This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
A picture rises often in my memory. It is the picture of a Christian home in the district of Jaloun, south of the Jamna River. It is early morning, and the wife of Chiranji Lai is planning the day's food for her household. Ranged in front of her are several large pots of red baked clay— the family storehouse. They contain rice and wheat and millet. Hanging from the smoke-covered rafters are bunches of dried herbs and spices. In a smaller covered vessel on the shelf is the precious ghee, the "butter-fat" of the Orient. In a basket near the door is a small supply of fresh vegetables. Before measuring out her stores for the day she brings from the hearth a winnowing shovel made of reeds, and, from the inner closet of the house, another baked-clay pot, half full of millet. It is the Bartan hi Barakat, the "Vessel of Blessing."
Millet cakes and vegetables are to be the food for the day. As the little Hindustani woman measures out the grain by handfuls one marvels at the deft skill of her slender fingers. There is patience in her dark eyes, and faith in the lilting Christian song which she is singing. But she stops her song, for she must count, and counting is particular business. She stoops over the store of millet, the winnowing shovel is in her hand and the "Vessel of Blessing" is at her feet. A handful at a time she measures the millet into the shovel, counting with care, "Ek, do, tin, char, panch, chha, sat, ath, nau"—and then she pauses. She stoops a little nearer, that no precious grain shall fall upon the ground, and counts again—"Das." It is the tenth handful. It does not reach the winnowing shovel at all but is poured into the "Vessel of Blessing." The winnowing shovel is carried to the grinding mill in the corner, where the millet is presently reduced to meal ready for kneading. The "Vessel of Blessing" is returned to the inner closet ready for Offering Day, when the missionary will visit the village.
The family store of grain, carefully husbanded, is supplied by God, the giver of all; the "Vessel of Blessing" contains the tenth, the acknowledgment rendered by this Christian household; the winnowing shovel contains the family portion for that day. This, the family portion, is the second obligation of stewardship; it is the Obligation of Life.
Should one affirm that the obligation of life precedes the obligation of honor, we have two things to say. First, life is honor. Second, a man's first obligation, under any conceivable circumstances, must be to God the giver. This is always an act of faith, and, if rendered in sincerity, is the absolute assurance that the second obligation of stewardship—the obligation of life—will be unquestionably fulfilled. The Word of God is rich in promises to the man who will not swerve in this fidelity of stewardship. They are classic scriptures and grow richer with each repetition. "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Prov. 3. 9, 10). "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it; and 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" (Mai. 3. 10, 11, R. V.). "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4. 19).
The wife of Chiranji Lai, in her simplicity, is somehow persuaded that there is a connection between the "Vessel of Blessing" and the daily supply of grain which she grinds into meal for her family; therefore she makes the household obligation her second consideration, knowing that God has made it his first. Somehow, Chiranji Lai and his household feel safer to have it so, when the Jamna fields are withered and the sound of the grinding is low.
The obligation of life covers a threefold duty of stewardship: First, provision for the family; second, maintenance of the state; third, relief of the poor.
The family must be first. Thus it is written, "God setteth the solitary in families"; and again it is written, "Children are an heritage of the Lord." The question has been carpingly asked, "Would you take bread from the children and give it to the church?" Such a question requires no answer. Rather let it be asked, "Should a man deny himself in order to render acknowledgment unto God, and should he teach fidelity and self-denial to his children?" The sincere question brings its own sincere answer. The only real difficulty that ever comes to a man is his failure to frame the sincere question.
The statement of an axiom is the discussion of it. Food, raiment, and shelter, these are the trinity of necessity upon the earth; these name themselves in a man's stewardship of the home, therefore they need not be named. But wholesome recreation is a human necessity; so also the mind needs food, and the spirit of a man cannot be left in nakedness. Education and culture, as truly as physical supplies, are therefore primary needs of life. If these are unknown names among the millions, it is because the millions do not yet dream that life is a lasting stewardship to be administered, and not a fleeting chance to be exploited. The hour in which a man renders his acknowledgment of God, and thus relates himself intelligently to life, that is the hour in which education and true culture make the beginning of their appeal. They will be as surely covered by the provisions of family stewardship as that the young of a robin are covered in the nest.
Stewardship of the family must consider the days to come. A provident fund, the result of savings or investment, is stewardship taking the long look. Wise prevision is an obedience to the word of Christ, "Be not anxious." This presents no difficulty in the discussion. But where does prudence end and opulence begin ? At what point does a man leave off care for his family and enter upon the quest for riches? Two things are true. First, there is such a point; and, second, that point must be determined by each man for himself. We are not saying that a man shall not enter upon the quest for riches; on the other hand, we are confident that this is the very thing to which many men, under God, are called, both by ability and opportunity. But the stewardship of riches is not to be identified with the stewardship of a competency. Men will be judged, and, if they are wise, they will judge themselves by two very different standards. The very liberty which permits them to place their own definition upon the terms "competency" and "riches" will be the boomerang to smite them if they abuse that liberty. The all-sufficient God delights to supply his children with "all-sufficiency in all things"
Let a man therefore administer that sufficiency in all honor, and let him recognize its limitations.
