(All Bible texts are in the NKJV Bible unless otherwise indicated)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.
10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,
26 “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
19 you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, to fulfill hisvow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that areblind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the Lord. 23 Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted.
24 ‘You shall not offer to the Lord what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land.
Systematic benevolence should not be made systematic compulsion. It is freewill offerings that are acceptable to God. True Christian benevolence springs from the principle of grateful love. Love to Christ cannot exist without corresponding love to those whom He came into the world to redeem. Love to Christ must be the ruling principle of the being, controlling all the emotions and directing all the energies. Redeeming love should awaken all the tender affection and self-sacrificing devotion that can possibly exist in the heart of man. When this is the case, no heart-stirring appeals will be needed to break through their selfishness and awaken their dormant sympathies, to call forth benevolent offerings for the precious cause of truth.
Jesus has purchased us at an infinite sacrifice. All our capabilities and our influence are indeed our Saviour’s, and should be dedicated to His service. By doing this we show our gratitude that we have been ransomed from the slavery of sin by the precious blood of Christ. Our Saviour is ever working for us. He has ascended on high and pleads in behalf of the purchase of His blood. He pleads before His Father the agonies of the crucifixion. He raises His wounded hands and intercedes for His church, that they may be kept from falling under temptation.
If our perceptions could be quickened to take in this wonderful work of our Saviour for our salvation, love, deep and ardent, would burn in our hearts. Our apathy and cold indifference would then alarm us. Entire devotion and benevolence, prompted by grateful love, will impart to the smallest offering, the willing sacrifice, a divine fragrance, making the gift of priceless value. But, after willingly yielding to our Redeemer all that we can bestow, be it ever so valuable to us, if we view our debt of gratitude to God as it really is, all that we may have offered will seem to us very insufficient and meager. But angels take these offerings, which to us seem poor, and present them as a fragrant offering before the throne, and they are accepted.
We do not, as followers of Christ, realize our true position. We do not have correct views of our responsibilities as hired servants of Christ. He has advanced us the wages in His suffering life and spilled blood, to bind us in willing servitude to Himself. All the good things we have are a loan from our Saviour. He has made us stewards. Our smallest offerings, our humblest services, presented in faith and love, may be consecrated gifts to win souls to the service of the Master and to promote His glory. The interest and prosperity of Christ’s kingdom should be paramount to every other consideration. Those who make their pleasure and selfish interest the chief objects of their lives are not faithful stewards.
Those who deny self to do others good, and who devote themselves and all they have to Christ’s service, will realize the happiness which the selfish man seeks for in vain. Said our Saviour: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” Charity “seeketh not her own.” This is the fruit of that disinterested love and benevolence which characterized the life of Christ. The law of God in our hearts will bring our own interests in subordination to high and eternal considerations. We are enjoined by Christ to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is our first and highest duty. Our Master expressly warned His servants not to lay up treasures upon the earth; for in so doing their hearts would be upon earthly rather than heavenly things. Here is where many poor souls have made shipwreck of faith. They have gone directly contrary to the express injunction of our Lord, and have allowed the love of money to become the ruling passion of their lives. They are intemperate in their efforts to acquire means. They are as much intoxicated with their insane desire for riches as is the inebriate with his liquor.
Christians forget that they are servants of the Master; that they themselves, their time, and all that they have belong to Him. Many are tempted, and the majority are overcome, by the delusive inducements which Satan presents to invest their money where it will yield them the greatest profit in dollars and cents. There are but few who consider the binding claims that God has upon them to make it their first business to meet the necessities of His cause and let their own desires be served last. There are but few who invest in God’s cause in proportion to their means. Many have fastened their money in property which they must sell before they can invest it in the cause of God and thus put it to a practical use. They make this an excuse for doing but little in their Redeemer’s cause. They have as effectually buried their money in the earth as had the man in the parable. They rob God of the tenth, which He claims as His own, and in robbing Him they rob themselves of the heavenly treasure.
The plan of systematic benevolence does not press heavily upon any one man. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” The poor are not excluded from the privilege of giving. They, as well as the wealthy, may act a part in this work. The lesson that Christ gave in regard to the widow’s two mites shows us that the smallest willing offerings of the poor, if given from a heart of love, are as acceptable as the largest donations of the rich.
