This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
The dispatches of the Associated Press for February 12, 1914, contained this pleasant item concerning a minister in a certain Western State: "The late Charles G. Gates took a fancy to the young clergyman, and gave him $32,000 for his church." That such an item should give us pause is no least criticism either of the motive of the giver or the worthiness of the gift. But it is typical of a thousand other gifts, and therefore may receive attention; indeed, it is characteristic of most of the giving of our day. It is genial and generous, but it bears no suggestion of obligation. The donor was handling "his own" money. Therefore he could have withheld the gift, even as he proffered it. But the control of value implies moral obligation. No man has a moral right to unloose the value of thirty thousand dollars, or a tenth, or a hundredth of that amount, because he takes a fancy!
The writer is a missionary. For ten years he has lived in the heart of heathenism. He has seen the living miracle of Christianity transforming a nation. This very hour he can name, from personal and intimate knowledge, villages, cities, and districts where a million dollars, within ten years, would mean a million people, now pagan and hopeless, becoming intelligently and loyally Christian. This is no personal chimera. The field of northwest India is dead ripe. This is the solemn, the solemnly tragic, challenge of a great Christian mission, and the facts are published to the world. The men of that mission are wearing away their life in—what? Preaching the good news, and training new disciples? Happy missionaries if this were their privilege! Rather, wrestling with the vast problem of providing educated and Christian leadership for an inevitable social transformation, a baffling problem in silver rupees! It requires no money in Asia to make the people "Christian," but it is a cold question of money— rather a feverish anxiety—to provide food, teachers, and equipment in a thousand schools for a hundred thousand boys and girls, while they learn the meaning of that magic Name! The same is true north of the Ganges, in Bengal, in western and southern India, in vast fields of China, in the whole of Korea, and in parts of Malaysia. Nor is this true of some particular or favored communion alone; it is marvelously true of every evangelical mission. Not only so, but new movements of national reconstruction or development are making the same thing true in Russia, the Balkan States, Turkey, Egypt, and Japan. Moreover, the whole Mohammedan world, strangely shaken, is waiting for a new and divine word, and the Latin peoples of Mexico and South America are literally in the melting pot. The hands that fashion the men of this generation shall mold the history of the planet for coming centuries. No man of honor and intelligence can hear the call of the world and fail to recognize his obligation. And, surely, no such man, if he has it in his power to let loose the transforming miracle of money, can jauntily drop a dollar or a thousand of them into an extended palm, "because he takes a fancy."
Look nearer home. During the winter of 1914, more than four hundred thousand able-bodied men were out of work on the streets of New York and Chicago. In that same winter season, the Associated Charities of the latter city were compelled to relieve one in every thirteen among the people. It is not a question of blame, neither is our first thought concerned with thrift or unthrift. Women are sick, and children are hungry, and men are out of work and discouraged. Is it time to play with vital value, as a child plays with a garden hose in August, and turn it hither and yonder as he will, "because he takes a fancy" ?
As a patriot, look still nearer home. Who shall give the American Negro opportunity to escape from befouling ignorance? Who shall drain the city slum? Who shall make it possible for our citizenship to assimilate a vast immigration? What spiritual force can be thrown as a buttress behind our rural communities? Consider the whole trend of education in the United States, and answer, who shall restore to it a lost ethical note? Every question we have named is bound up with the wise expenditure of millions of money, part of it under the stewardship of the republic, the balance of it to be provided by patriots from private sources. Can patriotism set about this solemn task, as it may take a fancy?
But, once more, look into one's own home, under one's very roof-tree. Shall caprice or judgment plan the family exchequer? The words of the apostle bite like an acid: "If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." But shall a man make such provision with discernment and system, or shall he expend his life earnings "because he takes a fancy"? There can be no stewardship, whether in behalf of one's own home, the church, the republic, or the world, without an underlying sense of obligation. Righteous possession is the basis of stewardship, but moral obligation is the measure of it.
There have been frequent attempts to reach the churches with a larger and better program of finance. Without a high sense of obligation any program of finance will fail. It may even presently degenerate into a cheap system of catchpenny. Legal constraints and financial schemes do not compel men to say, "I ought." Honor, intelligence, and loyalty are the only names which obligation can recognize.
I was in southeastern Nebraska, "setting up" in a number of the churches what has come to be widely known as the New Financial Plan. One evening I held a group meeting in a village church, where most of the officers were retired farmers. I presented the plan, and made it clear from charts and diagrams—the every-member canvass. the weekly offering, the "duplex" envelope, in a word, intelligent business methods in the finances of the church. But the men did not respond. I spoke again, showing the record of other village churches where the plan had been tried, and seeking to make it plain that such methods, if adopted, would certainly double the financial income, and greatly increase the efficiency of their own church. Still there was no response, and I asked a shrewd-looking farmer sitting near the stove if I had made the matter clear.
