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
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
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
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
(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,
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
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
Yes! Calvary's fruit demands
Calvary's principles, and the 'flesh' and 'world' are
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
[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.