In the balances of the sanctuary the gifts of the poor, made from love to Christ, are not estimated according to the amount 398 given, but according to the love which prompts the sacrifice. The promises of Jesus will as surely be realized by the liberal poor man, who has but little to offer, but who gives that little freely, as by the wealthy man who gives of his abundance. The poor man makes a sacrifice of his little, which he really feels. He really denies himself of some things that he needs for his own comfort, while the wealthy man gives of his abundance, and feels no want, denies himself nothing that he really needs. Therefore there is a sacredness in the poor man’s offering that is not found in the rich man’s gift, for the rich give of their abundance. God’s providence has arranged the entire plan of systematic benevolence for the benefit of man. His providence never stands still. If God’s servants follow His opening providence, all will be active workers.
Those who withhold from the treasury of God and hoard their means for their children, endanger the spiritual interest of their children. They place their property, which is a stumbling block to themselves, in the pathway of their children, that they may stumble over it to perdition. Many are making a great mistake in regard to the things of this life. They economize, withholding from themselves and others the good they might receive from a right use of the means which God has lent them, and become selfish and avaricious. They neglect their spiritual interests and become dwarfs in religious growth, all for the sake of accumulating wealth which they cannot use. They leave their property to their children, and nine times out of ten it is even a greater curse to their heirs than it has been to themselves. Children, relying upon the property of their parents, often fail to make a success of this life, and generally utterly fail to secure the life to come. The very best legacy which parents can leave their children is a knowledge of useful labor and the example of a life characterized by disinterested benevolence. By such a life they show the true value of money, that it is only to be appreciated for the good that it will accomplish in relieving their own wants and the necessities of others, and in advancing the cause of God.
3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;
12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it,so there also may be a completion out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supplytheir lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
16 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
"His name shall be called Immanuel, . . . God with us." "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God" is seen "in the face of Jesus Christ." From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was "the image of God," the image of His greatness and majesty, "the outshining of His glory." It was to manifest this glory that He came to our world. To this sin-darkened earth He came to reveal the light of God's love,--to be "God with us." Therefore it was prophesied of Him, "His name shall be called Immanuel."
By coming to dwell with us, Jesus was to reveal God both to men and to angels. He was the Word of God,--God's thought made audible. In His prayer for His disciples He says, "I have declared unto them Thy name,"--"merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,"--"that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them." But not alone for His earthborn children was this revelation given. Our little world is the lesson book of the universe. God's wonderful purpose of grace, the mystery of redeeming love, is the theme into which "angels desire to look," and it will be their study throughout endless ages. Both the redeemed and the unfallen beings will find in the cross of Christ their science and their song. It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which "seeketh not her own" has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.
In the beginning, God was revealed in all the works of creation. It was Christ that spread the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth. It was His hand that hung the worlds in space, and fashioned the flowers of the field. "His strength setteth fast the mountains." "The sea is His, and He made it." Ps. 65:6; 95:5. It was He that filled the earth with beauty, and the air with song. And upon all things in earth, and air, and sky, He wrote the message of the Father's love.
Now sin has marred God's perfect work, yet that handwriting remains. Even now all created things declare the glory of His excellence. There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud.
The angels of glory find their joy in giving,--giving love and tireless watchcare to souls that are fallen and unholy. Heavenly beings woo the hearts of men; they bring to this dark world light from the courts above; by gentle and patient ministry they move upon the human spirit, to bring the lost into a fellowship with Christ which is even closer than they themselves can know.
But turning from all lesser representations, we behold God in Jesus. Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. "I do nothing of Myself," said Christ; "the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father." "I seek not Mine own glory," but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life.
The blessing of God will rest upon those who have the cause of Christ at heart. Free-will offerings, prompted by love to the crucified Redeemer, will bring back blessings to the giver; for God marks and remembers every act of liberality performed by his people. To carry forward the work of God for this time, there must be a constant exercise of faith in him. In business transactions men are willing to venture something, in the hope of gain. Should we be less willing to invest our means in the cause of truth, with the prospect of securing eternal riches?
