by Andrew Murray,
The four articles on money contained in this little book are
a reprint from the South African Pioneer, the organ of the South Africa
General Mission. They have been much appreciated by those who have read
them, and are now sent forth with the earnest prayer that they may be
mightily used of God, to the awakening of Christians all over the world to
the privilege of giving.
14A Lingfield Road, Wimbledon.
– Christ's Estimate of Money
CHAPTER 2 -- The
Holy Spirit and Money
CHAPTER 3 -- The
Grace of God and Money
CHAPTER 4 -- The
Poverty of Christ
CHAPTER 1 –
Christ's Estimate of Money
"Jesus watched how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that
were rich cast in much. And a certain poor widow came, and cast in a
farthing. Jesus called His disciples, and said to them, ‘This poor widow has
cast more in than all the others: for all they cast in out of their
abundance; but she in her lack cast in all that she had, even all her
living.’” Mark 12: 41.
In all our religion and our Bible study, it is of the greatest consequence
to find out what the mind of Christ is, to think as He thought, and to feel
just as He felt. There is not a question that concerns us, not a single
matter that ever comes before us, but we find in the words of Christ
something for our guidance and help. We want today to get at the mind of
Christ about money; to know exactly what he thought, and then to think and
act just as He would do. This is not an easy thing. We are so under the
influence of the world around us, that the fear of becoming utterly
unpractical if we thought and acted just like Christ easily comes upon us.
Let us not be afraid; if we really desire to find out what is His mind, He
will guide us to what He wants us to think and do.
Only be honest in the thought: I want to have Christ teach me how to possess
and how to use my money.
Look at Him for a moment sitting here over against the treasury, watching
the people putting in their gifts. Thinking about money in the church,
looking after the collection: we often connect that with Judas, or some
hard-worked deacon, or the treasurer or collector of some society. But see
here -- Jesus sits and watches the collection. And as He does it, He weighs
each gift in the balance of God, and puts its value on it. In heaven He does
this still. Not a gift for any part of God's work, great or small, but He
notices it, and puts its value on it for the blessing, if any, that it is to
bring in time or eternity. And He is willing, even here on earth in the
waiting heart, to let us know what He thinks of our giving. Giving money, is
a part of our religious life, is watched over by Christ, and must be
regulated by His word. Let us try and discover what the scriptures have to
1. Money giving a sure test of character.
In the world money is the standard of value. It is difficult to express all
that money means. It is the symbol of labor and enterprise and cleverness.
It is often the token of God's blessing on diligent effort. It is the
equivalent of all that it can procure of the service of mind or body, of
property or comfort or luxury, of influence and power. No wonder that the
world loves it, seeks it above everything, and often worships it. No wonder
that it is the standard of value not only for material things, but for man
himself, and that a man is too often valued according to his money.
It is, however, not only thus in the kingdom of this world, but in the
kingdom of heaven too, that a man is judged by his money, and yet on a
different principle. The world asks, what does a man own? Christ, how does
he use it? The world thinks more about the money getting; Christ about the
money giving. And when a man gives, the world still asks, what does he give?
Christ asks, how does he give? The world looks at the money and its amount,
Christ at the man and his motive. See this in the story of the poor widow.
Many that were rich cast in much; but it was out of their abundance; there
was no real sacrifice in it; their life was as full and comfortable as ever,
it cost them nothing. There was no special love or devotion to God in it;
part of an easy and traditional religion. The widow cast in a farthing. Out
of her want she cast in all that she had, even all her living. She gave all
to God without reserve, without holding back anything, she gave all.
How different our standard and Christ's. We ask how much a man gives. Christ
asks, how much he keeps. We look at the gift. Christ asks whether the gift
was a sacrifice.
The widow kept nothing over, she gave all; the gift won His heart and
approval, for it was in the spirit of His own self-sacrifice, who, being
rich, became poor for our own sakes. They -- out of their abundance -- cast
in much: She, out of her want -- all that she had.
But if our Lord wanted us to do as she did, why did He not leave a clear
command about it? How gladly we then would do it. Ah! there you have it. You
want a command to make you do it: that would just be the spirit of the world
in the church looking at what we give, at our giving all. And that is just
what Christ does not wish and will not have. He wants the generous love that
does it unbidden. He wants every gift to be a gift warm and bright with
love, a true free will offering. If you want the Master's approval as the
poor widow had it, remember one thing: You must put all at his feet, hold
all at his disposal.
And that, as the spontaneous expression of a love that, like Mary, cannot
help giving, just because it loves.
All my money giving -- what a test of character! Lord Jesus! Oh give me
grace to love Thee intently, that I may know how to give.
2. Money giving a great means of grace.
Christ called His disciples to come and listen while He talked to them about
the giving He saw there. It was to guide their giving and ours. Our giving,
if we listen to Christ with the real desire to learn, will have more
influence on our growth in grace than we know.
The spirit of the world, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and
the pride of life." Money is the great means the world has for gratifying
its desires. Christ has said of His people, "they are not of the world, as I
am not of the world." They are to show in their disposal of money that they
act on unworldly principle, that the spirit of heaven teaches them how to
use it. And what does that spirit suggest?
Use it for spiritual purposes, for what will last for eternity, for what is
pleasing to God. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh and its
lusts." One of the ways of manifesting and maintaining the crucifixion of
the flesh is never to use money to gratify it. And the way to conquer every
temptation to do so, is to have the heart filled with large thoughts of the
spiritual power of money. Would you learn to keep the flesh crucified --
refuse to spend a penny on its gratification. As much as money spent on
self, may nourish and strengthen and comfort self, money sacrificed to God
may help the soul in the victory that overcomes the world and the flesh.
Our whole life of faith may be strengthened by the way we deal with money.
Many men have to be engaged continually in making money -- by nature the
heart is dragged down and bound to earth in dealing with what is the very
life of the world. It is faith that can give a continual victory over this
temptation. Every thought of the danger of money, every effort to resist it,
every loving gift to God, helps our life of faith.
We look at things in the very light of God. We judge of them as out of
eternity, and the money passing through our hands and devoted to God may be
a daily education in faith and heavenly-mindedness.
Very specially may our money-giving strengthen our life of love. Every grace
needs to be exercised if it is to grow; most of all is this true of love.
And -- did we but know it -- how our money might develop and strengthen our
love, as it called us to the careful and sympathizing consideration of the
needs of those around us. Every call for money, and every response we give,
might be the stirring of a new love, and the aid to a fuller surrender to
its blessed claims.
Do believe. Money giving may be one of your choicest means of grace, a
continuous fellowship with God in the renewal of your surrender of your all
to Him, and in proof of the earnestness of your heart to walk before Him in
self-denial, and faith and love.
3. Money-giving a wonderful power for God.
What a wonderful religion Christianity is. It takes money, the very
embodiment of the power of sense of this world, with its self-interest, its
covetousness, and its pride, and it changes it into an instrument for God's
service and glory.
