13. The Fight to Be an Honest Person
By Wei Zhong, China
A few years ago, I opened an appliance repair shop. I wanted to be an honest businessman and just earn a little money so my family had enough. But after some time spent being constantly busy, I saw that I’d made just enough money for the family to get by, and there was no way to save. Sometimes my monthly earnings were even less than an entry-level worker. My wife was always complaining to me about it, saying that I was too honest and didn’t know how to do business. My brother-in-law was on my case, too. He said, “We live in the age of money, and no matter how you do it, you have to get people to hand over their money to be seen as capable.” He also said things like “No wealth is without wiliness” and “Money makes the world go round” to get me to wake up and follow the trend, do business like others and not be so stubborn. I thought they did have a point, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cheat my customers. I felt I could never reconcile that with my conscience.
I later noticed that Mr. Qian, the owner of an appliance repair shop near my shop, hardly had any technical skills. He could only fix some minor little issues, but he had a big sign hanging out front that said “First-rate Repairs for All Appliances.” He attracted a lot of business that way. He’d accept a job and fix it himself if it was simple. Otherwise, he’d just send it to another repair place and take a cut for himself. He made quite a bit of money that way. Once when we were chatting, he told me how he made his money. He said that when a little part in an appliance breaks, you can just replace all of the components so you can charge more money. Customers don’t know any better. He said we’re living in a money-oriented society, and “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” He also said that being able to make money means you’re capable, otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, you’ll be looked down on. After hearing this guy’s “brilliant insight,” I thought, “This is the age we live in. Other people will do anything for money and there’s no such thing as integrity, so what good is it if I’m the only honest one? Besides, doing my business honestly hasn’t gotten me anywhere. This guy fixes things just like me and he lives a good life. His entire family lives well, but I’m just making enough money for us to get by. Looks like I have been too headstrong. I should find ways to make more money so my family can have a better life.” After that, I started learning from the “successes” of my colleagues and using underhanded means to cheat my customers. I felt unsettled, but I didn’t dwell on it so that I could make more money.
A customer came in for a repair one day. As I was taking out the faulty part, I went ahead and took out a few that were perfectly fine so she would think more of them were broken, and she’d be none the wiser when I charged her more. That old saying, “As guilty as a thief,” is so true. At first, I was really nervous and my heart was pounding, afraid she’d see through it and call me out on the spot. That would be humiliating. But I just put on a calm face and replaced all those components. When it came time to pay, I just callously charged her 50% more than my quote. I kept my head down the whole time, not daring to look her in the eyes, but to my surprise, she paid it without a word. I finally breathed a sigh of relief after she left. My face and back were covered with sweat and I felt a strange sense of unease. But when I saw that extra money I’d gotten, that feeling quickly disappeared.
From then on I started thinking of all sorts of tricks to overcharge customers. I had a guilty conscience at first, but I quietly encouraged myself so I could keep earning extra. I thought, “I can’t get too soft—‘As a small mind makes no gentleman, a real man is not without venom.’ I have to be clever if I want to earn money. Besides, everyone does it, not just me.” After a while, that sense of guilt faded and I became more adept and sophisticated in my money-making “skills.” I also learned how to read people and test the waters, treating different people differently. I learned more tricks. When a well-off customer came in, I’d pander to them, saying what they wanted to hear and flattering them so it would be easier for me to charge them more. When I had a really anxious customer, I’d pretend the repair was a big pain and really involved, then intentionally take more time. That way they’d just offer me more money. Some customers were more astute, so I’d think of a reason to have them leave their appliance with me and pick it up another day, and when they came back I’d say I’d found other problems. I was making more money without spending much effort. And so, I constantly racked my brains to overcharge customers. I was making a lot more money and leading a more comfortable life, but I didn’t feel any happiness or joy in my heart. Instead, whenever I thought about the despicable, unethical things I did, I felt afraid and uneasy. Sometimes I’d think, “I should just stop. I shouldn’t conduct this shady business anymore. Like they say, ‘Good is repaid with good, and evil with evil.’ I’ll get what I’m due.” But then when I thought about all that cash in my hands, I just couldn’t resolve to stop.
