Chapter 5—“Freely Ye Have Received, Freely Give”
Self-sacrifice is the keynote of the teachings of Christ. Often it is presented and enjoined in language that seems authoritative, because God sees that there is no other way to save man than to cut away from his life the selfishness which, if retained, would degrade the whole being.
Christ became poor that we might be partakers of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. We are to practice the same self-sacrifice that led Him to give Himself up to the death of the cross, to make it possible for human beings to have eternal life. In all our expenditure of means we are to strive to fulfill the purpose of Him who is the alpha and omega of all Christian effort.
We are to place in the Lord’s treasury all the means that we can spare. For this means, needy, unworked fields are calling. From many lands is sounding the cry, “Come over, … and help us.” Our church members should feel a deep interest in home and foreign missions. Great blessings will come to them as they make self-sacrificing efforts to plant the standard of truth in new territory. The money invested in this work will bring rich returns. New converts, rejoicing in the light received from the word, will in their turn give of their means to carry the light of truth to others.
God gives to us regularly, freely, abundantly. Every earthly blessing is from His hand. What if the Lord should cease to bestow His gifts upon us? What a cry of wretchedness, suffering, and want would go up from the earth! We need daily the unfailing flow of Jehovah’s goodness.
This world was established and is sustained by the compassionate love of the Creator. God is the giver of all we have. He calls upon us to return to Him a portion of the abundance He has bestowed on us. Think of the care He gives the earth, sending the rain and sunshine in their season, to cause vegetation to flourish. He bestows His favors on the just and on the unjust. Shall not the recipients of His blessings show their gratitude by giving of their means to help suffering humanity?
There are many souls to be brought to the saving knowledge of the truth. The prodigal is far from his Father’s house, perishing with hunger. He is to be the object of our compassion. Do you ask: “How does God regard those who are perishing in their sins?” I point you to Calvary. God “gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Think of the Saviour’s matchless love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died to save us from eternal death. In return for the great love wherewith Christ has loved you, you are to bring to Him your thank offering. You are to make a gratitude offering of yourself. Your time, your talents, your means—all are to flow to the world in a tide of love for the saving of the lost. Jesus has made it possible for you to accept His love and in happy co-operation with Him to work under its fragrant influence. He requires you to use your possessions in unselfish service, that His plan for the salvation of souls shall be carried forward with power. He expects you to give your undivided energies to His work.
Would you make your property secure? Place it in the hand that bears the nailprint of the crucifixion. Retain it in your possession, and it will be to your eternal loss. Give it to God, and from that moment it bears His inscription. It is sealed with His immutability. Would you enjoy your substance? Then use it for the blessing of the suffering.
The World’s Need of Help
The magnitude of our work calls for willing liberality on the part of the people of God. In Africa, in China, in India, there are thousands, yes, millions, who have not heard the message of the truth for this time. They must be warned. The islands of the sea are waiting for a knowledge of God. In these islands schools are to be established to prepare students to go to higher schools within reach, there to be educated and trained, and sent back to their island homes to give to others the light they have received.
In our own country there is much to be done. There are many cities to be entered and warned. Evangelists should be finding their way into all the places where the minds of men are agitated over the question of Sunday legislation and the teaching of religion in the public schools. It is the neglect of Seventh-day Adventists to improve these providential opportunities that is hindering the advancement of the cause.
The Lord has made us His stewards. He has placed His means in our hands for faithful distribution. He asks us to render to Him His own. He has reserved the tithe as His sacred portion to be used in sending the gospel to all parts of the world. My brethren and sisters, confess and forsake your selfishness, and bring to the Lord your gifts and offerings. Bring Him also the tithe that you have withheld. Come confessing your neglect. Prove the Lord, as He has invited you to do. “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:11.
Our Selfishness a Hindrance to God’s Work
Instruction has been given me that there is a withholding of the tithe that should be faithfully brought into the Lord’s treasury for the support of ministers and missionaries who are opening the Scriptures to the people and working from house to house. The work of evangelizing the world has been greatly hindered by personal selfishness. Some, even among professing Christians, are unable to see that the work of the gospel is to be supported by the means that Christ has given them. Money is needed in order that the work done all over the world may be carried forward. Thousands upon thousands are perishing in sin, and a lack of means is hindering the proclamation of the truth that is to be carried to all nations and kindreds and tongues and people. There are men ready to go forth as the Lord’s messengers, but because of a lack of means in the treasury they cannot be sent to the places where the people are begging for someone to come and teach them the truth.