Under the Jewish system, the people were required to cherish a spirit of liberality, both in sustaining the cause of God and in supplying the wants of the needy. At the harvest and the vintage, the first-fruits of the fields—corn, wine, and oil—were to be consecrated as an offering to the Lord. The gleanings and the corners of the fields were reserved for the poor. The first-fruits of the wool when the sheep were shorn, of the grain when the wheat was threshed, were to be offered to the Lord; and at the feast it was commanded that the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the strangers should be invited. At the close of every year all were required to make solemn oath whether or not they had done according to the command of God.
This arrangement was made by the Lord to impress upon the people that in every matter he must be first. They were, by this system of benevolence, reminded that their gracious Master was the true proprietor of their fields, their flocks, and their herds, that the God of Heaven sent them sunshine and rain for their seed-time and harvest, and that everything which they possessed was of his creation. All was the Lord's, and he had made them stewards of his goods.
The liberality of the Jews in the construction of the tabernacle evinced a spirit of benevolence which has not been equaled by the people of God at any later date. The Hebrews had just been freed from their long bondage in Egypt, they were wanderers in the wilderness; yet scarcely were they delivered from the armies of the Egyptians who pursued them in their hasty journey, when the word of the Lord came to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering; of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take my offering.”
His people had small possessions, and no flattering prospect of adding to them; but an object was before them, to build a tabernacle for God. The Lord had spoken, and they must obey his voice. They withheld nothing. All gave with a willing hand, not a certain amount of their increase, but a large portion of their actual possessions. They devoted it gladly and heartily to the Lord. They honored him by so doing. Was it not all his? Had he not given them all that they possessed? If he called for it, was it not their duty to give back to the lender his own? No urging was needed. The people brought even more than was required; and they were told to desist, for there was already more than could be appropriated.
Again, in building the temple, the call for means met with a hearty response. The people did not give reluctantly; they rejoiced in the prospect of a building being erected for the worship of God. They donated more than enough for the purpose. David blessed the Lord before all the congregation, and said, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” Again, in his prayer David gives thanks in these words: “O Lord, our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.”
David well understood from whom came all his bounties. Would that those of this day who rejoice in a Saviour's love could realize that their silver and gold is the Lord's, and should be used to promote his glory, not grudgingly retained to enrich and gratify themselves. He has an indisputable right to all that he has lent his creatures. All that they possess is his.
There are high and holy objects that require means; thus invested, it will yield to the giver more elevated and permanent enjoyment than if expended in personal gratification or selfishly hoarded for the greed of gain. When God calls for our treasure, whatever the amount may be, the willing response makes the gift a consecrated offering to him, and lays up for the giver a treasure in Heaven that moth cannot corrupt, nor fire consume, nor thieves break in and steal. The investment is safe. The money is placed in bags that have no holes.
Can Christians, who boast of a broader light than had the Hebrews, give less freely than they? Can Christians, living near the close of time, be satisfied with their offerings when not half so large as were those of the Jews? Their liberality was to benefit their own nation; the work of God in these last days extends to the entire world. The message of truth is to go to all nations, tongues, and people; its publications, printed in many different languages, are to be scattered abroad like the leaves in autumn.
It is written, “Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind;” and again, “He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Let us inquire, What would our Saviour do in our circumstances? what would be his efforts for the salvation of souls? This question is answered by the example of Christ. He left his royalty, laid aside his glory, sacrificed his riches, and clothed his divinity with humanity, that he might reach men where they were. He laid down his life for sinners.
The spirit of liberality is the spirit of Heaven. The spirit of selfishness is the spirit of Satan. Christ's self-sacrificing love is revealed upon the cross. He gave all that he had, and then gave himself, that man might be saved. The cross of Christ appeals to the benevolence of every follower of the blessed Saviour. The principle illustrated there is to give, give. This carried out in actual benevolence and good works is the true fruit of the Christian life. The principle of worldlings is to get, get, and thus they expect to secure happiness; but carried out in all its bearings, the fruit is misery and death.
To carry the truth to the population of the earth, to rescue them from their guilt and indifference, is the mission of the followers of Christ. Men must have the truth in order to be sanctified through it; and we are the channels of God's light. Our talents, our means, our knowledge, are not merely for our own benefit; they are to be used for the salvation of souls, to elevate man from his life of sin, and bring him, through Christ, to the infinite God.