Think of the poor. What help and happiness is brought to tens of thousands
of helpless ones by the timely gift of a little money from the hand of love.
God has allowed the difference of rich and poor for this very purpose --
that just as in the interchange of buying and selling mutual dependence upon
each other is maintained among men -- so in the giving and receiving of
charity there should be abundant scope for the blessedness of doing and
receiving good. He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." What
a God-like privilege and blessedness to have the power of relieving the
needy and making glad the heart of the poor by gold or silver. What a
blessed religion that makes the money we give away a source of greater
pleasure than that which we spend on ourselves. The latter is mostly spent
on what is temporal and carnal -- that spent in the work of love has eternal
value, and brings double happiness, to ourselves and others too.
Think of the church and its work in this world; of Missions at home and
abroad, and the thousand agencies for winning men from sin to God and
Holiness. Is it indeed true that the coin of this world, by being cast into
God's treasury in the right spirit, can receive the stamp of the mint of
heaven, and be accepted in exchange for heavenly blessings? It is true. The
gifts of faith and love go not only into the Church's treasury, but into
God's own treasury, and are paid out again in heavenly goods. And that not
according to the earthly standard of value, where the question always is,
How much? but according to the standard of heaven, where men's judgments of
much and little, great and small, are all unknown. Christ has immortalized a
poor widow's farthing. It shines through the ages brighter with His approval
than the brightest gold. It has been a blessing to tens of thousands in the
lesson it has taught. It tells you that your farthing, if it be your all,
that your gift, if it be honestly given as all you ought to give to the Lord
at the time, has His approval, His stamp, His eternal blessing.
If we did but take more time in quiet thoughtfulness for the Holy Spirit to
show us our Lord Jesus in charge of the Heavenly Mint, stamping every true
gift, and then using it for the Kingdom, surely our money would begin to
shine with a new luster. And we should begin to say -- the less I can spend
on myself, and the more on my Lord, the richer I am. And we shall see how,
as the widow was richer in her gift and her grace than the many rich, so he
is richest who truly gives all he can.
4. Money giving a continual help on the ladder to heaven.
You know how often our Lord Jesus spake of this in His parables. In that of
the unjust steward He said, “Make friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness,
that they may receive you in the eternal habitations.” In the parable of the
talents He said, “You ought to have put my money.” The man who had not used
his talent, lost all. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, it is they
who have cared for the needy and the wretched in His name, who shall hear
the word -- “Come, you blessed of my Father.”
We cannot purchase heaven -- as little with money as with works. But in your
money giving, heavenly-mindedness and love to Christ, and love to men, and
devotion to God's work, are cultivated and proved -- the "Come, you blessed
of My Father, inherit the Kingdom," will take count of the money truly spent
on Christ and his work. Our money giving must prepare us for heaven.
Oh! how many there are who if heaven and holiness could be bought for a
thousand pounds would give it. No money can buy it. But if they only knew,
money can wondrously help on the path of holiness and heaven. Money given in
the spirit of self-sacrifice, and love, and faith in Him who has paid all,
brings a rich and eternal reward. Day by day give as God blesses and as He
asks -- it will help to bring heaven nearer to you, it will help to bring
you nearer to heaven.
The Christ who sat over against the treasury is my Christ. He watches my
gifts. What is given in the spirit of wholehearted devotion and love He
accepts. He teaches His disciples to judge as He judges. He will teach me
how to give, how much, how lovingly, how truthfully.
Money -- this is what I want to learn from Him above all -- money, the cause
of so much temptation and sin, and sorrow and eternal loss; money, as it is
received and administered and distributed at the feet of Jesus, the Lord of
the Treasury, becomes one of God's choicest channels of grace to myself and
to others. In this, too, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved
Who gave a farthing, and gave her all. Lord! give Your Church, in her
poverty, give us all the spirit of the poor widow.
CHAPTER 2 --
The Holy Spirit and Money
When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost to dwell in men,
He assumed the charge and control of their whole life. They were to be or do
nothing that was not under His inspiration and leading. In everything they
were to move and live and have their being "in the Spirit," to be wholly
spiritual men. Hence it followed as a necessity that their possessions and
property, that their money and its appropriations were subjected to His rule
too, and that their income and expenditure were animated by new, hitherto
In the opening chapters of the Acts we find more than one proof of the
all-embracing claim of the Holy Spirit to guide and judge in the disposal of
money. If I want as a Christian to know how to give, let me learn here what
the teaching of the Holy Spirit is as regards the place money is to have in
my Christian life and in that of the Church.
First we have: The Holy Spirit taking possession of the money.
"All that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold
their possessions and goods, and parted them to all according as every man
had need." Acts 2: 44, 45. And again, Acts 4: 34: "As many as were
possessors of land or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the
things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles' feet. And Barnabas
having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the Apostles'
feet." Without any command or instruction, in the joy of the Holy Spirit,
the joy of the love which He had shed abroad in their heart, the joy of the
heavenly treasures that now made them rich, they spontaneously parted with
their possessions and placed them at the disposal of the Lord and His
It would have been strange had it been otherwise, and a terrible loss to the
Church. Money is the great symbol of the power of happiness of this world;
one of its chief idols, drawing men away from God; a never-ceasing
temptation to worldliness, to which the Christian is daily exposed. It would
not have been a full salvation that did not provide complete deliverance
from the power of money. The story of Pentecost assures us that when the
Holy Spirit comes in His fulness into the heart, then earthly possessions
lose their place in it, and money is only valued as a means of proving our
love and doing service to our Lord and our fellow men. The fire from heaven
that finds a man upon the altar and consumes the sacrifice, finds his money
too, and makes it all ALTAR GOLD, holy to the Lord.
We learn here the true secret of Christian giving, the secret, in fact, of
all true Christian living -- the joy of the Holy Ghost. How much of our
giving then has there been in which this element has been too much lacking.
Habit, example, human argument and motive, the thought of duty, or the
feeling of the need around us, have had more to do with our charities than
the power and love of the Spirit. It is not that what has just been
mentioned is not needful. The Holy Spirit makes use of all these elements of
our nature in stirring us to give. There is a great need for inculcating
principles and fixed habits in regard to giving. But what we need to realize
is that all this is but the human side, and cannot suffice if we are to give
in such measure and spirit as to make every gift a sweet-smelling sacrifice
to God and a blessing to our own souls.
The secret of true giving is the joy of the Holy Ghost.
The complaint in the Church as to the terrible need of more money for God's
work, as to the terrible disproportion between what God's people spend on
themselves and devote to their God, is universal. The pleading cry of many
of God's servants who labor for the poor and the lost, is often
heart-piercing. Let us take to heart the solemn lesson: it is simply a proof
of the limited measure in which the power of the Holy Spirit is known among
believers. Let us for ourselves pray most fervently the prayer that our
whole life may be so in the joy of the Holy Spirit, a life so absolutely
yielded to Him and His rule, that all our giving may be a spiritual
sacrifice, through Jesus Christ.
