“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”
That truth David expresses in Psalm 24:1.
There are similar passages in Holy Writ.
“Who hath prevented me that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine,” Job 41:11.
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine,”Psalm 50:10, 11.
“If I were hungry I would not tell thee: for the world is mine and the fullness thereof,” Psalm 50:12.
“The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them,” Psalm 89:11.
All this is the speech of the Living God.
And that means that all that you and I have of this earth’s goods we have only in a relative sense.
I have things which belong to me and are in no sense yours. You have things that are yours; and under no circumstances may I take them away from you. In relation to each other we have our own personal possessions. The cattle on this hill may be yours in distinction from the neighbor down the road. He has within his fence cattle that in no sense are yours and which roam and graze on his hills. He has cattle and he has hills. You have cattle and you have hills.
Yet his hills and cattle and your hills and cattle are the Lords. The cattle on a thousand hills are His.
We have absolutely no possession that is not His. They may be ours in relation to our neighbor; but they are in the absolute sense of the word Gods. Nothing is His relatively. All things are His absolutely.
They are His before we receive from Him. They remain His after we have obtained them.
It is His seed that we sow in His soil. It is His rain and sunshine that bring forth His plants. It is His harvest that we reap and His flour wherewith we bake our bread. It is His bread that crowns our tables. And when we have been nourished by that bread, it is His strength wherewith we are able to go out and work in His creation.
God gives and yet retains all that which He gives.
He gives and is no “poorer—how strange that sounds when applied to God! Nor is He any richer by the gifts which we bring unto Him.
He never loses anything; nor does He find new riches.
We can add nothing to His wealth. And we can take nothing away from Him of all the riches He has eternally as the God that He is.
For what we receive from Him we always receive as stewards of His goods. What He gives us He gives us to occupy for Himself. Whether He gives us little or much He always gives us these things as means wherewith He may and must be served. They remain, therefore, His though they are given to you. And because they remain His He may take them back again whenever it pleases Him.
He sees fit to let you have these things today in distinction from your neighbor. Tomorrow He may give them to your children and loosen your grip on them by death. These children claim them, hold on to them, defend them until they must leave them for your grandchildren. Yet all the while they are Gods.
Living in His fear we will remember that undeniable principle of truth.
We will, then, be guided by that principle when the opportunity presents itself for us to give part—of what is relatively ours and absolutely God’s—for the maintenance of the gospel and the welfare of those to whom God had given so little of this earth’s goods that they are the poor amongst us.
We will, then, give in His fear!
For giving in His, fear means exactly that: we give in the consciousness of the fact that also what is not given is also His; that we give willingly and cheerfully in love to Him Who has been pleased to give us all that we have in order that we may have means to serve Him.
It all comes down to this, we will give in His fear only as we have received in His fear!
If we do not know why we received all the possessions which God has given us, we surely will not use them aright. We will not use a proper proportion of them for the maintenance of the gospel, but we will not use the rest of it either in His fear. We do not hesitate to put down the principle that the amount and the cheerfulness and thankfulness wherewith you give your contribution on the Sabbath for the maintenance of the gospel and the schools indicates also whether you-intend to use the rest in His fear or in the service of the flesh.
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus said. Let us not twist this into saying that we ought not serve God and mammon both. Jesus says that we cannot, that it is impossible to serve both. This is no admonition that comes to us but a fundamental principle that cannot be denied!
And the way in which we give the fraction of all we receive to the maintenance of the gospel surely reveals the way in which we intend to use the rest of it. If our giving is truly in His fear so that we cheerfully and liberally give for the maintenance of the gospel we are serving God with that percentage of our goods; and that reveals that it is our desire to use the remainder also in His fear to serve. Him therewith. But the reason why one parts with a percentage of his goods for the maintenance of the gospel with such difficulty and heaviness of soul is exactly because he wants to keep it for himself; and that is serving mammon.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.” Let us remember that even when it is in our hands, on our land, deposited under our name in the bank. And even when we so speak, let us consider that those hands are also God’s; those acres of land are His, and wherever our goods rests or is found that place also is God’s. If we remember these things and live accordingly we will give in His fear; and in these times of material abundance and prosperity the cause of God’s kingdom will not suffer want of that which is necessary for the maintenance of the gospel.