There are many in our world who are longing to hear the word of life. But how can they hear without a preacher? And how can those sent to teach them live without support? God would have the lives of His workers carefully sustained. They are His property, and He is dishonored when they are compelled to labor in a way that injures their health. He is dishonored, also, when for lack of means workers cannot be sent to destitute fields.
In place of complaining of the officers of the General Conference because they cannot respond to the multiplied calls for men and means, let our church members bear a living testimony to the power of the truth by denying self and giving liberally for the advancement of the work. Let our sisters save by refusing to put expensive trimmings on their garments. Let every unnecessary expense be cut down. Let every family bring their tithes and offerings to the Lord.
Those who are truly converted will regard themselves as God’s almoners and will dispense, for the advancement of the work, the means He has placed in their hands. If Christ’s words were obeyed, there would be sufficient means in His treasury for the needs of His cause. He has entrusted to men and women an abundance of means for the carrying forward of His plan of mercy and benevolence. He bids His stewards of means invest their money in the work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and preaching the gospel to the poor. Perfection of character cannot possibly be attained without self-sacrifice.
Never was there a more important time in the history of our work than the present. The message of the third chapter of Malachi comes to us, holding up before us the need of honesty in our relations to the Lord and His work. My brethren, the money that you use to buy and sell and get gain will be a curse to you if you withhold from the Lord that which is His. The means entrusted to you for the advancement of the Lord’s work should be used in sending the gospel to all parts of the world.
We are Christ’s witnesses, and we are not to allow worldly interests and plans to absorb our time and attention. There are higher interests at stake. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” Matthew 6:33. Christ gave Himself willingly and cheerfully to the carrying out of the will of God. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. In view of all that He has done, should we feel it a hardship to deny self? Shall we draw back from being partakers of Christ’s sufferings? His death ought to stir every fiber of our beings, making us willing to consecrate to His work all that we have and are. As we think of all that He has done for us, our hearts should be filled with gratitude and love, and we should renounce all selfishness. What duty could the heart refuse to perform under the constraining influence of the love of Christ?
Shall we not, by self-denial, do all that we can to advance God’s enterprise of mercy? Can we behold the divine condescension, the suffering endured by the Son of God, without being filled with a desire to be allowed to sacrifice something for Him? Is it not a high honor to be allowed to co-operate with Him? He left His heavenly home to seek for us. Shall we not become His undershepherds, to seek for the lost and straying? Shall we not reveal in our lives His divine tenderness and compassion?
The Lord desires His people to be thoughtful and care-taking. He desires them to practice economy in everything. If the workers in the mission fields could have the means that is used in expensive furnishings and in personal adornment, the triumphs of the cross of Christ would be greatly extended.
Not all can make large offerings, not all can do great works, magnificent deeds; but all can practice self-denial, all can reveal the unselfishness of the Saviour. Some can bring large gifts to the Lord’s treasury; others can bring only mites; but every gift brought in sincerity is accepted by the Lord.
We plead for the money that is spent on needless things. My brethren and sisters, waste not your money in purchasing unnecessary things. You may think these little sums do not amount to much, but many littles will make a great whole. Cut off every extravagant expenditure. Indulge in nothing that is simply for display. Your money means the salvation of souls. Let there be systematic giving on the part of all. Some may be unable to give a large sum, but all can lay aside each week something for the Master. Let the children act their part. Let parents teach their children to save their pennies to give to the Lord. The gospel ministry is to be supported by self-denial and sacrifice. Through the self-denying efforts of God’s people others will be brought into the faith, and these in turn will help to increase the offerings made for the carrying forward of the Lord’s work.
Unmistakable evidences point to the nearness of the end. The way must be prepared for the coming of the Prince of Peace. Let not our church members complain because they are so often called upon to give. What is it that makes the frequent calls a necessity? Is it not the rapid increase of missionary enterprises? Shall we, by refusing to give, retard the growth of these enterprises? Shall we forget that we are laborers together with God? From every church, prayers should ascend to God for an increase of devotion and liberality. My brethren and sisters, do not plead for retrenchment in evangelical work. So long as there are souls to save, our interest in the work of soulsaving is to know no abating. The church cannot abridge her task without denying her Master. Not all can go as missionaries to foreign lands, but all can give of their means for the carrying forward of foreign missions.
