A new Theological School building had been erected.
An impressive dedicatory service had been held in one of its well furnished rooms.
Now two who had listened carefully to the dedicatory sermon were on the way homeward: a father and his son.
“You do not believe that, do you, father?” the son asked of his father. “Believe what, my son?” was the reply.
What we were told in that dedicatory sermon that if only one soul was brought to the faith through the teaching and training given in this Theological School, the $100,000 was well spent, the son replied.
The reply of the father was instantaneous.
Yes, I would feel that way if that one soul happened to be my son.
That does make a difference, does it not?
When we are called upon to give—of what God entrusted to our care for use to the glory of His name—for the maintenance of the gospel, we are very ready to complain that it all costs too much, that the returns and advantages to be obtained do not make the amount of money to be raised a wise and good investment. But it does make a difference if our flesh—our sons and daughters—can profit from what others have contributed. O, we appreciate spiritual things and are thankful for blessings bestowed upon us. But we are also quick to call all that which does not bring direct good and spiritual well-being to us and our loved ones too high a price to pay. It all goes to show that in all of us there is to a greater or lesser degree failure to receive things in His fear and consequently failure to give in His fear.
Then, as with the young man, without thinking it through we cry about the cost of the maintenance of the gospel until it is brought to our attention how much we covet the salvation of our own children.
That desire to see our children brought to the faith, to come to the enjoyment of the same salvation which we have so richly tasted is not sinful, to be sure. That is one of the joys that it pleases God to give to covenant parents. The Apostle John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” III John 4. However, John is not speaking of his own flesh and blood here but of his spiritual children. And he who, with John here, speaks of the joy of hearing that his children walk in truth will think that the money spent to maintain the gospel and prepare young men to bring it to these children is also well spent and a very good investment. He will not say that the large sum spent is well worth it only when his own flesh and blood are brought to the faith. He will say that with a view to whoever it may please God to bring to the faith through the support we have given in the maintenance of the gospel.
Still there is another side to the matter.
We must beware lest we try to measure spiritual values by material things. Very often our giving is governed by such an impossible measurement. Let a man try once, if he can before God’s face—and thus in His fear—place a price-tag on the salvation of an individual. Let a man try to state in dollars and cents the value of being redeemed from the curse and made an heir of everlasting blessedness and glory before God’s face. Peter warns us against that when he states, “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold . . . . But with the precious blood of Christ . . ,” I Peter 1:18, 10. And what did this same Peter say to Simon the Sorcerer who would buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money? “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money,” Acts 8:20.
Support the cause of God’s kingdom with our gold and silver we must. Maintain the gospel and the schools is our calling before God: But to attach a price to salvation; to complain that it costs too much to maintain the gospel and the schools is neither receiving nor giving in His fear.
The same, of course, may and should be said about missionary activity, radio witnessing, the financial support of Christian education to the youth in grade and high school and all other activities that come under the general heading of maintaining the gospel.
On the mission field, whether home or foreign, one is also inclined to measure the spiritual by the material. The expenditure of let us say $25,000 is not too much a year if only we can count a few hundred souls “added” to the church. But one or two converts makes it too expensive; and we ought to move on to richer fields. What, then, do we mean by richer fields? More rewarding for us? Bringing in a bigger return for our money? Making it more worthwhile for us? And we will no longer show interest in the few who had shown interest in the gospel that had been preached? Dollars and cents will rule us into deciding to “ditch” these because “it doesn’t pay” to work with so few? We have to have bigger returns for our money?
Never must we say that it was not worth it.
God’s word never returns void but always accomplishes that unto which He has sent it, Isaiah 55:11. It shall accomplish the thing that pleases Him. That is not always, on the mission field, the thing that pleases our flesh; and therefore we call it a waste of time and money (mostly of money). Often it pleases Him to use it, as with Pharaoh, to harden the ungodly. But that is His good pleasure; and the sum we have given to the maintenance of the gospel in a field where only hardening has occurred must not be looked upon as a waste of money. It some times pleases God to use our money—His money given us to use for—that very purpose to realize His good pleasure of hardening. And He will reward us in His grace for supporting the cause of the gospel on such an unfruitful field as well as when it pleases Him to bring hundreds and thousands to the faith. If we give in His fear for the maintenance of the gospel, we have our reward regardless of what it pleases Him to do with that gospel in the hearts of those who hear: whether unto salvation or to more wickedness and even to the killing of the missionaries. Even then, it is worth every cent that has been spent. For then, too, it has been spent in His service and will be rewarded by His grace.
If we give in His fear, we will be rewarded in His grace regardless of what it pleases Him to do with our gift.
No, we are not advocating careless spending.
Those to whom the funds for the maintenance of the gospel are entrusted—whether the local consistory or the classical or synodical assemblies—must also use them in His fear. They may not waste the funds and spend them foolishly. To God they must give an account of every penny and must answer for every part of what was given for the maintenance of the gospel, must answer as to whether it was all used to the last penny for the maintenance of the gospel.
Nor are we advocating spending fabulous sums on church property, making God’s sanctuary a place of dazzling beauty. The room where the disciples met that day that Jesus came forth from His grave was not such an elaborate and ornate place as the beautiful temple that stood in that same city. Yet Jesus met with His disciples in this common place “sanctuary” with the tidings of His victory over sin and death. However, Scripture does not forbid our making them places of beauty provided it is serviceable beauty and done with a view to His infinite glory and not for our carnal boasting and gloating.
In fact there is a passage of Holy Writ that condemns the practice of inviting Jesus to meet with us in a run-down, tumble-down building while we ourselves live in mansions of convenience, luxury and beauty. In Haggai 1:2-11, the Israelites are rebuked for living in “ceiled houses” while God’s house lies in ruins. The fact that this was the case is presented as the reason why “. . . he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it in a bag with holes . . .” and “Because of mine house that is waste and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle and upon all the labor of the hands.”
Indeed, Christ will meet with His people in a hovel, in a dark and gloomy cave, in ruins and a run-down, tumbledown dilapidated buildings but not when we will not give in His fear and instead-make our own “ceiled houses” at the expense of His house and the maintenance of the gospel.
Nor need we fear that by giving in His fear we are going to suffer. God has a word of comfort also to those who give in His fear. “Bring your tithes into the storehouse, that! there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it,” Malachi 3:10.
Therefore we said a moment ago that when we give in His fear we will be rewarded in God’s grace. Men may forge. Men do forget. We ourselves may not recall in detail all the sacrifices we have made for God’s cause, the hardships we experienced so that His cause might be maintained by the material things which He entrusted to our care and bestowed upon us as His stewards. But God will never forget them; and in His grace He will reward every single one of them.
He still will pour out blessings on those who give in His fear. Note that we said on those who give in His fear. One who “gives” a few paltry pennies or a huge sum of material things because he is after a greater measure of earthly goods than before is not giving in His fear. He is trying to conduct some business deal with the Living God. He who seeks to bribe God to open up the windows of heaven and to give him material things in such abundance that he cannot find room to receive it and considers these things as such a treasure and a blessing in themselves is carnal and does not give to the Lord. He is trying to trade a little earthly goods with the Living God for an abundance of earthly things. That is not giving, for it is not giving in His fear.
But those who bring their “tithes” into God’s house for the maintenance of the gospel and of the schools will find that the windows of heaven will pour out a blessing of spiritual riches.
And as long as it pleases God to keep His Church here on this earth He will continue to give His people sufficient of this earth’s goods for their own physical needs and for the maintenance of His gospel and of the schools.