The Release of the Lord (Consolidated Edition)

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - The Cross and the Ministry of Money

Individual and Church Finance

That God has so signally honoured and blessed the ministry of systematic and proportionate giving, is its own argument for the high place that this subject must take in our spiritual deliberations. We are not descending to a lower plane when we give this matter a place for consideration. As a matter of fact, the wider purposes of Christ are seriously linked with this subject.

Let us briefly touch upon the significance of some of the utterances of Christ in connection with the ministry of money.

1. Firstly, recall the Principle of Stewardship, as enunciated by Him (Luke 12:42; 16:1-8).

The elements here are (1) a rich householder, (2) a needy household, and world beyond, (3) a steward between. The steward is brought into a relationship of privilege, trust and responsibility. He is entrusted with resources which are essentially his Master's, and he is expected to regard all that he has in the light of the purposes of his Master for the household and for the world. He will consider every demand supremely and primarily from its value to the things which are closest and dearest to the heart of the Master, and his own pleasure will be found in seeing those things fulfilled rather than by any personal, fleshly, or worldly desires or ambitions of his own. He will never dispense his Master's trusts in a way that brings himself into any flesh-gratifying prominence, or divert the honour from the Master to himself. It will always be in his Master's name and not over his own signature.

Such is the "good and wise steward", and the Master has made it very clear that thus to regard and use all that we have is the sure highway of Divine approval, blessing and reward.

2. Next consider the Principle of Investment (Matt. 15:27).

Let us note especially that in the passage cited it is "my money". The whole thought in the parable is that of using the resources with which we are entrusted of God, to the greatest Divinely approved results. There are almost innumerable calls upon these resources, and not a little confusion exists in the minds of Christians as to what is Kingdom Enterprise and what is not. Social, philanthropic, humanitarian, charitable, altruistic, religious, and spiritual, all get jumbled and overlapping. Many are of the generous and magnanimous disposition, and only need a semblance of need or a plausible story to send their hand to their pocket or purse; while others, in the limitation of their immediate means, are often worried as to their duty in the presence of so many clamant calls.

For the fully consecrated life there is this sound principle from the Master: Decide what are the deepest and truest purposes - not of the Christian ethic - but of the Cross of Christ, the really spiritual and eternal objectives of Calvary, and thus invest to the utmost limit in that which is most calculated to secure these ends. This will mean that all our giving will be fraught with prayerfulness and careful consideration.

3. The Subordination of Money (Matt. 19:16-26).

Closely in line with what we have said comes the test of our interests. The point is, are spiritual interests above all others with us? Are money and means an end or an instrument to an end? One has often wondered whether He who knew all men fitted the test to the type, in the passage before us. A real test will be applied sooner or later as to our comparative valuations, and a real crisis will be precipitated if we venture upon a quest for spiritual life and power, and we shall come to the waters of testing as to whether all things will be counted as loss or refuse that we may gain Christ and be found in Him. It may never be that we shall lose all things, but we shall be put to the test.

4. The Superior Blessedness (Acts 20:35).

When the Master said these words, we do not know, we can only surmise, but they are clearly from Him. We need only intimate two elements of this superior blessedness.

(1) It is a blessedness which comes and grows in our spirit as we make possible the realisation of the great purposes of the Cross, and are partakers with Christ in His glorious achievements.

(2) It is the blessedness of enlarged capacity for giving. The more we give for God, the more we can give, the more He makes it possible for us to give.

5. The Principle of Computation by Comparison (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4).

Here it was not so much what was given, but rather what remained after the gift had been made. Not what the cheque-book showed, but what the pass-book indicated. Is it not such a proportion that we shall find it not difficult? Is it to sacrifice and in faith? Is it for love which counts not the cost? How did Christ come by His great approval of the widow, and affirm the Divine good pleasure? Because at Nazareth, with a widowed mother and a large family, they had made their sacrifices to be true to the Scriptures. He had good reason to know the cheapest food in the market - two sparrows for a farthing, and if you could stretch it to two farthings, you got the bargain of an extra sparrow thrown in, five for two farthings. But this sacrifice, in order to be true to the Law which He had come to fulfil, led to the day when the bread-winner, and at least one of His brothers, could leave the home and give themselves unreservedly to the work of the Kingdom. It is a parable.

