I’m only in it for the money
Mark Yeow // July 10, 2018, 4:38 pm
I run a public relations and marketing business that’s rather small, not very innovative, and wholly unremarkable. We only have one goal: Make as much money as possible, and give away as much as we can.
I enjoy making money. I always have. When I was 10, I “bought” my first shares in an off-book exchange with my father. I sold all our family’s baby guppies when I was 12, making a respectable profit (and possibly avoiding an overpopulation crisis in the process).
During my university years, I spent most of it working as a freelance journalist and copywriter, so much so that in one particularly lucrative month I didn’t see anyone outside my household for nearly six weeks. Despite what happened with the guppies, we still had fish at home to keep me company, though the conversation was rather one-sided.
I enjoyed making money, but I enjoyed giving it away more. This was an instinct best suppressed in any Asian household, especially those carving out a living as immigrants in a country with a penchant for elitism. “You think anyone will look after you if you go hungry?” was the catchcry of my pre-Christian household.
Years on, with my family saved, it’s easy to answer yes and amen: To repeat the promises of Matthew 6:25 and Psalms 37:19, and numerous other verses that speak of how our Father will neither leave us nor forsake us.
It’s also easy to answer as Paul did: That it’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). But the muscles of generosity were left atrophying over the years until I began to flex them again.
I never intended to go into business. When I did, no amount of prayer could remove the sensation that I was leaping into an abyss – one where if He didn’t catch me, I’d crumple on the rocks of poverty below. But as I was in mid-flight and His promises started to reveal themselves, I knew He had bigger plans for me than to simply fill my own rice bowl.
He’d placed in me a desire to give, and my only question was, “How?”
The first answer He gave me was time. Running my own business, coupled with the flexibility of the type of work we were doing, suddenly opened the hours between 9 and 6 to expanded possibilities for ministry and service.
Preparing materials for our cell group; fixing doors and lightbulbs in the church; meeting the young men under my care for lunch at their offices, on their terms. Giving me time taught me faithfulness in the little things, husbanding my hours and minutes to bear fruit for others wherever they could.
My goal is not dissimilar from an ah long’s: Earn money, give money.
The second answer was treasure. As the business grew in revenue, it gave boldness to my vision: To aggressively sow into Kingdom-building work throughout South-East Asia. We invested in church projects, funded missionaries, donated to charities devoted to the “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27) of helping the widows and orphans whom Singaporeans all too often avert their eyes from.
My business partner – himself a committed leader of similar organisations nationwide – literally wrote me blank cheques to use where I felt the Holy Spirit leading me. We put Luke 6:38 to the test and the more we gave, the more He gave back in return.
The final answer was – and is – talent. It came on a winter’s night in the hills of Chiang Mai’s outskirts, where a young man told me the story of his own leap of faith. And as he did so, I felt something stir in my heart as well – the desire, entertained since young but never really exercised, to tell everyday stories of hope and life that would otherwise go untold.
From that point on, the business became a tool. It gave me the flexibility and time to travel afar, and bring testimonies like that young man’s to a world in desperate need of hope and light. It also became a wellspring of resources to support those whose stories I had the privilege of encountering.
I also realised it had been the refiner’s fire to my talent: Two years of managing high-pressure operations and completing last-minute jobs from the back of pick-up trucks, in oily sampans, and under foreign skies clear of cloud and cellular reception.
“For by You I can run against a troop,” declared David, the ultimate action-hero, in Psalm 18:29; “By my God I leap over a wall.” What was once the impossible had, through unrelenting training, become the unremarkable.
It’s increasingly difficult to separate treasure out from time and talents. And I think that’s what He always intended. He wants us to give not pieces of ourselves, but the whole – just like He gave Himself for us.
My goal at the start was simple, not dissimilar from an ah long’s: Earn money, give money. That’s still what motivates me to stay in business today.
But as I’ve learnt to give, that vision’s grown to encompass far more forms of giving, and I hope it never stops. The only thing remarkable about my business is how He’s made it His.