This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
Discrimination is the handmaid of religion. Next to positive disloyalty, failure to discriminate has wrought folly. A bogieman is as bad as the devil if people believe it is the devil! Beautiful, strong, and masterful truth has been shut out of men's lives because they thought it was "something else." Saint Paul prayed that the Philip-pians might abound in knowledge and in judgment, in order that they should be able to "distinguish the things that differ." It is a prayer that average men may well pray for themselves and for one another.
The truth of the tithe has been slowly emerging out of an amazing degree of mental haze which has surrounded it. The Scripture teaching concerning it has been so intelligently studied during the past decade that much of the former prejudice and misapprehension has passed away. We shall therefore leave the entire biblical discussion for a distinct and separate writing,1 and shall here add a few paragraphs that may help to clear away some persistent errors.
1 "The Victory of Mary Christopher," by Harvey Reeves Calkins.
First of all, it is a value-tithe; it is not the tenth part of mere substance or things. In a certain chapter of the Scriptures (Lev. 27. 30sqq.) where the annual crop of the land and the fruit of the tree are mentioned, together with the annual increase of the herd and the flock, these words are written: "The tenth shall be holy unto the Lord." That God expected the tenth part of value, and not merely the tenth part of gross substance, is evident; for, if a man desired to "redeem" the tithe which had been set apart, then, in order to guard him from the sin of covetousness, he was required to "add thereto the fifth part thereof," lest, in the exchange, the value of his tithe should be shrunken.
It is for this reason that the value-tithe is a suitable offering to the Father of lights, from whom cometh all value. The emphasis of Scripture concerning sacrificial offerings is not at all the bringing of such and such things, but it is the quality of them that is so jealously scrutinized; the offering must be "without blemish." It was not because God despised a lame or blind animal that his rebuke fell upon the people in the days of Malachi; it was because value had been contemptuously ignored and the tenth part of mere things was offered to the holy God, whose worship must evermore be a spiritual worship. Had a destitute Jew, in days of famine, brought to God's altar a tithe out of his flock of lean and hungry sheep, it would have been accepted, and the rich blessing of God poured out upon the worshiper. It was a value-tithe, the best he had, and therefore, despite its gaunt and dwarfed poverty, perfect. "But," and this was the wrath of an outraged God, "cursed be the deceiver which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing." It was corrupted value that was cast out of God's sight with condemnation. David said with fine kingliness: "Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." Things would suffice for the material needs of a man, but for the spiritual and holy God, there must be value. For value is an impalpable and spiritual force; it came from God; it is therefore a sweet and acceptable savor as it returns to God who gave it.
For this reason money, and not things, is the surest medium to-day for a spiritual offering; or certainly it is so for the average man, for money is the measure of value, and value is the essence of property. If value is the only attribute of property that can interest a man, surely that fine essence cannot escape the searching eyes of the Lord. Money finds a man out; it is concentrated personality, and when a man gives it he is giving the substance of himself. It is not so with things, unless the thing named is itself the same as money, that is, the "measure" and "storehouse" of actual and living value. It is the tithe of value, and not of things, that appeals to the Searcher of men.
Again, the tithe is not to be confused with the whole broad subject of stewardship, to which it is related. Perhaps confusion at this point has given rise to most of the misapprehension which conscientious men have experienced. One hears the objection urged in this fashion: "The tithe is not equitable; it is not 'proportionate giving.' Perhaps one tenth is not too much for a poor man to give, but it is certainly too little for a rich man. A man with an income of $1,000 will give $100, leaving $900 for his own use, while a man with an income of $10,000 will give but $1,000, leaving the enormous balance of $9,000 for his own use. It is therefore not equitable. A rich man should give not only a tenth, but very much beyond a tenth. Giving should be proportionate." This evident inequality is met by many with the composite teaching, "A man ought to give a tenth of his income as a minimum," supposing this to be a reasonable and Christian interpretation of the tithe.
It is cause for deep gratitude when men recognize the necessity of proportionate giving. This is Christian. But we must certainly "distinguish the things that differ." To speak of the tenth "as a minimum" confuses two fundamental truths, and therefore weakens each of them. If, as we have already noted, the tithe is bound up with the meaning of worship itself, it rests upon sanctions much more ancient than the Hebrew Bible, and remains, as in the beginning, a perpetual and solemn obligation; but if it was a special ordinance of the Jews, then have done with using it as a bait for Christian beneficence. Let it be studied and revered as a type for spiritual teaching, as other biblical types are studied and revered, but, in the name of clear thinking, let it not be introduced to confuse the Christian doctrine of stewardship. A Christian man is to do good as he has opportunity; why tie him up to Jewish fractions? A tenth as a minimum is neither good Judaism nor good Christianity.