Finally, let us not forget the importance and value of being systematic. The casual, haphazard giving impresses the giver with a false sense of generosity. We shall find that we really give more, and it goes farther, if we carefully and systematically divide and apportion our resources, and keep clear and strict accounts. Then our gifts are only acceptable to God if our lives are consecrated. It must be sanctified giving. The gift must, and will, remain on the altar until we have put right the 'aught' that any may have against us. It is not things, but ourselves, that God wants. Moreover, all we do will be motivated by our estimate of His Cross. The motive and dynamic of all true service is a love born of an adequate appreciation of His love for us. Is it true that 'the whole realm of nature', if it were ours, would be an 'offering far too small', and that the only sufficient gift is 'our life, our soul, our all'?

So far we have dealt with the subject in a somewhat general way, and one which applies for the most part to the individual. We will now consider its application to

Church Finance

It is not the amount of money which is at the disposal of a church which counts, or is to be the standard of judgment, but how far the essential purposes of Christ's Cross are being realised.

There are many churches which have ample financial resources, but are so spiritually bankrupt that they cannot carry on their own ministry effectively without depending upon outside workers. On the other hand, there are many more churches which are unable to carry out the Divinely-appointed work of the Cross because of severely straitened financial means. It will be clear, then, that both of these conditions are a denial and limitation of Calvary, therefore something is wrong.

Now, we must recognize the absolutely firm principles of the Cross before the problem can be solved, and they are these: The Cross sets itself directly and positively against the world and all worldly methods.

It is not necessary here to summarize the teaching of Christ and the Apostles on the world, but suffice it to say that the world is banned and ruled out as antagonistic to the Cross, and the Kingdom of God.

To have the absolute victory of Calvary in service as in life, we must be in complete sympathy with the Cross, and this demands that we shall be 'crucified' to the world, and the world to us. Bazaars, Concerts, etc., to raise funds for Calvary's work, or draw people to Calvary, are of the world-spirit, -method, and -principle, and therefore block the way of Calvary's victory.

It is usually the most unspiritual and worldly-minded people who urge these things, and the people who count least in the real spiritual work of the church.

Yes! Calvary's fruit demands Calvary's principles, and the 'flesh' and 'world' are inimical thereto.

The Cross demands absolute identification of the believer, church, and all methods, means, and resources with its purpose, and what we have said earlier, in the Master's method for His Kingdom.

If the Cross means to the believer and to the church, union with Christ in His jurisdiction (Exousia Matt. 28:18,etc.), through union with His death (to self, and the world - their interests, ambitions, and nature), then the work of Calvary should not be thwarted by temporal circumstances and conditions. Let us, however, beware that we do not draft the programme, but always know what God's plans are. Presumption often makes demands upon God which He cannot recognize. It is surprising what can be done for very little expenditure when lifted off the human level into the spiritual.

[The following portion was not included in the re-edited chapter in the magazine. These were the concluding words of the chapter in the original book.]

The Still More Excellent Way

In all that we have said about proportionate giving we want to stress that we have not by inference dealt with or implied proportionate keeping or not giving. What we have sought to do is to give, firstly the minimum basis of the Lord's expectation, and then to help in the matter of being systematic. In the Word of God a portion was never intended to be the Lord's, and the residue man's. Rather was it intended to be representative of the whole, and, a first fruits which meant that all was held as the Lord's and so regarded. When the Holy Spirit gets His full way He brings out this principle and the effect is that nothing is held as personal or private, but all is placed in the light of the Testimony and reckoned as the Lord's (Acts 2:44,45; 4:34-37). This largely touches the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. They not only lied to the Holy Ghost, but they kept back part of the price. Peter by the Spirit said in effect: "If you are going to touch this matter you must go all the way or not at all. You are at liberty to keep all, but you are not free to divide things between God and yourselves, all must be regarded as His, or none. God is jealous of the whole." The obligations of our lives on earth are to be met as part of our Christian life and worship to God and there must be no water-tight compartments of spiritual and secular. Everything that comes to us righteously must be regarded as resource for the interests of the Testimony. Those who come to this latter position, off legal ground, on to grace ground, will soon discover that the Spirit makes for liberty and liberality. In the long run God is debtor to no man.

Thus, on this supremely practical note we close this message on the Release of the Lord, and there is no doubt whatever that by this means as by all others the evidence of the Holy Spirit's government in the life and the Church is seen, and the Lord is released to go on with His world purpose unhindered. These things are both a testimony and a test.

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever." Eph. 3:20.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.