There are new fields to be entered, and we must have your help. Shall we ignore the commission given us, and thus forfeit the fulfillment of the promise accompanying the commission? Shall the people of God become careless and indifferent, and refuse to give of their means for the advancement of His work? Can they do this without severing their connection with Him? They may think thus to economize, but it is a fearful economy that places them where they are separated from God.
My brethren and sisters, it is too late to devote your time and strength to self-serving. Let not the last day find you destitute of the heavenly treasure. Seek to push the triumphs of the cross, seek to enlighten souls, labor for the salvation of your fellow beings, and your work will abide the trying test of fire.
Every true, self-sacrificing worker for God is willing to spend and be spent for the sake of others. Christ says: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:25. By earnest, thoughtful efforts to help where help is needed, the true Christian shows his love for God and for his fellow beings. He may lose his life in service; but when Christ comes to gather His jewels to Himself, he will find it again.
My brethren and sisters, do not spend a large amount of time and money on self, for the sake of appearance. Those who do this are obliged to leave undone many things that would have comforted others, sending a warm glow to their weary spirits. We all need to learn how to improve faithfully the opportunities that so often come to us to bring light and hope into the lives of others. How can we improve these opportunities if our thoughts are centered on self? He who is self-centered loses countless opportunities for doing that which would have brought blessing to himself and others. It is the duty of the servant of Christ, under every circumstance, to ask himself, What can I do to help others? Having done his best, he is to leave the consequences with God.
God has provided for everyone pleasure that may be enjoyed by rich and poor alike—the pleasure found in cultivating pureness of thought and unselfishness of action, the pleasure that comes from speaking sympathizing words and doing kindly deeds. From those who perform such service, the light of Christ shines to brighten lives darkened by many sorrows.
The temptation may come to you to invest your money in land. Perhaps your children will advise you to do this. But can you not show a better way? Has not your money been entrusted to you to be traded upon wisely, and put out to usury, that when the Lord comes, He may find the talents doubled? Can you not see that He wants you to use your means in helping to build meeting houses and to establish sanitariums?
We need now to esteem souls above money. If you know of a higher work in this world than the work of soulsaving, a work which will bring better results for the investment of means, will you not tell us of it, that we may measure its value?
I fear that many of our people do not realize the importance of God’s work. One to whom I wrote for money answered thus: “I received your letter asking me to lend you some money. But there was a piece of land that the children thought it advisable for me to purchase, and I have invested my spare means in this land.” How much better would it have been for this brother to invest his money in establishing sanitariums, in which witness is borne to the truth for this time, or in schools, which will provide for our youth the best influences, and in which they can be trained to become missionaries for God.
My brethren and sisters, invest your means in the establishment of Christian missions, from which the light of truth will shine forth, drawing souls to God. One soul, truly converted, becoming a missionary for God, will win other souls to the Saviour.
God Himself originated plans for the advancement of His work, and He has provided His people with a surplus of means, that when He calls for help, they may respond, saying: Lord, Thy pound hath gained other pounds.”
If those to whom God’s money has been entrusted will be faithful in bringing the means lent them to the Lord’s treasury, His work will make rapid advancement. Many souls will be won to the cause of truth, and the day of Christ’s coming will be hastened. Men and women are to be brought under the influence of true, earnest, wholehearted workers, who labor for souls as they that must give an account. All who are baptized into a measure of the apostolic spirit will be constrained to become God’s missionaries. If they will be true, firm in the faith, if they will not sell their Lord for gain, but will ever acknowledge the divine supremacy and superintendence, God will prepare the way before them and will greatly bless them. He will help them to represent His goodness, love, and mercy. And the glory of the Lord will be their rearward. There will be joy in the heavenly courts, and joy, pure, heavenly joy, will fill the hearts of the workers. To save perishing souls they will be willing to spend and be spent, and their hearts will be filled with love and thanksgiving. The consciousness of God’s presence will purify and ennoble their experience, enriching and strengthening them. The grace of heaven will be revealed in their work, in the conquests achieved in winning souls to Christ.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9 pp. 49-58