Originally published on Nov 2015
I grew up in a rented two bedroom apartment; this was our family home for thirty years. My father spent a large part of his career working in various clerical positions, and finally as a bus driver after his retirement. Every time dad lost his job, the whole family went through a drastic adjustment as he looked for funds to sustain the household. Mom was a housewife and supplemented the family income by babysitting. We always had a simple meal on the table, but little else. We get a new set of clothes once a year during Chinese New Year and a new set of shoes once every two years. Most of the money for my education was borrowed from friends and relatives by my father. Frequently I overheard my parents speaking or arguing in hushed tones about money problems, and it humbled and pained me.
Our family of six squeezed into one bedroom as the other bedroom was rented out. As I laid on my mattress beside my brothers; I dreamt about being rich – my father and mother will not have to work so hard and I will have a room to myself. There will be new clothes for everybody and I don’t have to feel hungry all the time! I fantasized that my pockets were full of dollar bills and my hands grasping chocolates and sweets of different colours.
Dream to Become an Entrepreneur
I soon realized that my family was not going to get rich. Life became more uncertain and difficult as my father’s health deteriorated. Gradually I developed a desire to be a successful entrepreneur. I assumed that business will make me rich. I studied books on successful business people and practices. I wanted to be a successful businessman, and bring pride and recognition to my family. I was determined to get rich and get rich quickly. My financial goal as a young adult was to be have two million by the age of thirty five.
I wrote this goal in a card and carried it in my wallet for many years. I looked at the card several times a day, buying the teachings of positive-thinking gurus that I must visualize and internalize it so that I could smell it, touch it and eventually possess it.
A Multinational Career
I became a senior manager in Xerox just after the age of thirty, and was then headhunted to Motorola and eventually became one of their senior Asian managers. I was willing to put myself to the grind; I travelled incessantly and worked twelve hours a day at my managerial job. I was promoted every year, and became one of the Asian elites in a multi-national corporation. I was totally pre-occupied with my work, driven by fear of poverty and promise of success. I dreaded the struggles that my parents had to go through to make ends meet. Despite a successful career in Motorola, I left before my thirty-sixth birthday to become an entrepreneur.
Living With Abundance
LIVING WITH ABUNDANCE I soon became successful. The Lord blessed the work of my hands (1Cor 4:7). Before the age of 40 I more than achieved that goal that I carried around in my pocket for many years. In the beginning it felt like a dream. Growing up with scarcity, I have developed the habit of saving everything and deferring all my desires. Suddenly I could afford to buy almost everything I want – now! And I did! Dormant desires begin to surface; covetous and selfish thoughts dominated my mind and did battle with my youthful desire to lead a simple life.
The contrast between “not having” and “having too much” continued to overwhelm me. The first thirty years of my life was poor. The next ten was spent working very hard to escape poverty. The last decade and a half was spent coping with too much without being swept under by the mountain of abundance and spineless ease. Why is there so much disparity? We seem to have either too little or too much – to our misfortune. As it is written – give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread (Proverbs 30:8).
Soon I was throwing money at every problem that surfaced in my life. It is so easy to replace love with money. Dealing with emotions is so tiring and precarious but money is so precise; you can even divide it down to cents. Everything can be valued in money. There is no mistake with money; it is exact and clear. You just have to decide the price. The only problem seems to be ‘money not enough’. Sadly this is how money changes our thinking; I am not spared this line of thinking.
Without my faith I will probably become the rich fool in Jesus’ parable; “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19). Don’t I deserve it? I wasn’t born with a silver spoon; I am honest and I worked very hard. I struggled with poverty and now I deserve the fruits of my work (Prov.10:4, 12:27).
The truth is I have been struggling with wealth and its temptations. I am deeply grateful for a “runneth over cup” (Ps. 23, KJV), but can I avoid falling? I am so troubled by my wealth that I once seriously contemplated giving it all away. I have since spent time reading about money and wealth in the Bible, hoping to arrive at a position of “righteous rich.” I am a little more at peace, but my quest continues; the course: Money, Possessions & Faith is a result of my ongoing journey.
DR. CLIVE LIM
is the founder and director of Leap International, an investment company, and LEAP
foundation, a philanthropic organisation. Before embarking on his journey of
theological studies with Regent College (MA. Marketplace Theology) and Gordon
Conwell Theological Seminary (DMin), Clive was CEO of Telechoice International, a
provider of telecommunications products and services. Currently he still serves on
the Board of Telechoice.