Personal finances and the Christian life after conversion...

To Reformed Men

Dwight L. Moody: Last Friday I was to have a question drawer to receive questions which I was to answer, and some of these questions are constantly arising now. As to this question that has been before us every Friday since we have been in this city [Boston], "Ought a reformed drunkard, whose family is in want, give any of his money for charitable purposes outside of his own family?"

Perhaps some were here last night and felt as if they would like to give, because they have been so blessed by this Tabernacle, and perhaps they felt as if they did not show true gratitude if they did not give. Let me say right here that your first work is to take care of your family. Your money belongs at home. If your wife has had a hard struggle, and you have been squandering your money in saloons and billiard halls and rum shops, you want to take it home now; your aim should be to make your home just as comfortable for your dear ones as you possibly can. We read in the fifth chapter of Timothy and the eighth verse:

"If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." I Tim. 5:8

There is what Paul says to you upon that subject. "He is worse than an infidel." Let your first earnings go to that home. Clothe your children, and don't let them be hooted at on the street as sons and daughters of a drunkard. Give them comfortable clothes and a comfortable home, that is where you want to put your money.

Now, here is another question that has been asked: "Ought a man to pay his liquor bills after he is converted?"

"Render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar" (Matt. 22:21). If you want to have any influence with these rum-sellers go and pay up your bills. The mistake is made; you never ought to have contracted the bill or run into debt, but if you have, go and pay your debt.

In the thirteenth chapter of Romans and in the seventh and eighth verses we read:

"Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."

We have a right to go into debt for one thing, that is love. I believe that a great many people are now suffering, and are suffering a thousand times more than they would if they had not run into debt, not only for liquor, but for other things. And I want to say to you young converts, that if you will take my advice, you will keep out of debt. If friends want to advance you money to help you up, tell them you won't have it. Don't you take it. I would rather have twenty-five cents that I have earned by the sweat of my brow than twenty-five dollars that I have borrowed, and that I will have to pay back. Work your way up to the top of the ladder and you will like to stay up there; but if you are lifted up there by somebody you will be all the time tumbling back and you will get disheartened and discouraged.

There are a great many of these men that cannot make restitution, and, because they have not paid their debts, there may be a good many of these enemies of religion that will say that they have not been truly born again; that they have not been truly regenerated.

It may be that it will take years for some of these men to pay their debts. They have been running up a pretty good account, but that is not going to keep them from Christ. If their hearts are right and their purpose right, and they mean to pay their bills, and they pay them just as soon as they can, that is just as acceptable to God as if they paid them all at once. If any of these reformed men are hundreds of dollars in debt, and they have not a penny to pay them with, their creditors must wait. That ought to be your first aim, to pay off those debts and get out of it as quickly as possible.

I have great confidence in those men that profess to be reclaimed, if they go to work. If you cannot get what you want, get what you can. If you cannot get as much for your work as you think you ought to get, get whatever you can. One of these men that had been reclaimed wanted to find work right off, and that was a very good sign of his conversion. But some of these men have not done anything for years but drink liquor, and they are not adapted to hardly anything, and they are not fit for much at first. It is difficult to get them situations, and if we do succeed in getting them work they ought to take it and thank God for it. If it is not what you like, thank God that it is something. Something is a good deal better than nothing.

There was one of these converted men in Chicago that could not get what he wanted to do, but he got a man that would board him and give him twenty-five cents a week. He took up the offer and went to work. Twenty-five cents a week! Well, that wasn't much, but he got his board, and that was a good deal. Pretty soon a business man heard of it, and he said, "That is the man for me; that is just the man I want;" and he hired him and gave him $4 a day. There is many a man that will help you up if you will show a disposition to help yourself.

There is a man upon this platform who is going to speak to you that I admire very much, because he went to work for $3 a week, and boarded himself. You say that $3 a week won't pay your board, but it will help, and it is a good deal better than nothing.

Nothing won't if three dollars don't. That is better than running up and down the street idle and getting into debt. If you do this and work faithfully for three dollars a week, it won't be long before you have six dollars, and then you will get ten dollars, and then twelve dollars a week.

You want to get these employers always under an obligation to you. You must be such true men and be so helpful to your employers that they cannot get along without you, and then you will work up, and your employer will increase your wages. If a man works in the interest of his employer he will be sure to keep him and treat him well, but if he only works for money, and don't take any interest in his employer's business, he will let him go at any time. They can get any quantity of such men. But if they get a man that takes an interest in his work they cannot spare him, for such men are scarce.

