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Devotionals

Craig V. Nelson

Cast Thy Bread upon the Waters

 
Money; it’s an interesting thing.  What would you do if you had a lot of money?  What would you buy if you had, say, a million dollars?  Even when I was young—before credit cards and before online buying and before ATM machines—people would fantasize about what they would do if they won a $1 million.  We still do that.  TV game shows are built around that theme.
 
You know that money is basically an efficient system of barter with standardized values.  We could barter with gold or silver bars or with bushels of grain, but it’s hard to fit gold bars in your wallet or a bushel of wheat in your purse, so we came up with a lightweight and easier exchange method.
 
Of course, money is only paper.  It has no more intrinsic value than does the sheet of paper on which you take notes, yet because society puts value on it, we develop all kinds of emotions around it.
 
For example, what emotions and feelings come to mind when I hold up this handful of U.S. bills?  These are $1 bills.  What emotions are you feeling?  How about if I threw them on the floor? [Tosses bills to the floor.]
 
What do you think and/or feel when I hold up this handful of $5 bills?  What if I threw them on the floor?  I can tell you what my wife would say if I threw them on the floor, so I won’t.   
 
I received special permission from a bank not too far from here, to bring a bag with a large amount of money in it, much more than I’ve just held up.  What if I were to give it to you?  [Holds up large bag.] Who would want it?  What would you do with it?  By the way, there is money in the bag, but it’s shredded bills from the Federal Reserve Bank.
 
Isn’t it interesting the emotions money creates.  Are you surprised by what you feel?  The cashier’s office tells me they’ve seen a number of students with strong emotions about money especially around the tuition deadline.  My dad used to remind me that money, in and of itself is nothing.  It simply represents the power to do something.  It was what you did with your money that shaped you.
 
You know there is nothing evil about money, just as there is nothing good.  It’s an inanimate object, without feelings or emotions.  It’s lifeless. That’s why money is not the root of all evil, but rather, as Paul told Timothy, “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” [1]
 
I have a friend who I’ve known for a long time.  He earned his first million in his mid 20s.  Over the next decade, he expanded his original earnings and became very wealthy.  Sister Nelson and I visited him and his wife and their small child one evening, and he showed us around his large home, complete with a three-car garage filled with expensive vehicles and a boat.  We were impressed that someone his age had so much.  My wife and I were young married students at the time, and our circumstances were more along the macaroni-and-cheese level. 
 
As we left his house that evening, my friend said an interesting thing.  Money was nice, he said.  He didn’t worry about how to pay the bills and he could pretty much buy whatever he wanted.  But he recognized that money didn’t make him happy.  In fact, in his case, it contributed to great unhappiness.  In time, money became the goal for my friend.  He eventually divorced his wife, lost his children, cut himself off from the Church, and in the process “pierced (himself) through with many sorrows.” [2]
 
Yet, I also know many wealthy people who are active in the Church and who have strong families and who are not controlled by their wealth.  Most that I know are ordinary folks who quietly do great amounts of good.
 
And to be sure, it’s not just the rich who fall prey to this sin of loving money.  My father-in-law wisely notes that often it’s the poor who develop unhealthy, covetous attitudes. 
In ancient Israel, the people struggled with a tendency toward idolatry.  They worshipped figures of wood and stone and gem-bedecked statues of gold and silver.  The Lord through Isaiah pointed out that those idols did not have power to save us.  They could not even move themselves from one place to the next. [3]
 
Money may be the idol of our day.  Too many individuals, governments, and organizations look to it as the solution to all their problems.  “If I just had a million dollars,” they say, “then all would be well.”  But money has the same limitations as did the idols of old.  It cannot speak or hear or feel emotions or move itself.  If fact, the only way it can get from place to place is if we carry it or wire it or mail it with a postage stamp.  Contrast that with what the Lord says about His divine ability to deliver us:  “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and even to your old age, I am He … even to (your gray) hairs will I carry you:  I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” [4]
 
Let me restate a point clearly here, so there is no misunderstanding:  There is no sin in being rich.  In fact, a major premise of why you’re at the College is so that you can increase your wealth.  Your instructors are giving you skills that they hope will result in more money for you and your family.  So go make money; make lots of it if you can.  Just don’t let the love of money overcome you. 
 
