hypocritical or deceitful. Are not the sincere and honest people unpopular in the world? I am just the opposite. It is acceptable for the honest people to come to Me; I delight in this kind of person, and I also need this kind of person. This is precisely My righteousness” (“Chapter 33” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “You ought to know that God likes those who are honest. In essence, God is faithful, and so His words can always be trusted; His actions, furthermore, are faultless and unquestionable, which is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this, I learned that God likes honest people and He requires us to be honest and upright in our words and deeds. We shouldn’t deceive or cheat God or man. I thought, “Being honest is all well and good and it’s a peaceful, relaxing way to live. But in this money-obsessed society, honest people just look like idiots to others. Particularly for those of us in business, cheating customers is an open secret. If I’m totally honest, I won’t earn any money, then I won’t make a living. Someone might even take me for dumb and cheat me. But God requires us to be honest people, so what should I do?” I thought of a compromise. I would speak and act totally honestly in the church with brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t need to be on my guard and no one would laugh at me. But I couldn’t be an honest person at work. So, I started putting that into practice.
One day a customer came and ordered 120 desks and chairs. All the floor models he chose were good quality and didn’t smell like formaldehyde. I was thinking, “I’ll switch out what he ordered for another factory’s products, which look exactly the same as the ones he wanted, even though the quality is lower and they do smell of formaldehyde. Then I’ll make an extra 1,200 yuan.” I figured I’d sell him the lower quality furniture. But then I thought about formaldehyde being harmful, and I felt uneasy. But then again, I knew all the other shops did business that way. If I didn’t cheat him, he’d just go somewhere else and be cheated there. I figured I may as well earn that money. So, with an easy conscience, I put in his order for counterfeit products. When I made the delivery a few days later, the customer was suspicious of the quality and the smell. He asked me, “Isn’t this stuff dangerous? How can you do business this way? I don’t want these things anymore!” I wanted to negotiate with him and give him a better deal just as long as he kept everything. But he didn’t even give me a chance to speak, but said very firmly and resolutely that he wanted to return it all. I had no choice but to take all 120 of those desks and chairs back. I was miserable after I got home. I was thinking that doing things dishonestly was hard work and took a lot of resources. It wasn’t just the money, but my reputation and dignity had been damaged. I was reaping what I had sown. If I did things the way God required and not sell counterfeit products, although I wouldn’t make as much money, no one would get upset with me, and I wouldn’t wear myself out or feel on edge. By being underhanded I was hurting myself as well as others! I came before God to pray, saying, “Oh God! You require us to be honest people but I’m still being dishonest in my business. What happened today was Your discipline and I’ve had enough of the bitterness of living this way. I don’t want to cheat people anymore. I want You to guide me to be honest. I’m ready to strive to meet Your requirements.”
Then one day in my devotionals, I read this in God’s words: “I am the God who examines the innermost heart of man. Do not act one way to others’ faces but another way behind their backs; I see clearly everything you do, and though you may fool others, you cannot fool Me. I see it all clearly. It is not possible for you to conceal anything; all lies within My hands” (“Chapter 44” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Do you think nothing will happen to you after you have cheated someone out of money? Do you think that after having swindled that money away, you will not face any consequences? Such would be impossible; there will indeed be consequences! Regardless of who they are or whether or not they believe that there is a God, all individuals must take responsibility for their own behavior and bear the consequences of their actions” (“God Himself, the Unique X” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “That God asks for people to be honest proves that He truly loathes those who are deceitful, and that He does not like deceitful people. The fact that God does not like deceitful people means that He dislikes their actions, disposition, and motivations; that is, He does not like the way they do things. Therefore, if we are to please God, we must first change our actions and the way in which we exist. Previously, we relied on lies and pretense to live among people, using these as our capital and as the existential basis, life, and foundation by which we conducted ourselves. This was something that God despised” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days).
