A Letter to Our Youths: Thoughts on Career and Marriage
Manna 82: Winter

Shun Tao Hsieh—Taichung, Taiwan



Peace to our youths-in-Christ!


May the Lord Jesus Christ bestow grace upon you, and make your future glorious to God. I imagine your parents and friends wish this same blessing for you. The question is: what can you do to secure this blessing? I would like to share some thoughts on two matters: your career and your marriage.





After you graduate from academia, you will enter the world of work. In your place of employment, you will have superiors above you, thus making you a subordinate. Using the terminology of the Bible, they will be your “master,” and you, their “servant.” What they will require of you is faithfulness (1 Cor 4:2), as manifested in your submission in all things (1 Pet 2:18). You should strive to be a good employee, exhibiting qualities such as punctuality, conscientiousness, and responsibility.


In terms of punctuality, do not arrive late for work, or leave early; always make sure to complete your tasks within the target deadline. In terms of conscientiousness, be passionate about your job; refrain from idle chatter within office hours; and always look for other tasks to do after you have completed your own work. In terms of responsibility, do all things with your heart and mind, and be faithful in small matters as well as in the great (Lk 16:10).



Be Faithful in the Small Things


In the late-16th century, there was a famous Japanese military strategist by the name of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1536–1598). During his adolescent years, he was a sandal-bearer to Nobunaga Oda, a powerful feudal lord. Hideyoshi’s daily duties included bringing straw sandals to his master when he got out of bed. In winter, he would place the sandals against his chest to warm them before giving them to his master; he resolved to be the best sandal bearer in Japan. One day, his master asked him, “Why are the sandals warm?” Hideyoshi replied respectfully and truthfully. His faithfulness touched his master, who predicted that he would become someone great one day. Indeed, discerning eyes can tell greatness from mediocrity. Later, when Nobunaga was killed by a subordinate, Hideyoshi used his military strategy skills to lead an army to quell the unrest and avenge his master. He soon became a dominant figure in Japan.


Fetching sandals is undoubtedly a lowly job; yet, from the way a person performs this task, we can see his true spirit. A great man is not necessarily one who accomplishes great things, but rather, someone who does his utmost, even when performing a small deed.


In the society that we now live in, efficiency is key. No matter what you do, you need to do it more accurately, seamlessly and speedily than ever before. You need to be observant and notice problems that others overlook. You must also learn to reflect, to anticipate problems that others do not think of. Only in this way can you be creative, and only with creativity can there be innovation. Innovation will give you the competitive edge to survive in your industry.



Serving God is Integral to Our Success


It is also good to acquire more knowledge and keep ourselves relevant through extensive reading. We also need wisdom which comes from fearing God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9:10). There are a number of ways to show we fear God: attend worship services and fellowships; study the Bible conscientiously and abide by God’s will; and pray earnestly to maintain a close relationship with God. Take time to participate in church work, take part in the grace of prospering the gospel. Offer tithes on time, and God shall bless you (Mal 3:10). If you do these things, success will surely be yours. In addition, God shall receive His due glory!


Should you feel a sense of commission, or are moved by the Holy Spirit to offer yourself to God as a full-time minister, then enroll in the theological training program. This would be the best choice at this juncture of your life! The last day is fast approaching; indeed, it is at our very doorstep (Mt 24:3–33; 2 Tim 3:1–4), and the speed at which we must preach the gospel is accelerating (Rev 14:6–7). The church requires more youths to offer themselves to participate in the work of spreading the gospel throughout the world. The message we preach is the “gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15), as it grants peace to all who believe (Mt 4:23–24; 11:28–29). It is also the “gospel of reconciliation” (Eph 2:17), as it reconciles man with God, and man with man (Eph 2:12–16). It is the “gospel of salvation,” as all who believe will receive the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance (Eph 1:13–14).


Because the gospel is so precious, the Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15b). Hesitate no longer, equip yourself to become part of this beautiful team!





Your Marriage Shapes Your Faith


All of you are now adults, eligible to consider marriage. As we know, marriage is a very important part of one’s life. A successful marriage will have positive effects on how your family is established, how you manage your career, and on the course of your faith, etc. In contrast, a wrong decision can lead to endless troubles.


Youths will have heard countless times the teaching about the importance of marrying in the Lord. This often leads to different reactions. Some may feel frustrated, and have been known to ask, “Why can’t I marry an unbeliever if I bring him and his family to the Lord?”


My answer is, “You would be fortunate to hold on to your own faith, let alone bring your spouse and his or her family to believe. Do you think it would be an easy task to bring the entire family to God? Please do not neglect that it is the Lord who chooses whom He wishes to save (Jn 6:37, 44, 65; 15:16). If the family is not moved by God, can you really bring them to Him and override the sovereignty of the Lord (Eph 1:4–5; 2 Tim 1:9)? What if they really don’t want to believe?”


I know of a sister from Taiwan who married a non-believer. On the wedding day, the newly-weds were made to stand before the family idols and ancestral tablets. The mother-in-law gave the bride incense with which to pay her respects, at which point the bride said, “I believe in Jesus; I cannot worship idols.” 