Our second Pentecostal lesson on money we find in Chapter 3: 6: "Then Peter
said, silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that I give you. In the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" Here it is: The Holy Spirit
dispensing with money.
Our first lesson was: the Church of Pentecost needs money for its work; the
Spirit of Pentecost provides money; money may be at once a sure proof of the
Spirit's mighty working, and a blessed means of opening the way for His
fuller action. But there is a danger ever near. Men begin to think that
money is the great need; that abundance of money coming in is a proof of the
Spirit's presence; that money must be strength and blessing. Our second
lesson dissipates these illusions, and teaches us how the power of the
Spirit can just be shown where there is no money. The Holy Spirit is the
mighty power of God, now condescending to use the money of His saints, then
again proving how divinely independent He is of it. The Church must yield
herself to be guided into this double truth; the Holy Spirit claims all its
money; the Holy Spirit's mightiest works may be wrought without it. The
Church must never beg for money as if this were the secret of her strength.
See these Apostles, Peter and John, penniless in their earthly poverty, and
yet just in virtue of their poverty, mighty to dispense heavenly blessings.
"Poor, yet making many rich." Where had they learned this? Peter says,
"Silver and gold have I none; in the name of Jesus Christ, walk." It points
us back to the poverty which Christ had enjoined upon them, and of which He
had set them the wonderful example. By his holy poverty He would prove to
men what a life is of perfect trust in the Father, how the possession of
heavenly riches makes independent of earthly goods, how earthly poverty fits
the better for holding and for dispensing eternal treasures. The inner
circle of His disciples found in following the footsteps of His poverty the
fellowship of His power. The Apostle Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit the
same lesson. To be ever in external things, utterly loose even from earth's
lawful things, is a wonderful, he almost appears to say an indispensable,
help in witnessing to the absolute reality and sufficiency of the unseen
We may be sure that as the Holy Spirit begins to work in power in His
Church, there will again be seen His mighty operation in the possession of
His people. Some will again by their giving make themselves poor, in the
living faith of the incomprehensible worth of their heavenly heritage, and
the fervent joy the Spirit gives them in it. And some who are poor and in
great straits with their work for God will learn to cultivate more fully the
joyful consciousness: "Silver and gold have I none: what I have I give: in
the name of Jesus Christ, walk." And some who are not called to give all,
will yet give with an unknown liberality, because they begin to see the
privilege of giving all, and long to come as near as they can. And we shall
have a Church, giving willingly and abundantly, and yet not for a moment
trusting in its money, but honoring those most who have the grace and the
strength to be followers of Jesus Christ in His poverty.
Our third lesson is: The Holy Spirit testing the money. All the money that
is given, even in a time when the Holy Spirit is moving mightily, is not
given under His inspiration. But it is all given under his holy supervision,
and He will from time to time, to each heart that honestly yields to Him,
reveal what there may be wanting or wrong. Listen: "Barnabas having a field,
sold it, and brought the money. But Ananias sold a possession and kept back
part of the price, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the the
Apostles' feet." Ananias brought his gift, and with his wife was smitten
dead. What can have made the gift such a crime? He was a deceitful giver. He
kept back part of the price.
He professed to give all, and did not. He gave with half a heart and
unwillingly, and yet would have the the credit of having given all. In the
Pentecostal Church the Holy Ghost was the author of the giving: his sin was
against the Holy Ghost. No wonder that it is twice written: "great fear came
upon the whole Church, and upon all who heard it." If it is so easy to sin
even in giving, if the Holy Spirit watches and judges all our giving, we may
well beware and fear.
And what was the sin? Simply this: he did not give all he professed. This
sin, not in its greatest form, but in its spirit and more subtle
manifestation s, is far more common than we think. Are there not many who
say they have given their all to God, and yet prove false to it in the use
of their money? Are there not many who say all their money is their Lord's,
and that they hold it as His stewards, to dispose of it as He directs, and
yet who, in the amount they spend on God's work, as compared with that on
themselves, and in accumulating for the future, prove that stewardship is
but another name for ownership?
Without being exactly guilty of the sin of Judas, or Caiaphas, or Pilate, in
crucifying our Lord, a believer may yet partake with them in the spirit in
which he acts. Even so we may be grieving the Holy Ghost, even while we
condemn the sin of Ananias, by giving way to the spirit in which he acted,
and withholding from God what we have professed to give Him. Nothing can
save us from this danger, but the holy fear of ourselves, the very full and
honest surrender of all our opinions, and arguments, about how much we may
possess, and how much we may give, to the testing and searching of the Holy
Spirit. Our giving must be in the light, if it is to be in the joy of the
And what was it that led Ananias to this sin? Most probably the example of
Barnabas, the wish not to be outdone by another. Alas! how much there is of
asking what men will expect from us. The thought of the judgment of men is
present to us more than the judgment of God. And we forget that our gifts
are accounted of God, Only by what the heart gives: it is the wholehearted
giver that meets Him. How much has the Church done to foster the worldly
spirit that values gifts by what they are in men's sight, in forgetfulness
of what they are to Him that search the heart.
May the Holy Spirit teach us to make every gift part and parcel of a life of
entire consecration to God. This cannot be until we be filled with the
Spirit: this can be, for God will fill us with His Spirit.
4. There is still a lesson, less needful, no less solemn than that of
Ananias (8: 19). The Holy Ghost rejecting Money.
"Simon offered them money saying, ‘Give me also this power.’ But Peter said
to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you have thought to obtain the
gift of God with money.' "
The attempt to gain power or influence in the church of God by money brings
Here, more than with Ananias it was simple ignorance of the spiritual and
unworldly character of the Kingdom of Christ. How little Simon understood
the men he dealt with. They needed money, they could well use it for
themselves and for others. But the Holy Spirit, with the powers and
treasures of the unseen world had taken such possession of them, and so
filled them, that money was as nothing. Let it perish rather than have
anything to say in God's Church. Let it perish rather than for one moment
encourage the thought that the rich man can acquire a place or a power which
a poor man has not.
Has the Church been faithful to this truth in her solemn protest against the
claims of wealth? Alas for the answer its history gives. There have been
noble instances of true Apostolic succession in their maintenance of the
superiority of the gift of God to every earthly consideration. But too often
the rich have had an honor and an influence given them, apart from grace or
godliness, which has surely grieved the Spirit and injured the church.
The personal application is here again the matter of chief importance. Our
nature has been so brought under the power of the spirit of this world, our
fleshly mind, with its dispositions and habits of thought and feeling, is so
subtle in its influence that nothing can deliver us from the mighty spell
that money exacts but a very full and abiding enjoyment of the Spirit's
presence and working. To be entirely dead to all worldly ways of thinking,
the Holy Spirit alone can give us. And He can only give it as He fills us
with the very presence and power of the life of God.
