A sum of money deposited in the bank draws interest.
Money invested in a Savings and Loan Association usually draws a bit more interest.
And if you lend a sum of money, you will obtain even a greater amount of interest upon that sum. If you are the one who borrows the money, you will be the one who pays that greater interest.
The amount upon which that interest is paid is called the principal.
Please do not confuse that with our theme which we have placed above. We are quite money-conscious in these days. Making a living is an old-fashioned practice. Today one must see how much he can acquire and lay away for his flesh to enjoy. Today one must keep up with the Joneses. Today one must ever strive for more and more luxuries, more pleasures, more of this world and satisfy more of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Simply to have food, clothing and shelter is, according to modern standards and today’s way of thinking, to be in abject poverty. The Government better subsidize such and send its welfare agencies to see what can be done about such miserable people. Therefore we have used the theme above also to catch the eye and to seek to bring God’s people down to the earth, or better still to cease setting the affections on the earth and to cause them to be set on the things above, that they may be sought and their joy may be experienced.
We placed over these lines the words “Interest * upon The Principal” and not “Interest upon the Principal.” There is a tremendous difference. We are not thinking of gold and silver, of houses and of land, of worldly pleasures and luxuries. He who seeks them will lose them all in the moment of death. Jesus once said, in Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.” We say also, “Remember the Rich Fool in Jesus’ parable.” We have no money for God’s Church. The cause of Christ’s kingdom can suffer, and it does not phase us in the least. We have not the money for the cause of Christian education for our children. And we give all kinds of other “excuses” and arguments against it. In our folly we think that we shall get away with it before the all-wise and all-knowing God. We heard a rather clever statement over the radio this morning. It was used for gathering financial support of a certain radio broadcast and the institution that sponsored it. But there is an element of truth that is implied in it that can be applied to all support of God’s kingdom in every sphere of the work. The statement? Well, it was this: “Do your giving while you’re living, while you’re knowing where it’s going.” Ah, yes, remember the Poor Fool—did we call him the Rich Fool a moment ago?—in Jesus’ parable. Solomon has a word for it also, “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom and knowledge and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God.” Ecclesiastes 2:26. The interest we have gotten upon our investments, the profit upon the works of our hands that is used to satisfy our flesh, we not only lose in the moment of death; it testifies against us in the day of days. But the earthly goods we use in the service of our God follow us into the glory of His kingdom. Revelation 14:13. That gold, that silver, those houses and that land does not follow us. It perishes with the earth in the fire of God’s righteous judgment. But the work we performed with them in seeking first, last and always the kingdom of God is rewarded in God’s grace. And we have not lost these things, we have used them as God demanded of us and find the fruit in everlasting life by His grace. But “me first” and then God means that I never come to stand before God in glory. My luxuries and my pleasures, my keeping up with the Joneses, my social standing, my flesh first, and I will find that God puts me last. You simply do not seek the things of this world and find the kingdom of heaven. Nor does one who seeks the kingdom of God, who lays aside first the support of God’s kingdom and refuses to touch it for that which is above his physical needs—and they are usually far fewer than the things we are accustomed to receiving—nor will such find that they are cast into the poverty of hell. Seeking that kingdom first in this life, all we need for the seeking of that kingdom will be added to us while we travel through this valley of tears; and presently the riches of that kingdom shall be added to us everlastingly.
For that reason we are not going to write about interest upon the principal. Rather we chose to write on interest on The principal. And, as you surmised, by that we mean interest upon spiritual things. Interest in the principal things of God’s kingdom. Webster has this to say: “Principal, adjective. Highest in rank, authority, or importance, chief, main.” A little later he writes, “2. A capital sum placed at interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund;—distinguished from interest and profit.” And once again, “3. A fundamental point;—now confused with principle.” With interest in the sense of usury or compensation for the use of a sum of money we are not at the moment concerned in these lines. And with principal as a “capital sum placed at interest” we likewise do not wish to be busy at the moment. That all will take care of itself, if we have interest in the principal things of God’s kingdom. We speak of interest here in the sense of concern, of having the attention excited and active. He who has concern for God’s kingdom, which is The Principal thing, will also make good and proper use of his money and possessions. He will not be squandering it upon pleasures and using it to heap up more treasures at the expense of God’s kingdom. You will not find him ready to pay for sports and entertainment, for luxuries and dainties when he knows that it means that he will not have it for kingdom causes. He will not array himself in silk and satin when he sees the church of God suffer want in any form. He will not be paying for worldly things and things of the flesh while the things of God are provided for his spiritual enjoyment. And the ease of obtaining and the abundance of these things for the flesh today do result in a despising and turning away from the things spiritual.