The mother-in-law was livid and scolded her son for his choice of bride. Eventually, the bridegroom sent the bride back to her own home, and did not dare to bring her back to his house. She cried until her tears ran dry, but it was too late!



The Danger of Being Yoked to an Unbeliever


Some brothers claim there is less risk of them having to compromise their faith should they marry a non-believer. My answer is, “For every brother who marries a non-believer, will there not be a sister with one less brother to marry? And might it not cause her to look for a spouse outside of the church?”


Moses told the Israelites, “Nor shall you make marriages with them [the Gentiles]. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly” (Deut 7:3–4). These words describe the outcome of marrying non-believers: corruption of the faith, turning away to idols, and ultimately being forsaken by the true God. 


Learn from the examples in the Bible. After Solomon built the temple and his palace, he took for himself one thousand Gentile concubines. In his old age, they led him to worship idols and to do things which were abominable in the eyes of God. God was angered and said that He would take Solomon’s kingdom, apart from one tribe, from his son and give it to his servant (1 Kgs 11:1–13).


When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls, he saw that the Jews took Gentile wives, and their children were unable to speak the language of Judah. Nehemiah rebuked them, saying, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.  Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?” (Neh 13:26–27).


Because the Jews intermarried with Gentiles, their children could not speak the language of Judah. In a spiritual sense, those who marry unbelievers today will cause their children to lose the ability to “speak the language of Judah.” In other words, the environment they will grow up in will lack the spiritual and religious dimension.  In short, the faith of the next generation will be a cause of worry if our youths marry non-believers. 


During the 1960s, the Taiwan General Assembly sent me to minister in the church at Taipei. One day, a church committee member took me to visit a sister. When we knelt down to pray, her two children began giggling and continued doing so until the end of the prayer. It was as if they were experiencing something unfamilliar. After we left her house, I told the committee member, “I can see that the sister has never prayed at home before, or brought her two children to attend religious education classes in church.” 


He asked, “How do you know?”


I said, “If she had, they would not have behaved in that way.”


The sister was initially from the church in Taichung, and her family was among the early believers in the central region. As a youth, she had a strong faith. It was only after she married a non-believer that her faith declined—to such an extent that she did not pray with her children.


Indeed, we see some youths who once had strong faith and were even religious education teachers. But after marrying non-believers, their faith deteriorated with time, and you now rarely see them attending church services. Consider this carefully: on average, it takes the church twenty years to cultivate a person’s faith, starting from kindergarten class to youth class. With the amount of time, effort and resources being invested in each member, surely the hope is that they would be able to take up some church work when they grow up. However, because they marry a non-believer and backslide in their faith, the investment of the church comes to nothing. This is indeed a great loss—it is heartbreaking!


Believers and unbelievers cannot be yoked together; what fellowship or communion can they have (2 Cor 6:14)? If you believe in the Lord and strive for the everlasting blessing, while your spouse does not believe and pursues the things of the world, how can you reconcile the disparity? How can you achieve intimacy or harmony?



Have an Open Mind


Why do some members find it hard to find their ideal spouse in church, or feel the need to look outside? This is a complex question. Personally, I feel that one reason is that they have overly high expectations and too many conditions. 


The Greek philosopher Plato once had a student who sought his advice with regards to choosing a spouse. Plato instructed him, saying, “Go into the wheat field and bring me the largest grain you can find. Walk from this end to that end, but you can only go forwards, not backwards.” 


His student did accordingly, but no matter how he tried to choose, he could not find a suitable grain of wheat. It was only when he reached the end of the field that he remembered there was a nice plump specimen some way back. However, because he had been told he could not walk backwards, he had no choice but to pluck a grain from the end of the field.  


This story tells us that time and tide wait for no man, and we are not able to turn back the clock. If we hold very high expectations with regards to our choice of spouse, we will always be dissatisfied no matter how hard we look. And then, when age catches up with us, we will have a limited choice, and, like Pluto’s student, just pick anything we can find at the end of the field!


During the 1970s, I introduced a sister to a brother. After the initial meeting, I asked him about his impression of the sister. He blushed, silently looking down at the floor. I said, “If you are too shy to say what you think, let me suggest marks out of a hundred: one hundred marks for ‘I won’t find anyone better’; eighty marks for ‘ideal’; sixty marks for ‘acceptable’!” 


At that point, he stammered, “My own circumstances are not that good; how can I have high expectations of someone else?”


I understood his remark and told him, “A blissful marriage does not depend on whether the other person fulfills certain conditions, but whether you both have the word of God in your hearts.”


Soon after, they were engaged, then married, and then they became parents. Today, they are grandparents, and remain a loving couple.


The moral is not to have too many conditions or high expectations when you choose a spouse. As long as the other party has a good character, a pure faith, and an acceptable appearance, that is sufficient. 



May the Lord bless you to find someone who is best suited to you.


Hallelujah, and peace be with you. Farewell!




Hsieh Shun Tao



Apr. 06, 2017
S. T. Hsieh
True Jesus Church