Message delivered by Rev. Timothy Tow via the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, Sunday, 8th February 1981, at 6:05 p.m.

The topic of my message this first Sunday evening of the Chinese New Year is “Peace to you from the Lord”. This message is prompted by the Editor of the Bilingual Page of the Straits Times. He offered some $50 some time before the end of the old year to anyone who would submit the most meaningful Chinese New Year greeting. I suppose you can count the title of this sermonette a meaningful greeting. But, alas, I haven’t got a chance to that $50 ang pow, since the closing date of contest was January 29, and today is February 8. I am 10 days behind that $50 ang pow.

But why must the sending in to the Editor of the Bilingual Page of a “Most Meaningful New Year Greeting” be rewarded with money? Isn’t the selection of the best, and the honour of being selected as good an incentive? Ah! Didn’t I also hear “Gong Xi Fa Cai” already, as this subject is being broached? And “Gong Xi Fa Cai” is the age-old Chinese New Year greeting that wishes you lots of money to make. But is making lots of money the chief purpose of life? Why not? Hail to the mighty dollar! “If you have money”, as another Chinese saying goes, “You can make even the devil to slog for you!”

Money can do a lot of good, no doubt, but what I’d like to point out here is money is not everything: there are more important things in life when money cannot buy. Can you name some of them? Well, let me start of by naming health as the No. 1 important ingredient of life, and if it is not all-supreme in this earthly life, it is at least equal to money, since it rhymes with wealth. Another ingredient is happiness, such as you most desire in a happy marriage, a happy home, happy children who honour you and make the grade in school.

Now, coming back to health. Youngsters who are in the pink of health cannot understand what I say until age begins to take hold of you. But, at least, those of you who are over forty will begin to agree! (Some lower my estimation to 35.)

At any rate, money is not all. The trouble, however, is not with money, but with that desire within you to get rich quick. Is it a good desire or a bad desire? That inordinate, that insatiable, that unquenchable desire to make a fast buck by job-hopping, or by pulling a quick deal, or by trying your luck in a dip here and another dip there. To get rich by hook or by crook is not the best policy! King Solomon, the wisest man that every lived, says in Proverbs 23:4-5, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” Another version of Solomon’s Wisdom reads, “Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!”

Money has a twin sister. Her name is power. Political power is what Solomon is thinking about in these verses of the same chapter. Proverbs 23:1-3 says, “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.” Dana Lam, talking about Chinese New Year traditions in the Straits Times, says, “And if your boss were to pick for you a choice of chicken at the Company dinner on New Year’s Eve, it would indicate that your services would be terminated in the New Year!” As a man is often over-ambitious in money-making to his own sorrow, so is he destroyed by the power he over-ambitiously craves from kings and governors. Jesus says, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

“Gong Xi Fa Cai” is not the most meaningful Chinese New Year greeting, I’m sure. Or else, why should we be asked to look for another? And since, as the Apostle Paul has also declared that “the love of money is the root of all evil” and “they that will be rich fall into temptations and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) – does this not remind you of that notorious gold bar murder case that took place quite some years ago in our City1? Yes, money is not all, and how true the saying, “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Money is neither good nor bad in itself. It is the lust of money in man that makes it bad. Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) And Jesus who knows all our desires is He who has diagnosed our souls’ sickness. He comes to put us in the right frame of mind. Yes, more than that, He comes to lead us out of death into life by dying on the cross in our stead, to pay for the penalty of our sins. He gives us life, even life everlasting, life more abundant.

Jesus is also the Prince of Peace. He who is the Prince of Peace gives us peace , not as the world giveth. “Peace I leave with you.” He says to His disciples, “my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Why must we pray for this peace and wish one another this peace – the peace that comes from the Lord Jesus? Because we are not merely made of flesh and blood. Our needs are not in the physical realm only. There is that inner man, the souls within us that must be taken into account. As the body needs food, the soul, the heart, and the mind, need what Jesus calls peace. St. Augustine, in his search for peace, prayed, “O Lord, thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Thank God, he found that rest, that peace, he was seeking for. From a playboy, he became a saint. He is the greatest Christian philosopher whose writings have deeply influence the Christian Church after him to this day.

Dear listener, the quest for money will never end. The more you make, the more you will desire. A friend of mine told me while he was making money in the black market under the Japanese Occupation that he would retire after the first million in “Tiger” notes was reached. Do you believe him? You have the answer! Christian listener, in regard to your getting more and more involved in the world, and less and less with the Church, St. Paul has this to say, “(the money) which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves with many sorrows”. The apostle John say, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) A Christian should rather be a master of money, and not a slave to money. A Christian should use his money power, way beyond the tithe, to further God’s Kingdom. “Give of thy wealth, and all thou spendest Jesus will repay”.

Whether you are Christian or not, the more meaningful Chinese New Year greeting I’ve given you, “Peace to you from the Lord”, is not mine, but as it is clearly stated, from the Lord. This greeting is taken from Jesus’ own words which He spoke to greet the troubled disciples on the day of His resurrection. The peace He offered them and us today is real peace, not of this world, but from above. It satisfies every sincere seeking heart. Jesus says in another place,

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

So let us hear God’s Son say to us again, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) With His promise, I can greet you more meaningfully with “Peace to you from the Lord” this Chinese New Year. Or is you would have it in Mandarin, it is not “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (恭喜发财) but “Zhu Ci Ping An” (主赐平安).

Peace from the Lord to you. Amen.

1  On 29 December 1971, Businessman Ngo Cheng Poh and two of his employees were killed by a group of 10 men, who also robbed them of 120 gold bars. Seven of the ten men were convicted of murder and hanged on 28 February 1975 while the remaining three were put under indefinite detention. (Source: Wikipedia)