Let us pray that we may have such a faith in the transcendent glory, in the
absolute claim and sufficiency of the Holy Spirit as God's gift to the
Church to be her strength and riches, that money may ever be kept under
Christ's feet and under ours, with its only worth as the earthen vessel for
His heavenly ministry.
Blessed Lord Jesus, teach and keep us that, like Barnabas, we may lay our
money all at Your feet, and hold it all at Your disposal. Teach and keep us
that like Peter, we may rejoice in the poverty that teaches us to prove our
trust in the power of Your Spirit. Teach and keep us, lest, like Ananias,
our profession of living entirely for You be belied, by our giving to You.
Teach and keep us, lest, like Simon, we think that the gifts of God or power
over men can be obtained by money.
Most blessed Spirit! fill us with Yourself; come and fill Your Church with
Your living presence, and all our money will be Yours alone.
-- The Grace of God and Money
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might
become rich.” 2 Cor. 8: 9.
In this and the following chapters we have Paul's teaching on the subject of
Christian giving. In connection with a collection he wishes the Corinthian
Christians from among the Gentiles to make for their Jewish brethren, he
opens up the heavenly worth of our earthly gifts, and unfolds principles
which ought to animate us as we offer our money in God's service. He does
this especially as he cites the example of the Macedonian Christians and
their abounding liberality, and makes them for all time the witnesses to
what God's grace can do in making the ingathering of money the occasion of
the deepest joy, of the revelation of the true Christlikeness, and of
abounding thanksgiving and glory to God. Let us gather up some of the
principal lessons; they may help us to find the way by which our money can
increasingly become a means and a proof of the progress of the heavenly life
1. The Grace of God always teaches us to give. "We make known to you the
grace of God which has been given to the churches of Macedonia." 2 Cor. 8:1.
In the course of the two chapters the word grace occurs eight times. Once of
"the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sakes became poor." Once of
"the grace which God is able to make abound to us." The other six times of
the special grace of giving.
We all think we know what the word means. It is not only used of the
gracious disposition in God's heart towards us, but much more of that
gracious disposition which God bestows and works in us. Grace is the force,
the power, the energy of the Christian life, as it is wrought in us by the
Holy Spirit. We all know the command to stand fast in grace, to grow in
grace, to seek for more grace. We rejoice in the words, exceeding grace,
grace abounding exceedingly, grace exceedingly abundant. We pray continually
that God would increase and magnify His grace in us.
We know the law of the Christian life: that no grace can be truly known or
increased, except by acting it out. Let us learn here that the use of our
money for others is one of the ways in which grace can be expressed and
strengthened. The reason is clear. Grace in God is His compassion on the
unworthy. His grace is wondrously free. It is always giving, without regard
to merit. God finds his life and his delight in giving.
And when His grace enters the heart, it cannot change its nature: whether in
God or man, grace loves and rejoices to give. And grace teaches a man to
look upon this as the chief value of his money -- the Godlike power of doing
good, even at the cost of enriching others by impoverishing ourselves.
Let us learn the lessons. If we have God's grace in us it will show itself
in giving. If we want new grace, we must exercise what we have in giving.
And in all we give we ought to do it in the consciousness of the grace of
God that works it in us.
2. The Grace of God teaches to give liberally. "Their deep poverty abounded
unto the riches of their liberality, for according to their power, yea,
beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much
entreaty in regard of this grace." 2 Cor. 8:2. What a sight! And what a
proof of the power of grace! These newly converted Gentiles in Macedonia
hear of the need of their Jewish brethren in Jerusalem -- men unknown and
despised -- and at once are ready to share with them what they have.
Of their own accord, they so give beyond their power, that Paul refuses to
accept their gifts: with much entreaty they implore and persuade him to
accept the gift. "Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their
It is remarkable how much more liberality there is among the poor than the
rich. It is as if they do not hold so fast what they have: they more easily
part with all; the deceitfulness of riches has not hardened them; they have
learned to trust God for tomorrow. Their liberality is not indeed what men
count such; their gifts are but small. Men say it does not cost them much to
give all; they are so accustomed to have little. And yet the very fact of
their giving it more easily is what makes it precious to God; it shows the
childlike disposition that has not yet learnt to accumulate and to hold
fast. God's way in His kingdom of grace on earth is ever from below,
upwards. "Not many wise and not many noble are called. God has chosen the
weak and the base things." And even so He has chosen the poor in this world,
as they give out of their deep poverty, to teach the rich what liberality
"Far beyond their power gave they of their own accord, beseeching us with
much entreaty that we would receive the gift." If this spirit were to
pervade our churches and men of moderate means and of large possessions were
to combine with the poor in their standard of giving, and the Macedonian
example became the law of Christian liberality, what means would not flow in
for the service of the kingdom.
3. The Grace of God teaches to give joyfully.
"The abundance of their joy abounded unto the riches of their liberality."
(8:2.) In the Christian life joy is the index of health and
whole-heartedness. It is not an experience for times and seasons: it is the
abiding proof of the presence and enjoyment of the Savior's love. No less
than our spiritual exercises, it is meant to pervade our daily duties and
our times of trial: "a joy that no man takes from you." And so it inspires
our giving, making the offering of our money a sacrifice of joy and
thanksgiving. And as we give joyfully, it becomes itself a new fountain of
joy to us, as a participation in the joy of Him who said "It is more blessed
to give than to receive."
The blessedness of giving: would that men believed how sure this way to
unceasing joy is, to be ever giving as God lives to give. Of the day when
Israel brought its gifts for the temple, it is said "then the people
rejoiced, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord;
and David the King also rejoiced with great joy."
That is a joy we may carry with us through life and through each day,
unceasingly dispensing our gifts of money, our lives or service all around.
God has implanted the instinct of happiness deep in every creature; it
cannot help being drawn to what gives happiness. Let us get our hearts
filled with the faith of the joy of giving: that joy will make to rich and
poor our calls to give among our most precious privileges; it will be true
of us, "and the abundance of their joy abounded to the riches of their
4. The Grace of God makes our giving part of our surrender to our Lord.
Paul says of their giving (8: 5), they not only did this, "but first they
gave their own selves to the Lord." In this sentence we have one of the most
beautiful expressions for what is needed to salvation, and what it is in
which full salvation consists. A man who has given himself to the Lord: that
comprises all our Lord asks of us; all the rest He will do. The expression
is nowhere else found in Scripture; we owe it to this dealing with the
matter of the collection. It tells us that giving money will have no value,
except we first give ourselves; that all our giving must just be the renewal
and carrying out of the first great act of self-surrender; that each new
gift of money may be a renewal of the blessedness of entire consecration.
It is only this thought that can lift our giving out of the ordinary level
of Christian duty, and make it truly the manifestation and the strengthening
of the grace of God in us. We are not under the law, but under grace. And
yet so much of our giving, whether in the church plate, or on the
subscription list, or on special occasions, is done as a matter of course,
without aught of the direct relation to our Lord. A truly consecrated life
is a life moment by moment in his love; it is this that will bring us to
what appears so difficult, ever to give in the right spirit and as an act of
worship. It is this will make "the abundance of our joy abound to the riches
of our liberality."