Just as I was falling further into depravity and numbness, my sister shared Almighty God’s kingdom gospel with me. After accepting God’s work, I started gathering with brothers and sisters and reading God’s words frequently. I read these words from Almighty God in a gathering once: “Man has walked through these periods together with God, yet he knows not that God rules the fate of all things and living beings, nor how God orchestrates and directs all things. This has eluded man from time immemorial to the present day. As for why, it is not because the deeds of God are too hidden, nor because the plan of God has yet to be realized, but because the heart and spirit of man are too distant from God, to the point where man remains in the service of Satan even as he follows God—and still doesn’t know it. No one actively seeks out God’s footsteps and the appearance of God, and no one is willing to exist in the care and keeping of God. Instead, they wish to rely on the corrosion of Satan, the evil one, in order to adapt to this world, and to the rules of existence that wicked mankind follows. At this point, the heart and spirit of man have become man’s tribute to Satan and become Satan’s foodstuff. Even more, the human heart and spirit have become a place in which Satan can reside and its fitting playground. Thus does man unknowingly lose his understanding of the principles of being human, and of the value and meaning of human existence. The laws of God and the covenant between God and man gradually fade away in man’s heart, and he ceases to seek or pay heed to God. With the passage of time, man no longer understands why God created him, nor does he understand the words from the mouth of God and all that comes from God. Man then begins to resist the laws and decrees of God, and his heart and spirit become deadened…. God loses the man that He originally created, and man loses the root he originally had: This is the sorrow of this human race” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). God’s words reflect reality. Even though I’d earned quite a bit of money out in the world and my physical comforts were better than before, I was empty and in pain inside, and it was all because I’d distanced myself from God, gone against His requirements for man, and lived by Satan’s rules for survival. When I first opened the store, I made money with a clear conscience, and even though I didn’t earn much, I was at peace. But then I was influenced by my environment. Seeing others getting rich in underhanded ways, I also started taking in “No wealth is without wiliness,” “Money makes the world go round,” and “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” and other such rules for survival from Satan. I followed evil trends and abandoned my own basic principles to make money, ignoring my conscience to dupe customers so they’d fork over more money. The money was in my hands, but it was all ill-gotten. Whenever I thought about those despicable, immoral things I’d done, I felt terrible about myself and couldn’t find any peace. I lived in fear of the day someone would expose me, when I’d be denounced. Worst case scenario, I could even be reported to the police. I was constantly on edge. It was a painful way to live. But that day I understood that it was all because I was living by a satanic philosophy. It was the consequence of being bound and fooled by Satan’s rules. Without the guidance of God’s words, I never would have seen the reality of how Satan was harming me.
A sister then read a couple of passages of God’s words for me: “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. 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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). “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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 33). Then she shared this fellowship: “God is faithful in essence. He likes and blesses those who are honest. In our dealings with others in the world, we live by Satan’s law, ‘Never lift a finger without a reward.’ Our words and deeds are all for personal gain, and we lie and deceive without compunction. We don’t know what it means to be a good person. But faith in God is different today. He requires us to be honest people, to tell the truth, and be upright. He asks that we accept His scrutiny in our every word and every deed, that we be open and aboveboard, and not try to deceive or cheat God or man. Only honest people have a true human likeness, and only they can bear witness to and glorify God.” I learned from God’s words that He likes honest people and I had to act according to His requirements. I started practicing speaking honestly with brothers and sisters, and not deceiving them, but I was still worried when doing business. I felt that it was easier to practice being an honest person with brothers and sisters, but if I did that in my business, I’d earn a lot less and I might even have to shut down. But if I kept cheating and deceiving people like before, wouldn’t that be against God’s will? So, what should my practice be? I thought it over at length and found a compromise: I’d be an honest person at church, but I’d keep on with business as usual in my store.
One day an older man came in with his TV, saying that the picture seemed dimmer. I took a look and saw the color tubes were getting old and needed replacing, but I didn’t tell him the truth. I just increased the filament voltage so he could use it a little longer, then I could change them when the problem recurred. That way I’d earn an extra 30 yuan for the repair. Two weeks later, the TV did indeed have a problem and the man asked me to repair it again, saying I hadn’t done a good job. I told him that the color tubes were old and needed replacing. To my surprise, he saw through my little scheme. He withheld the 30 yuan repair fee and said reprovingly, “Young man, doing business calls for honesty. Don’t get too greedy!” I felt really embarrassed at the time but then shrugged it off without further thought. An older lady later came in with a broken microwave, and I found one small broken part in it. I figured I could fix it and then collect a reasonable fee. But then I thought about how she was pretty well-off, so charging her a little more wouldn’t be a big deal. You have to take what you can get. But she came back to the store a few days later and said, “You charged me a hefty sum for that microwave. Have a conscience. Heaven sees what we do!” I felt really bad after being dressed down by her and I thought again about what that man had said. I felt pretty upset. I also realized that God was using the things around me to warn me so that I would reflect on and know myself.