We should be zealous workers in this cause, seeking to lead sinners, repenting and believing, to a divine Redeemer, to impress them with a sense of God's love to man. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What an incomparable love is this! a theme for the most profound meditation! the amazing love of God for a world that did not love him! The thought has a subduing power upon the soul, and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God. Men who are crazy for gain, and are disappointed and unhappy in their pursuit of the world, need the knowledge of this truth to quiet the restless hungering and thirsting of their souls.
Missionaries for God are wanted to carry light to those who sit in the shadow of death. Experienced hands are needed, in the meekness of wisdom and the strength of faith, to lift weary souls to the bosom of a compassionate Redeemer. Oh, selfishness! what a curse! It prevents us from engaging in the service of God. It prevents us from perceiving the claims of duty, which should set our hearts aglow with fervent zeal.
Ours is a great work. Yet how many who profess to believe these sacred truths are paralyzed by the sophistry of Satan, doing nothing for God, but rather hindering his cause. When will they act like those who wait for the Lord? When will they show a zeal in accordance with their faith? Many selfishly retain their means, and soothe their conscience with a plan for doing some great thing for the cause of God after their death. They make a will, donating a large sum to the church and its various interests, and then settle down with a feeling that they have done all that is required of them. Wherein have they denied self by this act? They have, on the contrary, exhibited only selfishness. When they have no further use for their money, they propose to give it to God. But they will retain it as long as they can, till they are compelled to relinquish it by a messenger that cannot be turned aside.
God has made us all his stewards, and in no case authorized us to neglect our duty or leave it for others to do. The call for means to advance the cause of truth will never be more urgent than now. Our money will never do a greater amount of good than at the present time. Every day of delay in rightly appropriating it, is limiting the period in which it will do good in the saving of souls. If we leave others to accomplish that which God has left for us to do, we wrong ourselves and Him who gave us all we have. How can others do our work of benevolence any better than we can do it ourselves? God would have every man an executor of his own will in this matter, during his lifetime.
Adversity, accident, or intrigue may cut off forever intended acts of benevolence, when he who has accumulated a fortune is no longer by to guard it. It is sad that so many neglect the golden opportunity to do good in the present, but wait to be cast out of their stewardship before giving back to the Lord the means which he has lent them to be used for his glory.
One marked feature in the teachings of Christ is the frequency and earnestness with which he rebuked the sin of covetousness and pointed out the danger of worldly acquisitions and the inordinate love of gain. In the mansions of the rich, in the temple, and in the streets, he warned those who inquired after salvation, “Take heed and beware of covetousness.” “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
It is this increasing devotion to money-getting, the selfishness which the desire for gain begets, that deadens the spirituality of the church, and removes the favor of God from her. When the head and hands are constantly occupied with planning and toiling for the accumulation of riches, the claims of God and humanity are forgotten.
If God has blessed us with prosperity, it is not that our time and attention should be diverted from him and given to that which he has lent us. The giver is greater than the gift. We have been bought with a price, we are not our own. Have we forgotten that infinite price paid for our redemption? Is gratitude dead in the heart? Does not the cross of Christ put to shame a life of selfish ease and indulgence?
What if Christ had left his work, becoming weary in consequence of the ingratitude and abuse that met him on every side! What if he had never reached that period when he said, “It is finished!” What if he had returned to Heaven, discouraged by his reception! What if he had never passed through that soul agony in the garden of Gethsemane that forced from his pores great drops of blood!
Christ was joined to his plan of labor to work out redemption for the race, by a love that is without parallel and an unswerving devotion to the Father's will. He toiled for the good of man up to the very hour of his humiliation. He spent his life in poverty and self-denial, for the degraded sinner. In a world that was his own he had no place to lay his weary head. We are reaping the fruits of this infinite self-sacrifice; and yet, when labor is to be done, when our money is wanted to aid the work of the Redeemer in the salvation of souls, we shrink from duty and pray to be excused. Ignoble sloth, careless indifference, and wicked selfishness seal our senses to the claims of God.
Oh, must Christ, the Majesty of Heaven, the King of glory, bear the heavy cross, and wear the thorny crown, and drink the bitter cup, while we recline at ease, glorify ourselves, and forget the souls he died to redeem by his precious blood? No; let us give while we have the power. Let us do while we have the strength. Let us work while it is day. Let us devote our time and our means to the service of God, that we may have his approbation, and receive his reward.
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.