5. The Grace of God makes our giving part of the Christlike life.
"See that you abound in this grace also, for you know the grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor."
(8:9.) Every branch and leaf and blossom of the mightiest oak derives its
life from the same strong root that bears the stem. The life in the tiniest
bud is the same as in the strongest branch. We are branches in Christ the
Living Vine; the very life that lived and worked in Him. Of what consequence
that we should know well what His life is, that we may intelligently and
willingly yield to it. Here we have one of its deepest roots laid open;
"Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor, that you through His
poverty might become rich." To enrich and bless us, He impoverished Himself.
That was why the widow's mite pleased Him so; her gift was of the same
measure as His: "She cast in all she had." This is the life and grace that
seeks to work in us; there is no other mold in which the Christ-life can be
cast. "See that you abound in this grace also; for you know the grace of our
Lord Jesus, that he became poor." How little did the Macedonian Christians
know that they were, in their deep poverty, and in the riches of their
liberality, giving beyond their power, just acting out what the Spirit and
grace of Jesus was working in them. How little we would have expected that
the simple gift of these poor people would become the text of such high and
holy and heart-searching teaching. How much we need to pray that the Holy
Spirit may so master our purses and our possessions, that the grace of our
giving will, in some truly recognizable degree, be the reflection of our
Lord's. And how we need to bring our giving to the cross, and to seek
Christ's death to the world and its possessions as the power for ours. So
will we make others rich through our poverty, and our life be somewhat like
St. Paul's: "poor, yet making many rich."
6. The grace of God works in us not only the willing, but the doing. (8:10.)
"You were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also
to will. But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to
will, so there may be the performance also." We all know what a gulf in the
Christian life there often is between the willing and the doing. This
prevails in the matter of giving, too. How many long for a time when they
may be better off and able to give more. And meantime that wish, the fancied
willingness to give more, deceives them, and is made to do duty for present
liberality. How many who have the means, and intend doing something liberal,
yet hesitate, and the large donation during life, or the legacy in the will,
is never carried out. How many count themselves really liberal, because of
what they will, while what they do, even up to their present means, is not
what God would love to see. The message comes to all: "Now complete the
doing also; that as the readiness to will, so the completion also, out of
"It is God who works in as to will and to do"; let us beware, in any sphere,
of hindering Him by unbelief or disobedience, and resting in the ‘to will’,
without going on to the ‘to do’. The Christian life needs exercise; it is by
practice that godliness grows. If in anything we find that our giving has
not been up to this Scripture model, not as liberal and joyful, not in as
perfect accord with the spirit of our entire surrender to our Lord, or of
His making himself poor for us, let us at once, in addition to the readiness
to will, complete the doing also.
7. The grace of God makes the gift acceptable according to what a man has.
(8:12.) "For if the readiness is there, the gift is acceptable according to
what one has, not according to what he does not have." The God who sees the
heart, judges each gift by the ability to give. And His blessed Spirit gives
the upright heart the blessed consciousness that the gift on earth has found
approval and acceptance in heaven. God has been careful in His Word to teach
us this in every possible way. All the world's judgments of the value of
gifts are reversed in heaven; the love that gives liberally according to
what it has is met by the Father's love from above. Let us seek to redeem
our giving from all that is commonplace and little by taking hold of the
blessed assurance: it is acceptable. Let us refuse to give what appears to
satisfy us: let us pause, and rejoice in God's call to give, and in His
Spirit that teaches how much and how to give, and the deepest joy of giving
will come to us -- the Spirit's seal that the Father is well pleased.
8. The grace of God through the giving works out the true unity and equality
of all saints. (8:13.) "I say not this, that others may be eased and you
distressed; but by equality, your abundance being a supply at this present
time for their want, that their abundance may also become a supply to your
want. That there may be equality. As it is written: He that gathered much,
had nothing over: and he that gathered little had no lack." Another ray of
heavenly light on this appeal for a collection. Money will become the bond
of union that binds the Christians of Jerusalem and of Corinth into one.
They are one as much as Israel was one people. As in their ingathering of
the manna the feeble and the strong were to bring all into one store, that
all might share alike, so in the body of Christ. God allows of riches and
poverty, God bestows His gifts with apparently unequal hand, that our love
may have the high privilege of restoring the equality. The want of some
calls us to the love and the help and the blessedness of giving to others.
And at another time, or in different spheres, the very ones who needed help
may, in their turn, out of their abundance bless their helpers. Everything
has been so ordered that love will have room to work, and that there will be
opportunity to cultivate and to prove the Christlike spirit.
What a call and what a field in the needs of the world for all God's people
to prove that God's plan is theirs: "that there may be equality," and that
the spirit of selfish contentment with my greater privilege has been
banished by the Cross. In philanthropy and missions what a need for all
saints doing their utmost " according to their power -- yea, and beyond
In sight of the heathen world, oh! what an appeal that there be equality and
that we shall share and share alike with them what God gives us. What new,
unthought of, eternal value, money gets as one of the powers for giving to
the perishing, of the abundance we have in Christ.
There is no room left to enlarge on the further lessons of 2 Cor. 9. Let me
just mention them:
(9: 6.) Let the giving be bountiful: it will bring a bountiful reward.
(9: 7.) Let the giving not be grudging or of necessity: the cheerful giver
receives God's love.
(9: 8.) Let the giving be trustful: God will make all grace abound.
(9:11-13.) Your giving brings glory to God by the thanksgiving of those you
(9:15.) Your giving reminds of God's giving, and calls to thanks for His
What a world of holy thought and heavenly light opened up by the gifts of
the Macedonian and Corinthian converts! Will we not, under the power of that
thought and light, review all our giving and see that it be brought into
perfect accord with the Divine pattern in these chapters. Shall we not begin
at once, and yield to Him, who became poor for us, everything that
self-interest and self-indulgence has hitherto claimed and held. And shall
we not beseech Him to show in us by His Spirit that the one worth and
blessedness of money is to spend it for our Lord, to bless our fellowmen, to
use it as an instrument and an exercise of grace, and so to turn even it
into the treasure that lasts for eternity.
CHAPTER 4 --
The Poverty of Christ
“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." 2 Cor. 8:9.
"Through his poverty": what does that mean? That He dispossessed Himself of
all heavenly and earthly possessions that the riches of earth and heaven
might be ours? That He so took our place, as in our stead to walk in the
path of earthly poverty, that we in comfort and ease might enjoy the
heavenly riches he has won for us? Or has that "through his poverty" a
deeper meaning, and does it imply that His poverty is the very path or
passage that He opened up through which all must go who would fully enter
into His riches? Does it mean that, just as He needed in poverty of spirit
and body to die to the world that He might open for us the way to the
heavenly treasures, so we need to walk in His footsteps, and can only
through His poverty working in us, through fellowship with His poverty, come
to the perfect enjoyment of the riches He came to bring? In other words, is
the poverty of Jesus something for Him alone, or something in which his
disciples are to share?
