Lessons from the Life of a Father

Arthur DeMoss was the Founder, President and Chairman of the Board of the National Liberty Corporation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He was a pioneer in the mass marketing of life and health insurance, and his innovative methods earned for him a place of prominence in the history of insurance marketing in this country.

However, the most outstanding mark of Mr. DeMoss’s life was his deep commitment to Jesus Christ. Those who knew him best remember him as a man who was always investing his time, abilities, energies, and finances to meet the spiritual needs of others.

On September 1, 1979, at the age of 53, Mr. DeMoss was unexpectedly taken to heaven. However, his life commitments have been passed on to his children. They consider the model of his walk with God and his careful teaching about spiritual things to be more valuable than any size inheritance.

We have selected for our readers two brief excerpts from Mr. DeMoss’s writing and speaking on the subject of Christian stewardship. Included with these selections is an article by his oldest daughter. Nancy shares some biblical insights on money, gleaned from the life and teaching of her father.

Arthur DeMoss:

I believe with all my heart that there is a strong correlation between giving and spirituality. I have observed that they almost invariably go hand in hand. You say that you give as much as you can afford, after taking care of your bills.

Personally, I feel we might as well not give to God at all as to give merely what little we have left over. Unfortunately, that is about all that most of us do give. However, God’s command in the Scripture is to give Him the first fruits. Then invariably what we have left will go a great deal further, inasmuch as it will have God’s blessing upon it.

Needless to say, the first part of our income and that which we are to give to the Lord, should be a minimum of one tenth. This we owe him. It is only what we give God over and above the first tenth that truly constitutes an offering to Him. The more we love Him the more we want to give.

You say that it is impossible for you to give at least one tenth of your income because you do not now have enough money to meet all your obligations. Here enters God’s paradoxical principle of prosperity. If you need more money, give more.

Permit a word of personal testimony. After Jesus saved me, shortly before my twenty-fifth birthday, I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and this in spite of the fact that I had been accustomed to working seven days and five nights a week. Like many other businessmen, I had the peculiar notion that I was indispensable to my business, and that, if I left for a day or two, I would return to find the business gone.

The Lord saved me and promised to return to me with interest all that I gave Him. I am sorry to say that I was not as quick as I should have been to take advantage of His proffered goodness to me, but I can testify to the glory of God that, in spite of my frequent unfaithfulness, He has always been more than faithful.

He first took me out of debt shortly after my conversion. It was so effortless, so easy. I did not need to work night and day and Sundays as in the past. All I had to do was put God first. The more time and money I gave Him, the more He gave me. I have not given him nearly enough. I’m ashamed of myself; He has been so good to me.

Giving, for the Christian, properly understood, is not man’s way of raising money; rather, it is God’s way of raising His children. When as children of God we agree to be co-laborers together with Him in His great program of redemption by giving back to Him some of the resources which He has entrusted to us, we benefit far more than the recipient.

I would like to share one particularly important facet of giving: I’m sure one of the highest goals and ambitions each of us has is that our children develop into godly Christian gentlemen and women, totally committed to Jesus Christ. I’ve learned that probably the biggest single factor in this is what our children observe our priorities to be. That says more to children than anything we can say to them or any services we can take them to. They are most influenced by what they see our true priorities to be. I’ve also observed that perhaps a principle indication of our priorities is our giving. After all, that which we give represents a tangible fruit of our time and our talents. Our kids are quick to observe this and to sense where we really place our priorities.

Now giving is not really dependent on how much income you have or how much money you have in the bank, or even how much faith you have. Rather, it is related to how great and trustworthy is the living God who has promised to supply all of our needs.

In Luke 5, Jesus relates the incident where His disciples came to him after a fruitless night of fishing, telling Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” Jesus proceeded to tell them to launch out into the deep and put down their nets. They obeyed without really understanding and wound up with a net-breaking, boat-sinking load.

Many of us in our Christian lives have been wallowing around in shallow waters, assuming it to be safer there-no need for miracles. But one of the divine paradoxes I’ve learned over the years is that, contrary to normal expectations, it can be much riskier, much costlier to stay in the shallow water, rather than to trust the Lord and launch out into the deep.