But, you say, I find it very hard to give liberally to the maintenance of the gospel in these days of high prices. Everything costs so much more than it did a few years ago; and the price spiral increases as time goes on.
Indeed, it does and with it the price of maintaining the gospel.
However, are we putting it correctly when we say that we find it hard to give to the maintenance of the gospel? Is that the language, of faith? Is that looking at the matter spiritually and with due consideration of the fact that all that we have is God’s?
Would it not be the language of faith to say, “I find it getting harder and harder for me to buy the luxuries my flesh craves when I seek to maintain the gospel of Jesus Christ?” If, as Jesus admonishes us, we seek first the kingdom of God, will we not say, that it is going to be harder for us to build so lavishly that new house that we planned to erect for our physical needs; that it will be harder to put enough away for the pleasure trip that we had planned; that we will find it more difficult to save for the vacation we had in mind; that we will have to put up with this present automobile for a few thousand more miles because now it will be harder to get enough together for a new one.
In His fear, now, will we ever say that the maintenance of the gospel is hard when we find it easy to spend three or ten times as much for a television set, an automobile, a house, a farm, a vacation?
If without winking an eye we can write out a check for these things in full or in installments that per month are more than what tie grudgingly give in the collection plate that month or all year, is that giving in His fear?
The answer is obvious.
Our income tax we will pay in full. To be sure, not cheerfully and with relish—though Jesus tells us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—yet to the last penny? Should then the Church of God suffer and receive far less from us than the government does?
Our grocery bill runs pretty high. At the end of the week it represents a tidy sum of dollars. But we need to eat. Our bodies need food, and God wants us to feed them well with plenty of food and with good food. But do we walk in His fear and give in His fear when far fewer dollars a week is for us too much for spiritual food for our whole family?
Have we received with thanksgiving that which God has given us as the fruit of our daily toils when we grudgingly, give a little of it to the support of His kingdom in its earthly manifestation? When He begins to take them away from us we suddenly remember where they came from. When we fail to live as those who know that all came from Him and still is His and He reminds us of it by lessening the amount He gives us, causes us to lose our good-paying job, have we learned our lesson when we, continuing to live in our former luxuries, now give even less to the maintenance of the gospel than we did before?
O, indeed, walking in His fear is not easy.
Giving in His fear likewise, is for us a difficult thing to do.
For by nature it is an impossible thing to do. The flesh cannot walk in His fear. The flesh will not give one cent in His fear.
What does the flesh care about the maintenance of the gospel? What does the flesh care about the glory of God’s name? The flesh must have all that it can lay its hands upon; and even then it is not satisfied.
The flesh says of the widow who cast into the treasury of the temple her last two-mites that she is a fool. And your and my flesh says the same thing to the new man in Christ when he would cheerfully and liberally support the cause of God’s kingdom here below. And we find with the Apostle Paul, also, that “the good that I would, I allow not.”
But that must not be an excuse.
It will not be an excuse for him who loves God. In a fear of reverence and awe, of respect and love for God he will by his offering I on the Sabbath declare with David, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof . . . The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them.”
And he will first lay aside for the maintenance of the gospel and use what is left for his earthly needs. He will not first satisfy his flesh and then see if there might possibly be a few pennies left for God’s cause.
With the man who walks in God’s fear first things are first. And he, therefore, first lays aside, as God has blessed him with stewardship over His goods, for the maintenance of the gospel and then uses the rest for his earthly needs. For, he who walks in His fear cannot enjoy those earthly things unless his soul is satisfied that God’s cause is not suffering at the expense of his own cause prospering. If our earthly cause prospers because we neglect God’s cause, there is something radically wrong.
The child of God, thankful for the salvation in Christ, gives in His fear and enjoys doing so.