There is scarce a trait in the life and character of Christ in which we do
not look to Him as an example -- what are the lessons His Holy Poverty has
to teach? Is the right to possess and enjoy the riches of earth as it is now
everywhere practiced in the Church part of what Christ has secured for us?
Or, is it possible that the lack of faith in the beauty and blessedness of
the poor life of Christ Jesus is part of the cause of our spiritual poverty;
our lack of Christ's poverty the cause of our lack of His riches? Is there
not a needs-be that we not only think of the one side, “for your sakes he
became poor"; but as much of the other, "For His sake I suffer the loss of
In seeking an answer to these questions, we must first turn and gaze upon
our blessed Lord, if maybe the Holy Spirit will unfold somewhat of the glory
of this His blessed attribute. Unless our heart be fixed upon our Lord in
patient and prayerful contemplation, and we wait for the Holy Spirit to give
us His illumination, we may indeed have our thoughts about this Divine
poverty, but we cannot really behold its glory, or have its power and
blessing enter our life. May God give us understanding!
Why Christ had to become poor. We must first of all see what the reason --
the needs-be -- was of this earthly poverty of Christ. He might have lived
on earth possessed of riches, and dispensing them with wise and liberal
hand. He might have come in the enjoyment of a moderate competency, just
enough to keep Him from the dependence and homelessness which was His lot.
In either case He might have taught His people of all ages such precious and
much-needed lessons as to the right use of the things of this world. What a
sermon His life would have been on the far-reaching words: “They that buy as
though they possessed not.” But no, there was a Divine necessity that His
life must be one of entire poverty. In seeking for the explanation, we shall
find two classes of reasons. There are those which have reference to us and
His work for us as our Savior. There are others which are more closely
connected with His own personal life as man, and the work the Father wrought
in Him, as He perfected Him through suffering.
Of the reasons referring to His work, the principal ones are easily named.
Christ's poverty is part of His entire and deep humiliation, a proof of His
perfect humility -- His willingness to descend to the very lowest depths of
human misery, and to share to the full in all the consequences of sin. The
poor have in all ages been despised, while the rich have been sought and
honored: Christ came to be the despised and neglected of men in this, too.
Christ's poverty has ever been counted one of the proofs of His love.
Love delights in giving, perfect love in giving all. The poverty of Christ
is one of the expressions of that self-sacrificing love which held back
nothing, and seeks to win us for itself by the most absolute self-abnegation
on our behalf. Christ's poverty is His fitness for sympathizing and helping
us in all the trials that come to us from our relation to this world and its
goods. The majority of mankind has to struggle with poverty. The majority of
God's saints have been a poor and afflicted people. The poverty of Christ
has been to tens of thousands the assurance that He could feel for them;
that, even as with Him, earthly need was to be the occasion for heavenly
help, the school for a life of faith, and the experience of God's
faithfulness the path to heavenly riches.
Christ's poverty is the weapon and the proof of His complete victory over
the world. As our Redeemer, He proved by His poverty that His kingdom is not
of this world, that as little as He feared its threats or its death could He
be tempted to seek help from its wealth or strength.
But these reasons are more external and official; the deeper spiritual
significance of Christ's poverty will be disclosed as we regard it as part
of His training as the Son of Man, and His exhibition of what the true life
of man is to be.
Christ's poverty was part of that suffering through which He learned
obedience and was perfected by God as our High Priest. To human nature
poverty must ever be a trial. We were made to be kings and possessors of all
things. To have nothing costs suffering.
Christ's human nature was not, as the Docetae taught, a mere appearance or
show. There never was one so really, so intensely, a man as Christ Jesus:
"true man of true man." Poverty implies dependence on others; it means
contempt and shame; it often brings want and suffering; it always lacks the
means and power of earth. Our blessed Lord felt all this as man. And it was
part of that suffering through which the Father worked out His will in His
Son, and the Son proved His submission to the Father, and His absolute trust
Christ's poverty was part of His school of faith, in which He Himself first
learned, and then taught men, that life is more than meat, and that man
lives "not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth
of God." In His own life He had to prove that God and the riches of heaven
can more than satisfy a man who has nothing on earth; that trust in God for
the earthly life is not vain; that one only needs as much as it pleases God
to give. In His person we have witness to the power which comes with the
preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven when the Preacher Himself is the evidence
of its sufficiency.
Christ's poverty was one of the marks of His entire separation from the
world, the proof that He was of another world and another spirit. As it was
with the fruit good for food and pleasant to the eye, sin entered the world,
so the great power of the world over men is in the cares and possessions and
enjoyments of this life. Christ came to conquer the world and cast out its
prince, to win the world back to God. He did so by refusing every temptation
to accept its gifts or seek its aid. Of this protest against the worldly
spirit, its self-pleasing and its trust in the visible, the poverty of
Christ was one of the chief elements. He overcame the world first in the
temptations by which its prince sought to ensnare Himself, then and through
that in its power over us. The poverty of Christ was thus no mere accident
or external circumstance. It was an essential element of His holy, perfect
life; one great secret of this power to conquer and to save; His path to the
Glory of God.
The Poverty of Christ's Disciples.
We want to know what our share in this poverty of Christ is to be, whether
and how far we are to follow His example. Let us study what Christ taught
His disciples. When he said to them, "Follow Me," "Come after Me, I will
make you fishers of men," He called them to share with Him in His poor and
homeless life, in His state of entire dependence upon the care of God and
the kindness of men. He more than once used strong expressions about
forsaking all, renouncing all, losing all. And that they understood His call
so is manifest from their forsaking nets and customs, and saying, through
Peter, "We have forsaken all and followed You." The call of Christ to come
after Him is often applied as if it was the call to repentance and
salvation. This is by no means the case. The principles the call involves
have their universal application; but, to expound and enforce them in truth,
it is of great consequence first to understand the meaning of the call in
its original intention. Christ separated for Himself a band of men who were
to live with Him in closest fellowship, in entire conformity to His life,
under his immediate training. These three conditions were indispensable for
their receiving the Holy Spirit, for being true witnesses to Him and the
life which He had lived and would impart to men. With them, as with Him, the
surrender of all property and the acceptance of a state of poverty was
manifestly a condition and a means without which the full possession of the
heavenly riches in such power as to convince men of their worth could not
With Paul the case appears to have been very little different. Without any
express command we know of, the Spirit of his Master so possessed him, and
made the eternal world so real and glorious to him, that its expulsive power
made every thought of property or position disappear. He learnt to give
utterance, as no one else ever could do, to what must have been our Blessed
Lord's inmost life in the words he uses of himself: "as poor, yet making
many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things." And in his
wonderful life, as in his writings, he proves what weight it gives to the
testimony concerning eternal things when the witness can appeal to his own
experience of the infinite satisfaction which the unseen riches can give. In
Paul, as in Christ, poverty was the natural consequence of an all-consuming
passion, and made him a channel through whom the Invisible Power could flow
full and free.