I’d like to read a letter from one of the few men I know who has really launched out in faith and total commitment and who has experienced the resultant blessings. How many of you remember the “Slinky” toy? It was invented by a young engineer. The invention propelled him to instant fortune and fame and wealth. He became a millionaire overnight. He did all of the things which most people would like to do if they had the money to afford it. He traveled all over the country, all over the world, tried everything, did everything, and then became sated and surfeited with the things of the world and decided to commit suicide. He was then exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his life was transformed in a very dramatic way.

God doesn’t call all of us the same way, but this fellow felt called to just totally commit himself and everything he had to the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave away everything he had-his business, his bank accounts, his stocks and bonds-and felt the Lord calling him to minister in a very primitive part of South America. Then an uncle died and left him $40,000. He gave that away. He didn’t want to depend on man; he didn’t want to depend on money. He never went around raising support. I’m not criticizing the practice of most of our missionaries today; I’m just saying that this fellow wanted to just totally depend on God. He didn’t want to have any money in the bank. He didn’t want to have any monthly support.

However, he did confess to holding out on God a little bit, in that he retained a die of the “Slinky” toy. He felt in case things didn’t work out, in case God let him down, he could start making “Slinky” toys in South America. One of the most moving experiences I ever had was to hear this fellow, Dick James, tell of how he became convicted of holding out on God. He took that die and he tossed it in the ocean. He shared how that step gloriously liberated him, that since then he’s really been free, because he could really depend on God now.

Now, you’d think a person like that could understandably develop a martyr’s complex. Look at all he’d given up for Jesus. I’ve observed, as I’m sure you have, that it is not at all difficult for us to adjust upward on the socio-economic scale. Most of us can stand prosperity. And as raises come and as God sends the blessings we can normally handle that all right. But to adjust downward on the socio-economic scale is very difficult, and to do it voluntarily is practically unheard of today. I want to read a portion of a letter I received from Dick. It reveals the great joy he experienced from being sold out to God.

“...Yesterday we cleaned out the storage room-old paper, rusty scrap steel, tin cans, bottles, and really rubbish. All we have to do is put it outside of the gate and within minutes the neighbors take away every, every, every single scrap. Old rusty bent nails are picked up one by one and are used. Old rusty corrugated sheets with holes in it will go on someone’s roof. Blessed poverty.

“Hallelujah. I praise the Lord that He has shown me both sides of having much of this world’s goods and having nothing. The more I am in this world, the more I can see that there is nothing, nothing, nothing-families, money, education, factories, position, reputation, children-nothing, nothing, nothing amounts to a piece of dust, outside of Christ. He is everything, all total; He is King. He is wonderful; He is love; He is life; He is peace, happiness, lovely, wonderful, to be praised; He is our all; He is the foundation; He is the rock; He is the only way; He is breath, bread, water! Praise God! Glory, Glory!

“I want Him and only Him-100%-nothing else! Hallelujah! I want to know Him; I want to glory in Him; I want to follow Him. Glory to His Name!”

I know that to many Dick James sounds like a fanatic. I wish I were a fanatic like that.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth:

There are many valuable biblical lessons my dad taught us about money. He was a living illustration of those principles. I’ve tried to summarize several of the ones that have most influenced my life.

Money cannot make you happy. There is no relationship between being wealthy and being happy. In fact, the acquisition of wealth brings with it a greater realization that there are others who have more, and can therefore become a source of comparison and dissatisfaction. Those individuals who place their security in material possessions are, of all people, the least secure. For that which they value can be so easily lost.

Money cannot buy the most important things in life. We have all been influenced by the philosophy portrayed in advertising that if you have enough money, you can buy a solution to any problem. This simply isn’t true. Money can buy houses and cars and land and vacations. But no amount of money can eliminate conflict, bitterness, fear, or hurt. And there isn’t enough money in the world to buy peace, joy, fulfillment, right relationships, or a clear conscience.

Wealth can be a curse. The Scripture is full of warnings about the potential pitfalls associated with prosperity.

1. Money can keep a man out of heaven. This was certainly the case with the rich young ruler in Jesus’ day. He wanted eternal life, but he was not willing to relinquish his trust in his riches in order to place all his faith in Christ. This is why Jesus said that it is almost impossible for a rich man to be saved. The more we have, the greater our faith tends to be in our possessions. Salvation requires that we trust in Christ alone.