And just as there is no sin in being rich, there also is no virtue in being poor.  I know that sometimes things happen beyond our control to make us poor, but do not excuse yourself from having enough money through some incorrect belief that money is bad.  You should provide for yourselves, learn to wisely manage your funds, exercise caution and prudence and increase your talents.  And you young men have a divine mandate to provide for your families, a mandate that comes with the heavenly gifts needed to make that happen.
 
So how do we work our way through this?  How do we have money while developing and maintaining the proper attitude toward it? 
 
One answer, at least in part, comes from the Lord when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.” [5]
 
The word “might” in this scripture implies power or ability to do something constructive. [6]  One form of “might” consists of our financial ability, or our monetary power to build. 
We can love the Lord with our might as we hold nothing back—even our finances.  And when we love Him, we are willing to keep His commandments. [7] 
 
A lawyer once tempted Christ by asking Him what was the greatest commandment.  The Savior gave an answer that applies to our discussion today.  Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [8]
 
You already know one way to love the Lord with your financial might—you learned it in the Primary of your spiritual development, and that is tithing.  President Gordon B. Hinckley has quoted a poem: “What is tithing? I will tell you every time. Ten cents from a dollar, and a penny from a dime.” [9]  “One of the blessings of membership in The Church is the privilege of paying tithing. This privilege is a double blessing. By paying tithing, (we) show our gratitude to God for (our) blessings and (we show our) resolve to trust in the Lord rather than in material things.  (Paying tithing) also helps further the work of the Lord in the earth. … ”
 
Through the prophet Malachi, the Lord declared:
 
“’Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.’ [10]
 
You know that “tithing funds are used for the Lord's purposes—to build and maintain temples and meetinghouses, to sustain missionary work, to educate Church members, and to carry on the work of the Lord throughout the world.” [11]
 
These College facilities, the lights, the heating, the upkeep, the people who work here, are paid for primarily by tithing dollars from members of the Church. 
 
We pay tithing because we love the Lord and we want to serve Him with all our might.  We pay tithing that the work of the Lord might be accelerated, that members around the world might have the blessings of the gospel.  We pay tithing because it can keep us from letting our money become a modern-day idol.
 
We also want to keep the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The Church has provided a way for us to use our finances to love our fellow man through the payment of fast offerings.  President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Sometimes we have been a bit penurious [unwilling to share] and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord.”  President Kimball said “that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous … and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.” [12]
 
My wife and I were still in school when we heard President Kimball say this and we made a commitment that we would continually increase our fast offerings through the years until we were paying ten times or more than we were then paying.
 
But there are other ways to give beyond fast offerings—other ways to help. 
 
A number of years ago an alumnus of the College came to speak in a devotional like this.  He was, and still is, a very wealthy man.  In his remarks, he outlined the secret to financial success.  If you want to be wealthy, he said, be willing to give your money away.  I think he could sense that his audience may have agreed with him in principle, but it was not something they were willing to do right now.  I watched as the students frowned.  You could see them mentally discounting what he was telling them.  It reminds me of a story President Richards once shared. 
 
Two farmers who were good neighbors were talking and the one said to the other: “If you had a million dollars, you’d share it with me, wouldn’t you?” 
 
“Of course,” said the second farmer.
 
“If you had two brand new tractors, you’d surely give one to me,” said the first farmer.
 
“Certainly,” said the second farmer.
 
The first farmer asked again:  “And if you had two horses, I know you would give me one, wouldn’t you?”
 
“No,” said the second farmer.
 
The first farmer was puzzled and asked, “Why would you share with me a million dollars and give me one of your new tractors but not share with me a horse?”
 
“Because,” said the second farmer, “I have two horses.”
 