I could feel from God’s words that God’s disposition is righteous, holy, and tolerates no offense. He scrutinizes our every word and deed and ultimately we all get what we deserve according to what we’ve done. I could get away with cheating to make more money for a while, but I’d reap the bitter fruit later on. I’d go to hell and be punished after I died. That’s a heavenly law. I saw how foolish I’d been. I thought I could be honest with brothers and sisters but be deceitful in my business to curry favor with God and then be blessed later without damaging my interests in the meantime. I could fool people with my little tricks, but not God. I’d paid quite a bit of money for those desks and chairs. That was God’s discipline, but He was also warning and saving me. Otherwise I’d have continued indulging myself and being dishonest and I definitely would have gotten my retribution in the end. This thought left me feeling a little bit afraid and I started to reflect on myself. Thinking back over my years in business, I’d ignored my conscience to make more money, exchanging the good-quality products customers ordered for inferior ones. I’d lied and cheated, and persisted in misrepresenting poor-quality goods as higher quality. Even after gaining faith, knowing full well that God requires us to be honest, to not cheat man or God, I still cheated and lied to customers to make a buck, earning dishonest money. I’d stop at nothing for the sake of money. I was running a shady business, cheating people, corrupted by Satan and devoid of conscience or reason. I was crafty, selfish, and despicable, living like a demon without any human likeness. It was just like what the Lord Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). “But let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no: for whatever is more than these comes of evil” (Matthew 5:37). Only the devil is always lying and cheating, and that’s what I was doing. Didn’t I have the devil’s likeness? Where was my human likeness? Thinking this, I felt so disgusted with myself. I didn’t want to lie for my own benefit anymore. I later read these words of God: “Be an honest person; pray to God to rid you of the deception in your heart. Purify yourself through prayer at all times, be moved by the Spirit of God through prayer, and your disposition will gradually change” (“Concerning the Practice of Prayer” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me a path of practice. I knew I had to rely on God in my effort to become an honest person, and pray to God about my difficulties to be freed of my corrupt disposition. I also had to pray when something in business touched upon money or upon my interests, accept God’s scrutiny, and be an upright person. I had to call a spade a spade, and seek truth from facts in word and deed. I prayed when I realized all this, willing to accept God’s scrutiny and put His words into practice.
Not long after, a customer came to order some metal cabinets. He asked for above-average quality cabinets with a sturdy construction. At the time, I thought, “If I place this order just like he wants, I won’t earn much money after overhead and costs. If I find him something a little flimsier and he doesn’t notice, I could get 10,000 yuan or more out of it. How about I just order something not quite as sturdy?” Just as I was hemming and hawing, I remembered the consequences of all the times I’d cheated people. Not only had I not earned anything, but I’d lost money and felt terrible. I also thought about how honest people bring God joy and are blessed by Him and that He requires us to tell the absolute truth. I couldn’t ignore my conscience and do something dishonest just for money. I realized that encountering this again was God testing me to see if I could practice in line with the resolution I’d made before God. I prayed to God, asking Him to protect me from temptation and give me the strength to practice the truth and forsake myself, and to be an honest person who delights God. I felt stronger after my prayer. I ordered the metal cabinets for him just as he had asked and even though I didn’t earn as much, I had a real sense of peace in my heart. I also felt how wonderful it is to practice honesty in accordance with God’s words. It wasn’t taxing and I wasn’t worried about what would happen.
