THE WICKET GATE
Chapter 12.....The Christian's Use of Money
"For God loveth a cheerful giver." 2nd Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 7.
HOW should the Christian use his money? The question is important because the emphasis of the world is not on the use of money but on the getting of money. With the believer the issue is the use of it. How we get it, is of course, important. No blessing can come through money that is ours in ways that does not please the Lord. The getting of money has a marked effect upon character, and,getting for getting's sake- will develop a hard and calculating spirit that is alien to the gracious, generous heart of our Saviour.
The labourer is worthy of his hire. A serious responsibility rests upon employers to be just in their recompense. In these days they have little choice in the matter but the social history of England indicates very clearly that for centuries the poor have been unjustly deprived of their dues. With few exceptions, however, it can now be said that justice is being done. The major responsibility is, therefore, the use of the money that comes into our possession. The prophet Haggai, anxious to encourage the people to resume the building of the temple; said to them (ch. 1. vv. 5 and 6),
" Now therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that eameth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes."
That is a very significant statement. The spirit in which we get money has a direct relation to our use of it. Who of us has not sometimes exclaimed how "money runs away ". Haggai declares it to be inevitable. These people were not giving to God what they should, they were concerned to put the money into bags to keep it for themselves; but there were holes, and the holes increased in size! The waste of money is like the waste of time, it grows, every minute we waste creates a new demand; and every penny we waste reacts in the same way. That is why with all the increases in wages we do not seem to be able to keep up with the increases in expenses. Let us ever remember that we have a stewardship before God for the use of everything under our control and amongst those things is money.
There is a moral stewardship involved, in how we get it, and no less in how we spend it. The Old Testament has an early reference to giving, for we read that when Cain and Abel came to worship, each brought an offering. Worship requires the praising heart, a copy of the Scriptures and a gift for the Lord. And the Lord takes note of the offering! " But unto Cain and his offering He had not respect." On the other hand we read that when Abram came back from the slaughter of the kings, the king of Sodom was ready to let him have all the booty he had recovered of Sodom, but Abram declared: " I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich ". The title of God that Abram uses shows that he was content to trust the Lord to bestow out of His possessions that which was good for Abram.
The young Christian needs to follow the example of Abram from the beginning, because Sodom has all sorts of ways of tempting us to angle for its wealth. Later Jacob (Gen. 28) on leaving home, had the vision of the ladder, on which he saw angels ascending and descending. It was a glorious dream. When he arose in the morning he took the stone which had been his pillow for the night, and set it up for a pillar, poured oil upon it, vowing a vow: " If God be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go . . . then shall the Lord be my God and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee." That pledge by Jacob is generally regarded as the origin of the tithing system whereby the believer covenants with the Lord to set apart one tenth of his income for the Lord's work. Many believers have found this principle of tithing a vital spiritual blessing. It is not easy to be systematic but it is essential in our dealings with God. We ought to have system in prayer, our system in study, and no less system in giving.
When the Tabernacle was erected in the wilderness, the people when asked to give responded so liberally that Moses had to restrain them. David, in anticipation of a permanent temple for the worship of Jehovah, gathered the capital sum together against the day when Solomon, his son, should be able to build it. All the Old Testament sacrifices contained within them this important element of a gift, according to a system, on the part of the worshipper. The new disciple should carefully consider this stewardship of giving, trusting the Spirit through the Word to show him God's will very clearly. The following considerations are designed to help to come to a decision concerning giving, as will govern the whole life and be productive of spiritual blessing.
1) THE MOTIVE FOR GIVING
The amount we give will be determined by the motive, for the hidden motive is all-important. Our motive will find its spring in the past. The Cross of Christ is an historical fact and the Divine interpretation of that Cross that there He died for us, makes it a dominant motive in the heart. The new disciple finds himself contemplating this wonderful sacrifice of Christ in the giving of His all for us. When our Lord gave His life on the Cross He gave His all. The sense of what that sacrifice means will induce the deepest motives to giving in the heart of the new disciple. The enjoyment of the gift of the Holy Spirit bringing the abundant life of Jesus to us now, the recognition that we are sustained as believers by the perpetual giving of Divine life from Jesus will surely enlighten us to see that giving is the secret of living and while this applies supremely to life itself, it also includes our money.