2. First Timothy 6:9-11 vividly spells out the curse of loving money: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For 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. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”

Wealthy King Solomon spoke from personal experience when he wrote, “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall” (Prov. 11:28). On the other hand, we have the promise that “they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed but abideth forever” (Ps. 125:1).

3. As we were growing up, my dad often read to us another biblical warning about wealth:

“When thou hast eaten and are full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou has eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, And thou say in thine heart, my power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:10-14,17).

The progression happens so easily: God blesses us, we forget to thank Him, we become proud and forget Him.

4. Another potential curse of money is the bitterness that can overcome us in the face of financial loss. The more we love our material possessions, the more it hurts to lose them.

5. Then Jesus warned about the danger of working hard to accumulate material goods in this life, but ending up with nothing of value in the next life. In the eyes of the world, my dad was considered a wealthy man on the morning of September 1, 1979. But that afternoon, when he was suddenly taken to heaven, he didn’t take any stocks and bonds, any real estate, or any other financial investments with him. His assets are no longer measured in dollars and cents, but in spiritual units-how much of Christ’s life had been formed in him, and the extent to which he had influenced his family, friends, and associates to follow Christ.

6. I have also observed that material possessions can create conflict in families and produce shallow, temporal values in children. It is so easy to try to show affection by buying things. However, those gifts can sometimes communicate that the giver is not willing to invest himself in the relationship.

7. In my own life, I have seen that focusing on material things tends to drain me of spiritual vitality and dulls the cutting edge of my sensitivity to God.

Let me hasten to say, however, that wealth does not have to be a curse. It can be a great blessing if we are committed to God’s perspective, priorities, and principles. As I look back on my dad’s life, I see several reasons for the blessing of God on his life.

1. He put God first above everything else. He believed that the greatest wealth was knowing God. This priority was evident as he gave the first hour of every day to the study of God’s Word and prayer. In the 28 years that he knew Christ, there was not a single day when anything else came before that hour alone with God. He put God first in his business, in spite of the prevailing opinion that biblical ethics cannot be applied in the business world. God proved that His way works!

Whenever Dad met anyone for the first time, whether in a business context, or in the course of traveling, the uppermost question on his mind was, “Does this person know Christ?” He generally found out the answer within the first minutes of any conversation, even if the primary purpose of the meeting was business-related.

Since his death, so many people have shared with me the results of Dad’s personal ministry. Just recently a woman introduced herself to me after I spoke in a conference. She said, “My father is in heaven today, because of your dad.” A Jewish businessman recently told me, “Your dad led dozens and dozens of my Jewish friends to Christ.” What a thrilling report!

Christ was also first in our home. Dad talked little about the business. He talked much about Jesus. The greatest inheritance he left me was a commitment to love God more than anything or anyone else.

2. He recognized God as the source of every material blessing. He reminded me frequently that I was never to see an employer or a parent or a husband as the source of my income. And he taught us to realize that we are as utterly dependent on God to provide when we have a regular, substantial income, as when we have no foreseeable means of support.

3. He acknowledged God’s right to give and to take away material blessings. This is the reason he was able to be as grateful and content in times of great loss as in times of tremendous gain. I remember one twelve-month period during which we lost our home in a fire, my mother almost lost her life with a massive brain tumor, and my dad lost many millions of dollars in far less time than it took to accumulate it. In all those months his faith, joy, and serenity were never diminished, because he recognized and trusted the sovereignty of God.

4. He saw himself, not as a recipient, but as a channel of God’s blessings. He believed that God gives to His children, not so they can store up things that don’t last, but so they can meet the needs of others. Next to knowing God, the privilege of giving the vast majority of his income was probably the greatest joy of my dad’s life. He steadfastly rejected the recommendations of tax advisers that he save and invest more. He sincerely believed that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I am so grateful for the model of my dad’s life and teaching in this matter of giving. God still has much to teach me about the grace of giving. But I have learned the joy of asking every time I receive any form of income, “Lord, who do You want me to give this to?” And every time I hear of a need of another person or ministry, I ask Him, “Is there any way You can use me to help meet that need?”

Perhaps this is where genuine revival begins–with the willingness (and eagerness) to give everything I am and have to God, and to be a channel through which He can bless and meet the needs of others. Is that too much for Him to ask? “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

Spirit of Revival, November 1987, p. 9-12. Used by permission.