Just as the second farmer was reluctant, there was reluctance in our students that day when our guest speaker told them to learn to give away their money.  Our speaker encouraged the students to find a cause that helps people and then make regular, monthly contributions.  It didn’t have to be much, he said, but the exercise of giving would help them gain a proper perspective of money and would show the Lord He could trust them with wealth, that it wouldn’t canker their soul.  That was good advice then, and it’s good advice now.
 
I know a couple who were like you, poor students.  He worked and attended college and she stayed home and took care of their new baby.  He had a net income of $300 a month, which was just enough for them to get by.  However, when the husband brought home money from his job, there was only $250.  The wife asked the husband where the other $50 went, and all he would say was that it was going for a good cause.  She trusted him, so she was content.
 
A year-and-a-half later they were in a fast and testimony meeting when a sister in the ward shared her testimony.  She said that she was a single mom and that it had been very difficult for her financially.  She said that for the last 18 months someone in the ward had given the bishop $50 a month for her.  She didn’t know who it was but spoke of heartfelt gratitude, and as she spoke, the wife knew where the missing $50 had gone.  Those good people used their money to help others, even when they had relatively little.  You might be interested to know, they now are one of the wealthiest couples in Utah.  And they continue to be one of the most philanthropic.  You would recognize their names if I said it.
 
Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” [13]
 
Most of you will spend four to five semesters with us.  During that time we will teach you how to make money.  We have classes designed to help you manage your money so that it is a servant to you and not the other way around.  All this instruction is necessary and good, but you also need lessons in learning how to give your money away. 
A national expert on human needs echoes the comments of many when he teaches that true fulfillment comes as we learn to contribute beyond ourselves.  “The secret to living,” he said, “is giving.” [14]
 
It is for that reason that we have a fund-raising campaign every year aimed at helping students to Choose to Give.  The money raised goes for good causes and blesses students with needs, but the real benefit comes in our hearts as we learn to give.
 
Last year, one of the classes here opted to see how much they could raise as a class to help a student in need.  The instructor told the class that there were people on campus who were quietly hurting, for whom a donation would make a difference in their lives.  The class became quite motivated and everyone contributed.  At the end of their mini campaign, the instructor gave the substantial amount of money raised to a young married couple in their class. 
 
This couple had been on their way back to the College after a semester break.  Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska their car died and was beyond their financial ability to repair.  In reality, the car wasn’t worth repairing. The husband’s brother, who was also headed to Utah and was a day behind them, picked them up and brought them the rest of the way here, but since he did not have room in his car for many of their possessions, they left most of their belongings behind.  They grabbed their journals, their scriptures, their backpacks and tied two suitcases to the top of the car. 
 
When they got to Utah they moved into their unfurnished apartment and slept on the hardwood floors.  They bought a pan to cook on and tried to get by, knowing that things would get better.  They made a little money, but most of it went for living expenses.  They had very little extra.  On Sundays, the husband borrowed his brother’s suit so he would have something to wear to Church.  The two keep their plight very private.  They trusted that the Lord would help them.  They decided to be really positive about the whole experience.
 
When the class fund-raising project came up, this young couple talked among themselves and decided they should participate.  They felt sorry for people who were suffering.  They could forego a needed purchase and donate $90. 
 
In class, when the money was all gathered, the instructor put the envelope containing the funds in front of the couple.  The wife started to cry.  She said, “We were in shock because we didn’t expect it.  It was really a humbling experience because we didn’t want to ask for help.”
 
The husband said, “My first thought was, ‘What?  I’m not in need.  I get by just fine.’  (But) as I thought about it, I realized we hadn’t been grocery shopping in a long time.”  He added, “It’s difficult to express your gratitude in a situation like this.  You really want to tell everybody thank you, but somehow you feel that’s not enough.  Whenever anybody does a service like that, it’s comparable to Christ.  Christ paid for your sins, and you’re never going to be able to pay Him back no matter what you do.” [15]
 
The couple felt grateful and blessed, and the students in the class had a profound sense of joy at helping others.  And by helping this couple, the students had grown to love them.
 