Let me say to these reformed men that, if you will take my advice, you will get something to do. If you cannot earn more than a dollar a week, earn that. That is better than nothing, and you can pray to God for more ....

These are hard times, I know, and it is hard to get work, but spring has come, and if you cannot get work in the city, strike out into the country. A great many farmers want men now. It is not degrading to go out and hoe and shovel in the field. It is noble, I think. I do not believe there is a man in this city that really wants work but can get it in the country. If you haven't money to ride, walk out. You can foot it on a good pleasant day like this, ten or fifteen miles a day. Besides, you will have a better chance walking than if you passed the farmers' places on a train.

If you are looking for work do not beg. Ask for something to do. If you are offered anything without work do not take it. They will give you some wood to saw, or some work to do that will pay for what you get. Your meals will taste a good deal sweeter, when you have earned them by the sweat of your brow.

There was one good thing about that prodigal, he would not beg, and he would not steal. He would not even steal the swine's food. That is the kind of men we want now. If you will not beg or steal, men will respect and help you. What we want to-day is true men, and if people find that you are a true man, they will make room for you.

It may be a hard chance to get the first footing, but if you hold right on, God will open a way for you, and if need be send down a legion of angels to help you. "What would you do with a man that would not work?" There is the same thing.

I think Paul has it right: If a man will not work, he shall not eat. I think we are doing these men a great injury if we help them when they won't work. Some of these men have professed, but there is a difference between conversion and being born of God; being regenerated.

We are living in days of sham - and they see others come out, and that they are getting fed, and getting new clothes, and they say: "These men are making a good thing out of it; I guess I'll reform too." But it is easy to tell them. They are a blight in the hollow; they are not whole in the root. And if they will not work, that is a pretty good sign that they have not been born of God.

When I was President of the Young Men's Christian Association in Chicago we used to have those men coming in all the time. They would tell about their suffering, and how they had no work and wanted help. At last I got two or three hundred cords of wood and put it in a vacant lot, and got some saws and sawbucks and kept them out of sight. A man would come and ask for help. "Why don't you work?" "I can't get any." "Would you do it if you could get any?" "Oh, yes, anything." "Would you really work in the street?" "Yes." "Would you saw wood?" "Yes." "All right," and then we would bring out the saw and sawbuck and send them out, but we would have a boy to watch and see that they did not steal the saw. Then the fellow would say, "I will go home and tell my wife I have got some work," and that would be the last we would see of him. Out of the whole winter I never got more than three or four cords of wood sawed.

We heard from our friend Dr. Tyng last week that we want a good deal of mother in this work; yes, and we want some father, too. If you are always showering money on these men, and giving them clothing and raiment, they will live in idleness, and not only ruin themselves, but their children.

It is not charity at all to help them when they will not work. If a man will not work, let him starve. They never die. I never heard of them really starving to death. You may say that is harsh, but we need a little of that now .... You cannot keep the body healthy without work. "By much slothfulness the building decayeth, and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through." If you want to keep the body in a good, healthy state, you have got to work. We are commanded to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows. Get something to do. If it is for fifteen hours a day, all the better, for while you are at work Satan does not have so much chance to tempt you. It is these men that are out of work that Satan tempts.

"Do you think it best for a reformed man to give up tobacco?"

Yes; I would let that go with the whiskey; it is part of the old nature. "Have you any passage of Scripture against this?" I think it is clearly taught that these bodies are the temples for the Holy Ghost, and we ought to be careful to keep them pure. I do not think it is becoming for a son of the Most High to be using that filthy weed. I don't know how it is, for I never used it, but I have an idea that it whets up the appetite for strong drink. It belongs to the old creation.

How is it with men who have no work, using tobacco? I don't see how they can afford it, put it on that ground. I do not think it keeps the body in a healthy state. I think we ought to be very careful about the body because it is so identified with the soul.

"I am so poor that I cannot afford to go to church; what shall I do?" Give up your tobacco. There are plenty of churches in this city that are perfectly free. You are welcomed, you are invited, you are urged to come, and there is not a minister in this town but would like to see his church filled. There may be some fashionable churches that are crowded without you, where you would not receive so warm a welcome as at others. If you cannot afford to pay a pew rent, tell them so, and you will find scores of churches in this city of Boston that will be glad to welcome you. I hope you reformed men will find homes in churches soon, where the godly people will gather around you. You will find many of the very best friends in these churches, and they will be more than glad to have you come. Let all these reformed men find some church at once, and in that way others will be of great good to you and you to them.

Dwight L. Moody, Boston, from "To All People", New York, 1877.

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