No Christian can afford to have the reputation for owing without paying. If through reverses or misfortunes of any kind you find that you are unable to pay a debt, seek your creditor and explain to him, while you appeal to his mercy. If he demands in payment all you have, to the hat that is on your head, you had better surrender it rather than risk making a name for refusing to pay debts. A professing Christian who refused to pay his debts when pressed by his creditors quoted the hymn, “Free from the law, O happy condition,” and such is the rotten fruit of the teaching that because we are under grace and therefore not under the law for condemnation we are under no obligation to keep the law. Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that grace constrains us not only to keep the law but to go beyond the law and do more than it requires. If compelled to go one mile, go two. Honesty is the law of God, and no dishonest man has a right to claim that he is a Christian.
Joy In Giving
Giving is, doubtless, the most important of stewardship. Jesus said: “Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you” (Luke 11:41). Getting and holding pollutes us and our holdings with selfishness. The dirtiest thing in this city is accumulated wealth, not a penny of which has been given to God or humanity. Jesus said again: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And the word blessed means happy without the hap. In giving there comes a joy which is not dependent upon chance. It is a law as regular in its workings as gravitation that giving makes the giver happy and getting money with a view to doing good by giving it fills with joy. Paul says to the toiler in Ephesians 4:28: “Let him labor, working with his hands that which is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.” The daily toiler goes to his work with a song in his heart if he has the high and holy motive of working, that he may help others in need of body, mind or soul. “What are you doing this morning?” said a neighbor to a sturdy blacksmith. “Preaching the Gospel to the regions beyond,” answered the Christian man as he swung his hammer and remembered the subscription he had made to foreign missions the day before. Toil at the anvil had been glorified into joyful service for the King of kings.
A Burden Of Anxiety
The Hebrew word for riches means “burden,” and some one has said, “There is often a burden of care in getting them, a burden of anxiety in keeping them, a burden of temptation in using them, a burden of guilt in abusing them, a burden of sorrow in losing them, a burden of account at last to be given up for possessing without improving them.” But in giving them there is a burden of joy which like the wings of the bird lifts the soul upward toward God in the spirit of self-sacrificing love. The Dead Sea takes in the Jordan and holds it. Hence the death and repulsion. The Sea of Galilee takes in the Jordan and gives it off. Hence its life and beauty. Getting and holding makes a Dead Sea with no life in its waters, while getting and giving make a Sea of Galilee full of life and beauty.
One-tenth is the law: “as God hath prospered” is the Gospel, which, as always, goes beyond the law. For Israel to withhold the tithe was to rob God (Malachi 3:8). The law said, “All the tithe is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 27:30). The tithe was, therefore, a debt to God which the Israelite must pay before he could give anything. After he had paid his tithe he must give as many freewill offerings as he pleased. There could be no giving until the tithe was paid. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God” (Genesis 14:20). When Jacob promised to pay tithes he simply expressed his spirit of obedience to a few which he knew existed. The law of God demanded one-seventh of the time and one-tenth of the income.
The Christian may go beyond the law in giving all his time, but does not, therefore, abrogate the law. One-seventh is the minimum requirement, while all the time is the maximum privilege. So the Christian may go beyond the law and give all he has, but in doing so he does not abrogate the law. One-tenth of his income is the minimum requirement, while ten-tenths is the maximum privilege. He is the steward both of the law’s requirements and the Gospel’s privileges. Jesus, in Matthew 23:23, refers to the law of tithing and “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith” when He said, “These ought ye to have done and not leave the other undone.” Jesus here approves the principle of tithing and incorporates it into the moral law as expressed by the word “ought,” while He insists that we go beyond this minimum requirement and also attend to the weightier matters of “judgment, mercy and faith.” The Christian, to be sure, will not insist that he ought to do less than the Jew. One-tenth of his income ought, therefore, to be laid by in store for the Lord’s work, while he gladly gives freewill offerings prompted by considerations of “judgment, mercy and faith.”
The Grace Of Giving
These freewill offerings should be inspired by “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Try to compute “His poverty” and our riches through Him. Then ask how much ought we to give? If you would build symmetrical Christian character do not let the grace of giving languish. “As ye abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and all diligence and your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7). And remember that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Notice how often the word “abound” occurs; the teaching is plain that if we abound toward God He will abound toward us. We have little to give, because we give so little. If we would have abundant harvest there must be abundant sowing, for “he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly,” and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Linked with Christ, money brings large returns. The widow’s two-fifths of a cent given in love and faith has increased to millions of dollars. The alabaster box, broken and poured upon the head of Christ, has filled the ages with its perfume, and, as a result, millions of alabaster boxes have been poured upon His head. A Christian man, once prosperous in business, but now poor, says: “The only money I really saved was what I gave.” Another man with an income of $7,500 a year lived on $500 a year and gave $7,000 to religious and benevolent objects. Another, whose annual income was $10,000, lived on $1,000 and gave the rest, thus reversing the law of tithing by keeping one-tenth and giving nine-tenths, which was his Gospel privilege.
In the realm of giving are examples of self-sacrificing love which manifest the spirit of Christ, who gave Himself for us. Count Zinzendorf and his wife agreed to give the cost of their bridal tour to build a house for the aged, and the good they did gave them a joyful bridal tour through life. Mary Hosmer, a poor factory girl in Lowell, Massachusetts, saves from her meagre earnings enough to support a foreign missionary. A scrub-woman in New York buys an organ for a struggling mission and also supports her mission in India. A couple in Brooklyn who had saved money for many years with a view to crossing the ocean and visiting their old home, handed to their pastor an envelope containing $350, saying that the cause of Christ needed it more than they needed their home-going and for His sake they were willing to make the sacrifice. Their joy in making the sacrifice was great.
When John Wesley, in preaching his sermon on giving, to a large audience announced his first division, “MAKE ALL YOU CAN,” an enthusiastic brother in front of him exclaimed, “Amen.” “That’s good,” and when he announced his second division, “SAVE ALL YOU CAN,” the enthusiastic brother said even more emphatically, “Amen.” “That’s better.” But when he announced his third division, “GIVE ALL YOU CAN,” the brother lost his enthusiasm and growled, “There now. You’ve spoilt your sermon. Too bad.”