The poverty of Christ in His Church.
The history of the church tells us a sad story of the increase of wealth and
worldly power, and the proportionate loss of the heavenly gift with which
she had been entrusted, and which could alone bless the nations. The
contrast to the Apostolic state is set in the clearest light by a story that
is told of one of the Popes. When Thomas Aquinas first visited Rome, and
expressed his amazement at all the wealth he saw, the Pope said, "We can no
longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “No, indeed;" was the answer,
"nor can we say, ‘What I have, that give I you. In the name of Jesus Christ
of Nazareth rise up and walk.’” The earthly poverty and the heavenly power
had been closely allied, with the one the other had gone. Through successive
ages the conviction ever came that it was only by a return to poverty that
the bonds of earth beneath would be broken and the blessing from above
brought back. And many a vain attempt was made to secure to poverty a place
in the preaching and practice of the church such as it had been in
Pentecostal days. At times, the earnest efforts of holy men met with
temporary success, soon to give way again to the terrible power of the great
enemy -- the world.
There were various reasons for this failure. One was that men understood not
that in Christianity it is not an external act or state that can profit, but
only the spirit that animates. The words of Christ were forgotten: "The
Kingdom of God is within you;" and men expected from poverty what only the
Spirit of Christ, revealing itself in poverty, could accomplish. Men sought
to make a law of it, to bind under its rules and gather into its
brotherhoods, souls that had no inner calling or capacity for such imitation
of Christ. The church sought to invest poverty with the mantle of a peculiar
holiness, and by its doctrine of Counsels of Perfection to offer a reward
for this higher perfection. She taught that, while what was commanded in the
Gospel was the duty of all, there were certain acts or modes of living which
were left to the choice of the disciple. They were not of binding
obligation; to follow these counsels was more than simple obedience, a work
of supererogation which therefore had special merit. Out of this grew the
doctrine of the power the church has to dispense this surplus merit of the
saints to those who were lacking. And, in some cases, poverty became only a
new source of self-righteousness, entering into covenant with wealth, and
casting its dark and deadly shadow over those it promised to save.
At the time of the Reformation, poverty had become so desecrated as a part
of the great system of evil it had to combat, that, in casting out those
errors, it cast out a part of the truth with them. Since that time it is as
if our Protestant theology has never ventured to enquire what the place and
the meaning and the power is which Christ and the Apostle really gave
poverty in their teaching and practice. And even in our days, when God is
still raising up not a few witnesses to the blessedness of giving up all to
trust in Him, and of possessing nothing that one may possess him the more
fully, the church can hardly be said to have found the right expression for
its faith in the spirit of Christ's poverty, as a power that is still to be
counted as one of the gifts He bestows on some members of His church. It
will be found that there is no small difficulty in trying to formulate the
teaching of Scripture so as to meet the views of Evangelical believers.
The poverty of Christ in our days.
I have spoken above of the errors connected with the teaching of the
Counsels of Perfection. And yet there was a measure of truth in that
teaching, too. The error was to say that the highest conformity to Christ
was not a matter of duty, but of option. Scripture says, "To him that knows
to do good and does it not, to him it is sin."
Wherever God's will is known, it must be obeyed. The mistake would have been
avoided if attention had been paid to the difference of knowledge or
spiritual insight by which our apprehensions of duty are affected. There is
a diversity of gift and capacity, of spiritual receptivity and growth, of
calling and grace, which makes a difference, not in the obligation of each
to seek the most complete inner conformity to Christ, but in the possibility
of externally manifesting that conformity in such ways as were seen in
During the three years of His public career, Christ gave Himself and His
whole time to direct work for God. He did not labor for His livelihood. He
chose for Himself disciples who would follow Him in this, forsaking all for
direct work in the service of the Kingdom. For admission to this inner
circle of Christ’s chosen ones, Christ demanded what He did not from those
who only came seeking salvation. They were to share with Him in the work and
the glory of the new Kingdom; they must share with Him in the poverty that
owns nothing for this world.
From what has been said above it is clear that no law can be laid down. It
is not a question of law, but of liberty. But we must understand that word
"liberty" aright. Too often Christian liberty is spoken of as our freedom
from too great restraint in sacrificing our own will, or the enjoyment of
the world. Its real meaning is the very opposite. True love asks to be as
free as possible from self and the world to bring its all to God. Instead of
the question, "How far am I, as a Christian, free still to do this or the
other?" The truly free spirit asks, "How far am I free to follow Christ to
the uttermost! Does the freedom with which Christ has made me free really
give us the liberty, in a love, which longs for the closest possible
likeness and union with Him -- still to forsake all and follow Him! Among
the gifts and calling he still dispenses to His church will there not be
some whom by His spirit He still draws in this particular, too, to bear and
show forth His image? Do we not need as much as when He and His apostles
were upon earth, men and women to give concrete and practical evidence that
the man who literally gives up all of earthly possession because he sets his
heart upon the treasure in heaven, can count upon God to provide for the
things of earth?
Is not, amid the universal confession of worldliness in the church and the
Christian life, just this the protest that is needed against the so subtle
but mighty claim that the world makes upon us? In connection with every
church and mission and work of philanthropy the question is asked, "How is
it that in Christian countries hundreds of millions are spent on luxuries,
with scarce single millions for God's work? Calculations are made as to what
could be done if all Christians were only to be moderately liberal. I fear
all such argument avails little.
Help must come from a different direction.
It was of the innermost circle that He had gathered around Himself that
Christ asked a poverty as absolute as His own. It is in the innermost circle
of God's children, among those who make the highest profession of insight
into the riches of grace and their entire surrender to it, that we must find
the witnesses that His Spirit can still inspire and strengthen to bear His
poverty. He has done it, and is doing it. In many a missionary and Salvation
Army officer, in many a humble unknown worker, His Spirit is working out
this trait of His blessed likeness. In the days we are looking for of deeper
revival among God's children He will do it still more abundantly.
Blessed are all they who wait for him, to receive His teaching, to know His
mind, and show forth His holy likeness. It is as the first, the inner,
circle proves the power of His presence, that the second and the third will
feel the influence. Men of moderate means, who may feel no calling to the
poor life, will come under the constraining power of the example and feel
compelled to sacrifice far more of comfort and enjoyment in Christ's service
than they ever did before. And the rich will have their attention attracted
to the danger signals God has set along their path. (Luke 18:25, Matt. 6:19,
21, 1 Tim. 6: 9, 10, 16). And will, by these examples, if they may not
themselves share in Christ's poverty, at least be helped to set their hearts
more intensely upon the treasure in heaven -- the being rich in faith, rich
in good works, rich toward God -- and themselves heirs of God, heirs of the
riches of grace, and the riches of glory.