The second element of stewardship in a man's obligation of life is maintenance of the state. It was the command of the apostle that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." By ''the state" is meant that remarkable fusion of federal, State, county, and municipal government, which, in America, is administered by those "in authority," that is, by the people themselves through their chosen representatives. A citizen's responsibility for taxes, rates, and assessments marks an element of stewardship which is not always recognized as such. Taxes are not infrequently resented as though they were an arbitrary imposition, laid upon one by "an outsider," something which it is a citizen's duty to resist. We pay our grocer bills with a sense of value received, but the cost of maintaining the glorious institutions of the republic is a weariness to us. Some day our citizenship shall be a finer thing. Stewardship is the kingly doorway into all the higher life of our civilization.
There are those who insist that state taxes among the Jews were included in their tithes, for Israel was a theocracy; therefore, in order to be consistent, a Christian man should also pay his government taxes out of his tithe. The remark is frequently a token of mere casuistry, and, as such, we have no desire to discuss it. But, where the suggestion is offered sincerely, we are in perfect sympathy with it. As a matter of fact, in Jewish history "the tithe of the Lord" had nothing to do with political Israel; it was the second tithe that was thus to be administered. But, as a matter of virile and Christian citizenship in our own generation, we would welcome such an interpretation of the larger work of the church. It would help to dissipate the unthinking folly which supposes that because "church and state" have no organic connection they have, therefore, no functional relation—a preposterous supposition. But Christian citizens, who in sincerity would recognize that government taxes are chargeable against the tithe, must remember the various kinds of taxes, and the purposes for which they are levied. Personal taxes and the income tax might with propriety be charged against the tithe, for they represent a citizen's personal allegiance to the authority of government, which is ordained of God; but there is a color of charlatanry in the suggestion that real estate and land taxes should be taken from the Lord's portion.
There is a third element of stewardship which must be recognized if a man would fulfill his obligation of life. A week can hardly pass, scarcely a day, but this stewardship becomes a service of urgency, and a savor of peculiar sweetness. It is the relief of the poor. Unquestionably this humanitarian service belongs just here; it is an obligation of life. "The poor shall never cease out of the land," was the word of Moses; "Ye have the poor with you always," said Jesus. Therefore the poor and unfortunate are to receive their portion from the hands of their more favored brethren. The relief of the poor is simple almsgiving; it is sweet charity. It is not a scheme of economic reorganization nor a program of social betterment ; it is a present act of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
"But is not the relief of the poor a charge to be made against the tithe, rather than against the family portion?" The best possible answer is to refresh one's memory concerning fundamental things. For this purpose the Hebrew Scriptures are illuminating. The tithe of the Lord came first, always first. Its purpose was the divine acknowledgment, and its use has been already named. Then came the second tithe, principally used for the maintenance of national and social institutions. Then came the relief of the poor, the most beautiful organized charity recorded in human history. This was named in an earlier chapter,1 but may be repeated here. Another tithe of the crops (not annually, lest constant giving should encourage idleness, but every third year) belonged to the poor; in addition, every seventh year the natural produce of the fallow ground was their portion with uncultivated grapes and olives; the year of jubilee, every fifth decade, was a special institution, designed as an economic cure for poverty, to be applied at least once in every generation. Besides all this, which was under sanction of law, personal almsdeeds were enjoined; the corners of the fields and the gleanings of the harvest were an extra allowance granted by custom to the destitute. If there is any worth whatsoever in the ancient law of Israel, not as a statute, but as a guide in ethics and religion, then it is perfectly clear that the relief of the poor has been correctly referred. It is not a charge against the tithe of God, but is a part of the family portion.
1 See Part II, Chapter I, p. 61.
In all that we are saying there is an underlying principle which can be easily recognized. That principle, if recognized and regarded, will determine a man's attitude of stewardship in the various obligations that rest upon him. It is folly to draw hard and fast lines. In any large view the kingdom of God becomes identified with the family, with the state, and with the social order. There is a "church in the house." The stewardship of the church and the stewardship of the house are made up of intersecting lines, and these again merge in the social body. Nevertheless, these lines of stewardship are logically separate, though they need not always be separated. In establishing the kingdom of God in heathen lands a church, a school, a hospital, a printing press, a mission house—they are all parts of one great church program; their support is therefore rightly charged against the tithe of God. But in the Christian lands of the West this is not true. A man's obligation of stewardship should recognize differences that are fundamental.
Stewardship is too big and broad to become a technical thing; it will plan for the whole man, whether at work or school or play. There can be no rules and regulations, for stewardship is an attitude of life rather than a formula of conduct. Hence, for this very reason, men of honor will be the more careful to observe fundamental differences. They will "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."