We are trying to build Zion here, and in Zion there is no poor. [16] The opposite of Zion is a society where people do not look out for their fellowman, where there is violence and incivility.  Ezekiel said of that society:  “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” [17]
 
Isaiah taught that we should “deal (our) bread to the hungry, and … bring the poor that are cast out to (our) house, when (we) see the naked, (we should) cover him.”  If we do so, Isaiah gives this great promise:  “Thy light (shall) break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.  Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” [18]
 
Great promises.
 
The New Testament story of the rich young man is applicable here:  “And when (Jesus) was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
 
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  There is none good but one, that is, God.  Thou knowest the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Defraud not.  Honour thy father and mother.
 
“And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
 
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him”—and here comes a refining commandment—“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
 
“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
 
“And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, how … hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” [19]
 
The problem with this young man was not that he was rich, but rather that he was not willing to let go of his money.  He had such a tight hold on his wallet that it had taken hold of him.   Because he would not let go, he gave up much more important things, things that he himself held dear.
 
Suze Orman in her book “The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom” wrote:  “Regardless of how much money you have, it is the natural tendency of the mind to think:  I can’t give money this month, I don’t even have enough to pay the bills.  Or:  There are so many things that I need, I lack, I want.
 
“This is exactly the moment to give, to give an amount that is meaningful but realistic. … You must open your hand … think of how much you do have, think of others with far less, and give thanks with your gift. … When you feel free to give from what you have … you are truly free.” [20]
 
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:  “As we really begin to keep the first commandment—loving God with ‘all thy heart, with all thy might, mind and strength’—giving time, talent, and treasure is then accompanied by fully giving of ourselves. 
 
“Sometimes, our holding back occurs because we lack faith or we are too entangled with the cares of the world.  Other times, there is in us an understandable tremulousness which slows our yielding, because we sense what further yielding might bring.
 
Elder Maxwell continued:  “Yet we need to break free of our old selves—the provincial, constraining, and complaining selves—and become susceptible to the shaping of the Lord.  But the old self goes neither gladly nor quickly.  Even so, the subjection to God is really emancipation.” [21] 
 
But in this effort, be careful not to give away your money just so you can get more.  That would be doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  That kind of activity lacks “real intent” [22] and does not produce the intended effect.
 
President Marion G. Romney once told of giving money for the building fund.  He did it because his bishop had asked for it, but he said he gave it grudgingly because he felt the bishop had asked for an unrealistically high amount.  Shortly after he had fulfilled his commitment to the bishop, he read this scripture in the Book of Mormon:  “For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” [23]
President Romney said he realized he had given the gift with the wrong attitude, so he repaid his commitment—the entire amount—but this time with a willing heart.
 
President Romney said:  “Of the Nephites who survived the cataclysm which accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus, the record says, ‘And it came to pass … the people were all converted unto the Lord … and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
 
“ ‘And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. … And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.’ [24]
 
“Why were these people so happy? Because they were free of the shackles of selfishness and had learned what the Lord knows—that ultimate joy comes only through service.” [25]
 
Let me give you another example:
 
When Heather and I were first married, we lived in Montana for a summer and I worked for a homebuilder, Brother Olsen.  We built homes across the state and one night were returning from a distant town.  As we drove that night in his truck, Brother Olsen told me a story. 
 
He said that when he and his wife where just starting out, they had very little money.  He was just beginning his construction company and was in severe financial stress. 
 
At the time, Brother Olsen was less active in the Church, attending only occasionally.  Once when he went to Church, the speaker in Sacrament Meeting spoke on tithing.  The man speaking promised those attending that if they paid their tithing they would be out of debt in three months.  A bold promise.
 
Brother Olsen had significant business-related debt at the time; in fact he was close to bankruptcy, so he said to himself.  “I’ll try the test.  I’ll pay my tithing for three months, and if I’m out of debt at the end of that time, I’ll know tithing is a true principle.”
 
Well, he paid his tithing for three months and guess what happened at the end of that time?  Brother Olsen said that he was in the worse debt he had ever been in his entire life.  He decided that the law of tithing must not be true, so he stopped paying.
 