Once we are convinced of the value and power of our salvation we shall long that others should come to know it too. Unless one possesses something that can be universally shared, one possesses nothing. When I have received the risen life of Christ I shall long that others shall know it too. I shall, of course, desire to bear my testimony, but I shall also desire to give that others may know Him too. I shall think not only of the ministry of the word in the church where I worship, but I shall have a world-wide vision and this will provide a world-wide motive that finds its spring in the heart of God in Calvary. No other motive is adequate for the giving that pleases God and enriches life with every blessing from Him. There can be but one motive for our giving to God as indeed for all our giving, and that must be love. It is love that puts the life into the gift; and when we make the smallest offering from our hearts in order that its preciousness may reach His heart, then indeed we have the supreme motive which makes the gift, great or small materially, pregnant with life and power in the will of God. This motive should be steadily encouraged. Cultivate the habit of thinking about your giving, praying concerning it and desiring always that as between you and the Lord it shall express on every occasion the uttermost love of your heart for Him. Very simple, perhaps, but very far-reaching both in depth in your own heart and in breadth in its ever increasing influence.
2) THE MEASURE OF OUR GIVING
How much? That question will seldom arise in the heart if we are learning to give because we love. At the same time it is well to be governed by method and Jacob's tenth to which reference has already been made has usually been regarded as the standard. I have known folk who felt it to a duty to give a tenth and then afterwards to give! But the proportion is open to question.. Now the young disciple will see that this matter of the measure of giving has serious attention. From the very beginning keep a watchful eye on income and the amount that is spent on non-essentials and essentials and the difference between the two. As you watch these proportions you will soon be conscious of the Satanic pressure to spend or save in the interests of self, and always at the same time the tendency to give less to the Lord's work. If the measure is right, then we shall find not only joy in giving, but increasing interest in the Lord's work, and the heart will be so trained that many things that allure the carnal Christian will lose their appeal.When we discipline ourselves in the measure of our saving and spending in order that we may not fail in the measure of our giving, our whole monetary economy will be transformed. For lack of this many Christians feel themselves quite honestly unable to give, when if they had attended to the measure properly, especially from the beginning of the Christian life, they could have been generous benefactors to the Lord's work. Their appetites would have been transformed.
3) THE METHOD OF OUR GIVING
Having therefore, settled the motive and seen something of the measure, we now apply ourselves to the method. The Scriptures indicate that on the first day of the week every believer is to give as God has prospered him. If you have joined a Church -as you should have done -then it will be your solemn responsibility to contribute regularly week by week to its offertories. Let each one be fully persuaded in his own mind as to the amount. It is a useful help to make your gift in an envelope, usually provided by the Church, so that whenever you are away, you can still put your gift in the envelope and place it in the offertory when next you are there. When you are away on holiday attending other churches you will give them a holiday gift. Then your Church will have need of money for the carrying on of the work of the Sunday School or perhaps of a Mission. If you are a Sunday School teacher you will love to give, but if you are not, you should remember the privilege of helping the work that others are doing.
Make it your aim to give to as many of these subsidiary causes in your Church as you can either by monthly or annual gifts. . Then there will be other Churches, which from time to time we shall be able to help. Here again by monthly or annual gifts we should count it a privilege to share with others of our faith and order. And, of course, we shall not forget that we must by our gifts, as well as in other ways, co-operate with the worldwide mission of the Gospel. Every Christian must have the deepest sympathy with the Lord's work everywhere, but he or she will have a special stewardship in certain directions, just as a missionary, while longing that all men everywhere shall hear the good news, must needs know the Lord's will as to the place where he shall serve, so the Christian must have the stewardship of a society or a missionary, and be faithful in giving.
The Lord may not have called you to go out to the field on an allowance which just meets real needs. Instead He has left you at home to earn, perhaps, a good salary so that you may give of your substance and so stand in with those who have given their lives. No Christian, redeemed in the Blood can possibly be exempt from systematic liberality for the Lord's work overseas. What a tremendous help it is to a Society when a believer takes a box and regularly uses it for the Lord's work. Missionary work overseas would never lack financial support if every true believer were giving as much as the Lord willed to that part of the work the Lord has assigned. The young Christian must not on any account neglect the high privilege of liberal contributions to work to the ends of the earth. You will note that I have said nothing about social causes and that has been intentional. Social work appeals to others besides Christians, but Gospel work appeals to Christians only. When the Christian has given as the Lord wills to distinctly Christian work to hasten the fulfilment of the Lord's purpose in the world, then he may consider other claims. This seems to be the order for the child of God.
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