He leaned forward and pointed a long index finger at the charts: "They's a ketch in it," he said
"Why, my brother, I intended to make it very plain."
"O, it's plain enough" and the shrewd eyes half closed as he continued, "but they's a ketch in it all the same; they's deceit in it; for I can see, if we adopt that plan, we'll be payin' out more money than we intend to give,"
Exactly so. And there is no financial plan, either new or old, which in the long run will induce a man to give up his money unless the obligation of stewardship has reached him. Any good plan will "get money," at least for a while, but it will not get the man! Without the compelling power of high obligation, any plan will ultimately fail, and the kingdom of righteousness will again languish for lack of funds.
It has been suggested that stewardship is a doctrine of life and property, too fine and too high for the "ordinary" man. It is said that the exceptional man, the man of unusual spiritual attainments, may accept the ideals of stewardship, and perhaps practice them, but the rank and file of average men can hardly breathe in such ethereal air. To all of which we protest most vehemently! The "average" man is neither a knave nor a fool. He is prepared to accept a plain statement of facts and principles, and he is not disposed to violate a trust nor evade an obligation. Now, the obligation of stewardship is very plain. The possession intrusted to a man is not his own. The honorable steward will therefore recognize a threefold obligation:
He will earn all he can.
He will save all he can.
He will administer all.
First, a man is to earn all he can. This is not an ambition of greed, it is the obligation of loyalty. A faithful steward is required in honor to increase his possessions, for he is thus enlarging his Lord's estate. The cowardly steward who hid his master's talent was justly rebuked. God gave the earth into the hands of men, and said, "Subdue it." He commanded them to take possession of earth's mighty values and hold them in dominion. The sluggard and the dullard are exhorted to "be wise." Poverty is a calamity that came with sin. The godly man, under normal conditions, should expect to be prosperous. He has a right to be rich, as Abraham was rich, as that perfect servant of the Lord, Job, was rich. But he is not to be a rich fool withal! He is to know the meaning of wealth. Stewardship alone can defend a man against "the deceitfulness of riches," and curb the wickedness that would increase its possessions by evil devices. A wealthy young steward in Oregon remarked to me (I quote his words exactly), "More than once I have turned down an opportunity to make a pretty profit; I had a 'hunch' my Partner would not stand for it." Second, a man is to save all he can; that is, he is to shun all waste as he shuns evil itself, for waste is evil. There is no suggestion here of hoarding. Stewardship does not know how to hoard; it is too wholly intent upon saving. Hoarding is either the disease of a miser or the misfortune of a wise man who is prevented from saving. It is a financial axiom that when hoarding begins it is a symptom of disease in the economic body. In times of financial panic or uncertainty value is "wasted" by being locked away in banks and strong boxes. But in normal times the wise steward will "save" his money by putting every penny of it to work. The wise steward will understand economy. Economy is another name for efficiency. Inefficiency is waste, whether the cost of it be much or little. This is not merely good business, it is a moral obligation which stewardship must recognize. If the steward does not know how to save successfully, or cannot practice economy, he must learn, as he learns other lessons, with all diligence and patience.
Third, a man is to administer all. The steward does not use part of his possession for himself, and give the rest away; nor does he give away a certain proportion, as a tenth, and keep the balance. He includes himself, as well as others, in a wide stewardship that touches the whole circle of his obligation. Whether he helps to build a mission school in Africa or pays his school tax in his own home district, it is all one; both are included in that complete stewardship of his possessions to which he is pledged. Stewardship covers the whole circle of a man's income; it reaches to the farthest extent of human need; it extends throughout the whole period of a man's life.
When one bequeathes value to be administered by others, after his decease, it marks a life not rounded to the full, and a stewardship that was not complete. Let us understand this matter. The bequests of a dead man have small significance in themselves. A last will and testament may be the whimper of a coward who failed, and who knew he failed, or it may be the confident "next thing" of a clear-eyed man who understands the nature of the affairs that are committed to his hands. A wise steward makes a will, as he carries insurance, to provide against embarrassments that might arise were he unexpectedly cut off. But that same wise steward, confident and full of faith, plans to administer his Lord's estate before he shall go to give an account of his stewardship. When it shall be said, "I was hungry, and sick, and in prison, and ye ministered not," it will not be seemly for the steward to make answer, "Behold, Lord, it is provided in my will." Stewardship seeks to fulfill its trust while it is called to-day.
Having briefly examined the ground of obligation itself, we have now to consider how the full obligation of stewardship shall be administered. In respect of his entire income, rightfully acquired, and every possession in honor committed to him, a man finds himself under a threefold duty of stewardship, and in the order here set down:
1. The Obligation of Honor.
2. The Obligation of Life.
3. The Obligation of Loyalty.
In that order we shall consider them.