It was nearly a year later, he said, when he was building another house.  He had managed to keep his company afloat but was still badly in debt.  He said he was on the roof, nailing down the plywood sheeting when, with his hammer raised, a thought hit him with a force almost as strong as lightning:  It came to him that he had made a conditional promise—that he would pay his tithing if.  He at that moment realized that the Lord required him to pay his tithing no matter what.
 
He said, “I was already on my knees, so I promised the Lord that from that day on I would pay my tithing no matter what.”   He was true to that commitment, and three months later, Brother Olsen was out of debt.
 
We pay our tithing, our fast offerings, and look to help those around us in need not because we want to get rich, but because we love the Lord more than anything and because we cannot stand the thought that others may be suffering while we have the ability to help.
 
Now, I know many of you and I know your good hearts.  Some of you are figuring out right now how you can give more, and that is good, but don’t be unwise.  You may be tempted to give more than you should, to put yourself in jeopardy out of a desire to help. 
 
King Mosiah teaches us that we must be wise and do things in order.  It’s not required that we do more than we can or that we run faster than we have strength. [26]   I’ve seen well-meaning students create problems for themselves by being unwise.  Paul said, “I mean not that other men should be eased and you be burdened.” [27]  Do something, be diligent so that you might win the prize [28] but do not do more than you can.  The amount is not as important as developing the attitude and desire.
 
My wife and I bear witness of the blessings that comes from loving the Lord with all of our might and using that same standard in thinking of our fellowman alike as to ourselves.  We have cast our bread upon the waters and after many days we have found it. [29] And when it returns, it is sweet and joyful to the soul.
 
President Henry B. Eyring once told a group of the College’s faculty and staff that he had to hurry home after Fast and Testimony Meeting so that his wife would not give away her inheritance to the deacons who came to their home collecting fast offerings.  I’m similarly blessed with a wife who encourages me to open my hand and to think of others. 
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Jacob Marley gives Ebenezer Scrooge good advice, advice that is particularly applicable at a business college.
 
You remember the scene where Marley comes to warn Scrooge of what waits in the next life if Scrooge fails to help others because of a miserly heart.
 
Marley says, “ ‘Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused!  Yet such was I!  Oh, such was I!’
 
“’But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge. …
 
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’ ” [30]
 
There are so many people in need.  We may not be able to do much individually, but if we all do something, we might relieve some of the suffering in the world. 
 
Let us be more like the Master who “deliver(s) the poor from him that is too strong … yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him.” [31]
 
As you come into this new time of your life, I urge you to seriously consider how you might use your income to further the work of the Lord and to love your fellowman.   As you do so, you will find joy, you will feel love and you will be an instrument to do much good.
 
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 

[1]1 Tim 6:10
[2] ibid
[3] See Isa 46:1-2
[4] Isa 46:3
[5] D&C 59:5
[6] Elder Delbert L. Stapley, “To Love God,” Conference Report, October 1968, 26-31
[7] John 14:15
[8] Matt 22:36-40
[9] President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Sacred Law of Tithing,” Ensign, Dec. 1989, 5
[10] Malachi 3:10
[11] “Tithing,” Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 2010
[12] President Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184.
[13] History of the Church 4:227
[14] Tony Robbins, “Why We Do What We Do,” Ted.com, October 2010
[15] Private interview conducted November 23, 2009, in possession of D. Louise Brown
[16] Moses 7:18
[17] Ezekiel 16:37
[18] Isaiah 58:7-9
[19] Mark 10:17-25
[20] Suze Orman, “The 9 Steps of Financial Freedom,” 314-315
[21] Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 70
[22] Moroni 10:4
[23] Moroni 7:8
[24] 4 Ne 1: 2, 3, 16
[25] President Marion G. Romeny, Conference Report, October 1981, Welfare Session
[26] Mosiah 4:27
[27] 2 Cor 8:13
[28] Mosiah 4:27
[29] Ecc 11:1
[30] “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens
[31] Psalms 35:10

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