Christ's poverty and the riches it brings.
“That you through His poverty might become rich." His POVERTY not only as an
object of our faith, but as a matter of experience and fellowship is the
passage through which the fullest entrance is gained into his riches. Let us
present together some of the aspects we have already pointed out of the
blessedness Christ's poverty and its voluntary fellowship brings.
What an aid to the spiritual life. It helps to throw the soul on God and the
unseen; to realize the absoluteness of His presence and care in the least
things of daily life; and is to make trust in God the actual moving spring
of every temporal as well as spiritual interest. And because it is not
possible to claim God's interposition for every day's food, if a man is not
consciously walking in tender and full obedience, it links the soul to God's
will and way by the closest of ties. The hourly needs of the body, which are
so often our greatest hindrance, become wonderful helps in lifting our
entire life into communion with God, and in bringing God down into
everything. It elevates the spirit above the temporal, and teaches us in
every state always to be content, always to rejoice and to praise.
What a protest against the spirit of this world. There is nothing the
Christian life suffers more from than the subtle and indescribable
worldliness that comes from the cares or the possessions of this life.
Through it the God of this world exercises his hidden but terrible power.
This is the Delilah in whose lap the God-separated Nazarite becomes impotent
and sleeps. To awaken and shake out of this sleep more than preaching is
needed, more than the ordinary Christian liberality, which quite comports
with the full enjoyment of all that abundance can supply: there is needed
the demonstration of the Spirit and of power that God enables men, and makes
it to them an indescribable blessedness, like their Lord, to give up
everything of the earth that they may more fully possess, and prove, and
proclaim the sufficiency of the heavenly riches and the satisfaction they
give. The protest against the spirit of this world will become the mightiest
proclamation of the kingdom of heaven, the self-evidencing revelation of how
heaven can even now take possession.
What entrance it will give into the image and likeness of Jesus. We adore
our Lord in the form of a servant, and worship Him in it as the most perfect
possible manifestation of a Godlike Humility and Love. His poverty was an
integral and essential part of that form of a servant in which He dwelt. In
all ages the love of some has given them no rest in the desire to attain the
closest possible conformity to the blessed Lord. In Him the outer and inner
were in such living harmony that the connection was not accidental; the one
was the only perfect and fit expression of the other. In the body of Christ
there are great diversities of gifts; the whole body is not eye, or ear, or
tongue. So there are some who have the calling and gift to manifest this
trait of His image, and for the sake of their brethren and the world, keep
alive the memory of this too much neglected part of the ever blessed
Incarnation. Blessed they Whom his Holy Spirit makes the representatives of
this His wondrous grace that, though He was rich, He became poor.
What a power then this poverty of Christ becomes to make others rich. It is
through His poverty we become rich. His poverty in His people brings the
same blessing. In the church, many who do not feel the calling, or who in
God's providence are not allowed to follow their desire for it, will be
stirred and strengthened by the sight. When some witness testifies to the
blessedness of entire conformity, others who are not called to this path
will feel urged, in the midst of the property they possess and retain, to
seek for as near an approach in spirit as is allowed them. Christian giving
will not only be more liberal in amount, but more liberal in spirit, in the
readiness and cheerfulness in the forethought and the actual self-sacrifice
by which it will be animated.
Through their poverty, too, through Christ's poverty in them, many shall be
made rich. Just as a specialist devotes himself to some limited branch of
(say) medical science, and all profit by the exclusiveness of his
researches, so through these, too, who love and live in and make manifest
the poverty of our Lord, the church becomes all the richer. Through them the
poverty of Christ gets a place in many hearts where it was not known, and it
is seen how this was part of His overcoming the world, and how it may be a
part of our victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Christ's poverty and our duty.
I have said that all have not the same calling. How are we to know what our
calling is? We may so easily allow ignorance or prejudice, self-indulgence
or worldliness, human wisdom or unbelief to sway us, to keep us from the
simplicity of the perfect heart, and to blind us to the full light of God's
perfect will. Let us see where the position is in which perfect safety will
be found, and where we may confidently count upon the Divine guidance and
A fortnight ago I stood by the bedside of a dying servant of God, Rev. Geo.
Ferguson, the principal of our Mission Institute. He told me how he had been
meditating on a text that had come in the course of his preparation for his
Mission class: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as
snow." As he thought, it was as if one said to him, "White as snow, do you
know what that is?" His answer was, "No, Lord, You only know, I do not." And
then the question came, "White as snow, can you attain that? -- can you make
yourself that?" "No, Lord, I cannot; but You can." And, again, he was asked,
"Are you willing that I should do it?" “Yes, Lord, by Your grace I am
willing. You should do all You can."
The three questions just suggest what our duty is. The heavenly poverty of
Jesus Christ -- do you know what it is? What it is in Him, in his disciples
and in Paul, in His saints in later days? What it would be in you? Let the
answer be, "No, Lord, You know." This is what we need first and most of all.
If God were to open our eyes to see the spiritual glory of our Lord in His
poverty, in His entire renunciation of everything of worldly comfort or
self-pleasing; if we saw the Divine glory of which it is the expression; if
we knew how infinitely beautiful it was to all the holy angels, how
infinitely well-pleasing to the Father, we should then only in some little
degree be able to say whether it was something we ought to desire and
imitate. If we saw the heavenliness and the measure of the likeness to our
Lord it would bring into our life, we should say, "I have spoken of what I
knew not -- Oh, that God would show me His glory in this too: ‘for your
sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich’!" Before
you judge of it, pray by the Holy Spirit to know it.
Then comes the second question. "Can you attain it? Can you, in the likeness
of Jesus, give up everything in the world for God and your fellow men, and
find your joy in the heavenly riches and the blessedness of dependence upon
God alone?" "No, Lord, I cannot; but You can work." Come and gaze upon the
Son of God and worship as you think. It was God that made Him what He was,
and that God can, by His mighty power, work in me His Divine likeness. Ask
God to reveal by His Spirit, what the poverty of Jesus is, and then to work
in you as much of it as you can bear. Be sure of this, the deeper your
entrance into His poverty, the richer you are.
And if the last question comes to search the heart -- "Are you willing for
it?" -- then, surely, your answer will be ready: "By Your grace, I am!" You
may see no way out of all the complications of your life. You may dread
bringing upon yourself sacrifices and trials you could not bear. Be not
afraid: you surely cannot fear giving yourself up to God's perfect love to
work out His perfect will. For all He really means you to do He will most
surely give light and strength. The Throne of Riches and Honor and Glory to
which the Lamb has been exalted is surely proof enough that there is no
surer way for us to riches and honor than through His poverty. The soul that
in simplicity yields to the leading of her Lord will find that the
fellowship of His suffering brings even here the fellowship of His glory:
"Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his
poverty might be rich."