Of course the fallacy here lies in the confusion of fundamental meanings. A man is the steward and not the owner of his possessions. God is the owner. Not the tenth only, but all that a man hath is the Lord's; a man is debtor for every penny of value that passes through his hands. When he renders his tithe it is not the payment of his obligation, it is the acknowledgment of his obligation. We certainly fail to "distinguish the things that differ" when we say that a rich man ought to give "much more than a tenth." Suppose two men were borrowing at bank, one a thousand and the other ten thousand dollars. Would the banker say, "Let the smaller loan be negotiated at the rate of six per cent, but for the larger loan we must charge a very much higher interest"? The men are not using their own money in either case, but money intrusted to them by the bank on demand notes. In both cases they are debtors for the entire amount of their loans, and in both cases the interest is not the payment but simply the acknowledgment of their debt. The real test of a man's stewardship is the use which he makes of the principal, and not the fact that he has made honorable acknowledgment that he owes it. The meaning of stewardship will be considered in its own place; we are now writing of the divine ownership, and its acknowledgment in the tithe.
Another question sometimes perplexes sincere people. It is this: Is a tenth rigidly required from every man, under every circumstance? Or, will not the all-wise and all-loving Father give special guidance, so that a man can set apart some other proportion, rather than a tenth, as an acknowledgment of the divine ownership? Certainly, we do not affirm that the eternal God has no power to alter the ratio which he himself has ordained. And certainly a child of God should receive personal guidance from the Holy Spirit. But personal desire and personal convenience are very easily mistaken for personal guidance. Before claiming special illumination one would do well to consider the following facts. They are not here listed to coerce a man's free conscience, but certainly the average man will not turn lightly from the uniform practice of good men through all the centuries in order to maintain the right of "private judgment."
1. The setting apart of some proportion of income is the acknowledgment of God's ownership. This is fundamental and beyond the sphere of private judgment. A tenth is the proportion that has been observed since the earliest days of human worship.
2. This proportion was fixed in very ancient times, is known to have been recognized in different nations, and is definitely recorded in the most ancient Scriptures.
3. This proportion was paid by Abraham, "God's friend," as an act of personal loyalty, and by other patriarchs, long before the statutes of the Jews were recorded.
4. This proportion, in set terms, was commanded as "the law" for the Jewish people, and was uniformly followed during the entire history of this chosen race.
5. This proportion received promise of God's peculiar blessing when he rebuked a neglectful generation for their presumption in offering shrunken values, and when he commanded them again to "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse."
6. This proportion was definitely sanctioned, and the paying of tithes recognized and honored by Jesus Christ in the words, "These ought ye to have done."
7. This proportion has been set apart, as a life habit, by thousands of the most spiritual-minded Christians for many centuries. Multitudes of witnesses in ancient and modern days "have proved Him faithful that promised."
Two conclusions seem unavoidable. First, if a man omits any acknowledgment of the divine ownership, except in such amount as may suit his present circumstances or convenience, he has committed the hateful sin of presumption and is entitled to the stinging rebuke of the prophet, "Will a man rob God ?" Second, if, in the face of God's recorded will and voluminous human testimony, a man still insists that he has received special and personal illumination to set apart some other proportion, rather than a tenth, it is practically certain that he is deceiving himself. Certainly, if it be not so, the average man will be compelled to say, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."
In the case of those kingly souls who say, "I should give a fifth of my income, or a half; a tenth does not represent my ability to give"— they have simply confused acknowledgment with stewardship. One is an obligation of honor, the other is a program of partnership. If a man is poor in substance, though rich in faithfulness, the living Lord will make up to him whatsoever he shall lack. Let him therefore pay his tenth ungrudgingly, and thus humbly challenge the faithfulness of God. If a man's material wealth increases, a tenth is still his acknowledgment; after this is rendered, let his gifts be according to his interpretation of partnership. But poor and rich together acknowledge the ownership of their common Lord. This is brotherhood.
Finally, the law of the tithe must never be cheapened into a piece of sumptuary legislation, as it were, "God's financial plan for supplying the material revenue of his kingdom." Undoubtedly, God will use the tenth devoted to him for the highest purposes of his wisdom. That use has been clearly revealed, and will be considered when we study the stewardship of value. But the tithe of God was not instituted for the support of anybody, whether Levite or priest, pastor or missionary. It reaches into the hidden heart of religion itself. The rendering of the tithe is an act of worship.
The law of the tithe inheres in the divine sovereignty. It reveals the goodness of God. It is intended as a perpetual safeguard to men, lest they should fall into the blasphemous sin of thinking that they "own" the marvelous values so freely placed in their possession. When a man proudly exalts himself in the presence of his Maker he shuts himself away from God's goodness which would pour blessing upon him. The sorrow of the divine heart is that God must rebuke where he is waiting to bless. The unique value of the tithe consists in this, and herein is manifest the exalted wisdom of God: whether a man is rich or poor, stupid or intelligent, brutish or spiritual, let him regularly set aside a certain part of the value that passes through his hands as an acknowledgment of God's sovereign ownership; let it be a definite and fixed proportion, to be determined and revealed by God himself, and not an "offering" to be chosen by the man's own preference—the whole of it constitutes a personal demonstration which he cannot possibly forget. It keeps in fresh and vivid remembrance three facts which are basal to all religion: God is the giver and is the absolute owner of all things; God is present in the midst of his world, daily maintaining and upholding it; man holds his every possession, and every value that passes through his hands, at the supreme will of Him who is the Creator and preserver of the world. If God is acknowledged to be the owner of a man's possessions, he himself will come into a man's life as Counselor and Lord.