What we believe is an evidence of this and is the occasion for these lines and, we believe, shows the trend all through the life of many in God’s church today, we observed the earlier part of this month. The broadest gathering of our churches assembled for a prayer service the night before the sessions of the Synod began. It was a solemn occasion. Vital questions and important matters were to be treated by Synod for solutions that would be pleasing in God’s sight. A student was to be examined as to his beliefs and qualifications for that highest office that man can receive in this life: Minister of the Word of God. The following week his graduation exercises were held. Another solemn and momentous occasion. A night in which the church of God may well rejoice and give thanks for God’s abiding faithfulness.
Here were principal things!
Do I hear Webster’s words beaten out with clear and forceful accent?: Highest in rank; highest in authority; highest in importance; chief; main! Do we think so? Little interest was shown in these principal events. There were little Gideon’s bands that did show interest; and by God’s grace they shall also receive interest and did receive interest, spiritual interest. But for the greater part we fear, it was interest in other things, lowest in rank, lowest in importance. Man has interest in something. He must. He cannot be without interest as a rational-moral being. Perhaps that interest is in nothing more than idleness, slothfulness. But he has interest. He always has that which arrests and excites his attention. He always gives attention to something.
And although, as we wrote above, the occasion for these lines was the lack of interest by so many for the principal things at the two occasions mentioned above, that alone would never induce us to write these lines. But we are fully aware of the fact that this same lack of interest reveals itself in so many other ways. Sports, entertainment, television, radio, books and magazines of the world are the interest of many church members to such an awful extent that they have no time or interest in the study of God’s Word. The study of God’s Word in society, the personal study of that Word, the reading of religious literature are rejected because there is no interest in them. Shame on us! No interest in the principal things? The important things?
The same may be said about Sabbath attendance. Once a Sunday is quite enough (or maybe too much?). We may have slept the greater part even of that one worship service which we attended as far as our physical presence is concerned. But there is no interest in going back again, and this time to pay attention. All too quickly likewise, we find a reason for not going. There are, of course, instances where God Himself makes that impossible. But we ought, before His face—and not behind man’s back—to examine our “excuses” and see once whether the rest of our life on the other six days bears out our “excuse.” We repeat, God leads some of His children in a way which clearly indicates that they would be showing sinful disregard for the physical wellbeing of the bodies He has given us to care for in His fear. But when during the week the same exercise or exertion does not harm us when it comes to worldly meetings and gatherings, when it does not hurt us to sit for longer periods while busy with other earthly activities, we better examine ourselves before His face. Such better ask themselves what their interest is and what to them is the principal thing.
The same thing may be said about the season that is upon us. All too often the principal thing is that vacation and the physical rest or diversion of one’s activities that goes with it. And the Day of Rest, the things of God’s kingdom are forgotten. What? Go to church on my vacation? Leave all this quietness and peace by the lake to go to church? And go twice a Sabbath while on vacation? Some “churches” (?) also take vacations according to their bulletin boards. No interest upon principal things! And what if Jesus comes while that church is on vacation? Will He wait for them all to come home and re-assemble as His Church? Those not interested in Him must not expect Him to be interested in waiting for them so that He may save them. And likewise those who—though their church does not take a vacation—take a vacation from the church must not expect Him to be interested in their spiritual well-being. He is interested in the physical and spiritual well-being of His people; and that we will treat next time, D.V.; but such can have no assurance of this while they have no interest in Him and in His cause.
In His fear we have interest in Him and the principal things of His cause.