I read these words from God later: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. … Even when they hear the truth, those who live in darkness give no thought to putting it into practice, nor are they inclined to seek out God even if they have beheld His appearance. How could a mankind so depraved have any chance of salvation? How could a mankind so decadent live in the light?” (“To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Until people have experienced God’s work and gained the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within you. As for what Satan’s poison is, it can be fully expressed with words. For example, if you ask some evildoers why they committed evil, they will answer, ‘Because it’s every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s logic has become people’s lives. They may do things for this purpose or that, but they are only doing it for themselves. Everyone thinks that since it is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, people should live for their own sakes, and do everything in their power to secure a good position for the sake of food and fine clothing. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words of Satan are precisely the poison of Satan, and when people internalize it, it becomes their nature. Satan’s nature is exposed through these words; they represent it completely. This poison becomes people’s lives as well as the foundation of their existence, and corrupted humanity has been consistently dominated by this poison for thousands of years” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words helped me realize why I couldn’t stop myself from lying and cheating. It was because I was so deeply corrupted by Satan. Satan uses our society and formal education to steep us in satanic laws like, “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” “Money makes the world go round,” and “Money is first.” There’s also “There’s no such thing as an honest businessman.” They’d gotten inside of me and become my nature. So I ended up worshiping money and step by step, I abandoned my most basic standards of conduct for the sake of profit. I became more and more evil, greedy, and self-interested. I was so selfish and deceitful. In doing business, I substituted inferior goods for the good-quality ones and did harm without acknowledging it. I put money and my personal interests above all else, even selling out my own conscience and integrity. I’d lost all normal humanity. I’d earned a lot of money that way, but I didn’t feel happy at all. Instead, I always felt exhausted and on edge. It was a painful way to live. Then I finally realized it was all because Satan had corrupted me, because I’d lived by Satan’s laws for survival. I also realized why the world is so dark and evil these days. It’s because everyone lives by Satan’s poisons like “Man will do anything to get rich” and “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” So they idolize money, fame, and status, lust for evil pleasures, becoming more and more selfish, greedy, and evil. People fight each other over money and gain, hurting and cheating each other, stopping at nothing. Even family and friends are no exception. No one cares about conscience or integrity anymore, and they hardly seem human. Our society, so tightly within Satan’s grasp, is like a vat of dye, a meat grinder. Without faith in God, there’s no way to know the truth of how Satan corrupts mankind or to escape its dark influence. We only become more corrupt and depraved, and are ultimately devoured by Satan. That’s the consequence of Satan corrupting and hurting us. Realizing this, I truly gave thanks for God’s protection and salvation. Without the guidance, sustenance, and judgment of Almighty God’s words, I wouldn’t have known the significance of being an honest person. I wouldn’t have realized the essence and consequences of constantly lying, either. I would have continued to live under Satan’s grasp, always cheating, hardly living like a human being. No matter how much money I earned, I’d still end up punished in hell. From then on, I practiced being truthful and honest in my business. Sometimes I was really tempted by money and still thought about deceiving and cheating people, but I knew God hated that and people didn’t like it, either. I’d pray to God to forsake my wrong motives and practice being an honest person. To my surprise, when I did that, I didn’t earn any less. My business improved and I had more and more customers. I earned people’s respect and some return customers trusted me, so they wouldn’t even come in to look at things, but would just order over the phone. I felt more and more how relaxing, how free and secure it feels to be honest and practice God’s words.
One time a customer came and ordered 500 metal cabinets, asking for the materials to be 0.7 mm thick. I didn’t hesitate at all, but just placed the order exactly as he had requested. Surprisingly, he got out a microcaliper to check the thickness when everything was delivered, but I was totally calm, free from worry or fear. After measuring it, he said, “You’re really trustworthy. A lot of people just want to earn money and can’t be trusted. There aren’t enough people like you anymore. I’ll be ordering more from you in the future.” Hearing him say this, I felt even more deeply how great it is to be honest as God’s words say. It’s just as God’s words say: “The future direction will be thus: Those who gain the utterances from God’s mouth will have a path to walk on earth, and be they businessmen or scientists, or educators or industrialists, those who are without God’s words will have a hard time taking even a single step, and will be forced to seek the true way. This is what is meant by, ‘With the truth you will walk the entire world; without the truth, you will get nowhere’” (“The Millennial Kingdom Has Arrived” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I give thanks for God’s salvation!