After that, I read this in God’s words: “Regardless of what you are doing, how big or small a matter is, and whether you are doing it to fulfill your duty in God’s family or for your own private reasons, you must consider whether what you are doing conforms with God’s will, as well as whether it is something that a person with humanity should do. If you seek the truth like that in everything you do, then you are a person who truly believes in God. If you devoutly treat every matter and every truth in this way, then you will be able to achieve changes in your disposition. Some people think that when they are doing something personal, they can just ignore the truth, do it as they wish, and do it in whatever way makes them happy and in whatever manner is advantageous to them. They do not give the slightest consideration to how it might affect God’s family, nor do they consider whether or not what they are doing befits saintly propriety. Finally, once they are finished with the matter, they grow dark inside and feel uncomfortable, though they do not know why. Is this retribution not deserved? If you do things that are not approved by God, then you have offended God. If someone does not love the truth, and frequently does things based on their own will, then they will frequently offend God. Such people are ordinarily not approved by God in what they do, and if they do not repent, then punishment will not be very far off” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Seeking God’s Will Is for the Sake of Practicing the Truth). “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” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Walk the Path of Peter). Reading this, I could really see that God’s Spirit sees all. I’d never shared my innermost feelings with anyone, but they were fully revealed in God’s words. I understood from God’s words that He requires us to give our hearts to Him. Whether we’re doing our duty in God’s house or handling our own affairs, we have to practice His words. But I was selectively practicing the truth in my life. I saw God and brothers and sisters liked it when I put being honest into practice in the church, so I was willing to do that. But in my business, I thought I’d lose money and it wouldn’t serve my interests, so I didn’t do it. I saw I’d only considered my personal interests. I knew being deceitful wasn’t in line with God’s will, but I still did whatever I wanted, whatever would serve my own interests. How was that being a person of faith? Then it really dawned on me that “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” and “Man will do anything to get rich” are satanic rules for survival that had taken hold of me and become my nature. I’d thought I couldn’t possibly get by if I didn’t live according to them. But in reality, by living that way, I just got some personal gain and material enjoyment. But it was a vile way to live, without any dignity whatsoever. People resented and spurned me, and God loathed and hated me even more. I thought of what the Lord Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). And Almighty God says: “Write off all those ideas and calculations of yours as soon as possible, and start treating My requirements seriously; otherwise, I will turn everyone to ash in order to bring an end to My work and, at worst turn My years of work and suffering into nothing, for I cannot bring My enemies and those people who reek of evil and have Satan’s appearance into My kingdom or take them into the next age” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Transgressions Will Lead Man to Hell). God is holy and righteous, and He wants to gain honest people. Those who are always lying and deceiving, those with satanic dispositions, who resist God by nature and refuse to repent will be destroyed by God. They’ll never get into His kingdom. If I still didn’t repent, but kept living by Satan’s philosophies and rules, being crooked and doing injustice, I’d end up eliminated. At that thought, I quickly prayed to God, “Almighty God! I believe in You, but You haven’t had a place in my heart. I’ve still been living by Satan’s rules. I don’t want to be deceitful anymore. I want to repent and be an honest person.”
One time after that, a couple of young people carried a TV into my shop to get it fixed. As I was working on it, I overheard them talking quietly right outside: “We wouldn’t have wasted those two days if we’d known that place was no good. Let’s see if this guy can fix it.” Hearing this, I thought, “Other shop owners would go in for the kill if they heard that, so I could easily ask them for an extra 20 or 30 yuan. It would be a shame not to take money that lands in my lap. I can be an honest person next time. God won’t make a fuss because I don’t practice the truth just this once.” But then I remembered what I’d resolved before God, and I thought of God’s words: “If someone does not love the truth, and frequently does things based on their own will, then they will frequently offend God. Such people are ordinarily not approved by God in what they do, and if they do not repent, then punishment will not be very far off” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Seeking God’s Will Is for the Sake of Practicing the Truth). I felt that was God warning me. I couldn’t keep knowingly doing wrong. I had to repent and be an honest person. And so, I just collected the regular fee after I fixed it. When I saw happy smiles on the customers’ faces, I felt that being open and aboveboard was such a freeing way to live.
Another time when I fixed a lady’s TV, the repair fee was 50 yuan, but she gave me 100 and didn’t want change. I declined, however, I felt puzzled. Why on earth was she being so generous? Then she told me, “The first person I went to said the motherboard was done for and wanted 400 yuan to replace it, but I didn’t go for it. An acquaintance later recommended you, saying you were honest and wouldn’t overcharge customers. Now I can see that really is the case.” Hearing her say this, I thought, “It’s not that I’m a good person at all, it’s that God’s words changed me so I can live out a human likeness.”
My perspective on things also shifted from reading God’s words and practicing being an honest person. I used to think there was no way to be an honest businessman, that I couldn’t earn money, and that I’d operate at a loss and have to shut down. But after I started being honest according to God’s words, I not only wasn’t operating at a loss, but had more customers by the day. Some even came from really far away, all saying they’d been recommended by someone. I’d never advertised in any way or asked others to push business my way. It was all because I practiced God’s words, because I was honest and had integrity like God requires, only earning an honest buck, that I earned the customers’ trust. It really was God’s blessing from practicing the truth. This makes me think of another passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “When people live in this world, under the influence of Satan’s corruption, it is impossible for them to be honest; they can only become ever more deceitful. However, can we or can we not exist in this world if we become honest? Will we be marginalized by others? No; we will live as before. This is because we do not rely on treachery to eat or breathe. Rather, we live by the breath and life bestowed by God. It is simply that we have accepted God’s word the truth and have new rules for how to live, and new life goals, which will lead to changes in the foundation of our lives; it is simply that we are changing the means and method in which we live so that we can satisfy God and seek salvation. This has absolutely nothing to do with what we physically eat, what we wear, or where we live; it is our spiritual need” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person). Thanks be to God!