This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
" 'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob, faltered Scrooge.
" 'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.' It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again."
Charles Dickens could weave it all into an exquisite Christmas Carol, but we shall use it as a text for one very practical remark. It is this: If the common welfare is a man's business, then business requires that he shall set about his business as though it were his business. If the business of a corner grocery were conducted with as little planning as most men conduct their business of stewardship, the business of the bankrupt courts would be immediately increased.
A distinguished secretary of education was addressing a gathering of alumni. "Seven Methodist and six Presbyterian schools, of collegiate and seminary grade, in the State of Iowa," he said, "and all of them inadequately equipped for the work of modern education." We ask, what does it mean? Several things, perhaps, but one thing very clearly: sincere stewardship, but no program.
The writer spent a day near the northern boundary of North Dakota in a village of two hundred inhabitants. The village is in the center of a prosperous wheat country, and the people are religious. There is need of one strong church in the village, and the people could give full and generous support to one pastor. Yet what are the facts? Three pastors meet twice a day at the village post office, and all of them are receiving "home missionary" money to enable them to provide for their families. The Lutheran pastor is receiving $800 (my memorandum is dated October, 1912, and is the record of a conversation; I have had no access to official reports), the Congregational pastor $600, and the Methodist pastor $200, in all, $1,600 per year from the funds of three great mission boards, where not a single dollar is needed for subsidy. The people are abundantly able, and would be abundantly better off, if they were providing for themselves. In spite of such instances, which could easily be multiplied, church federation is actually making progress. Present absurdities are more and more deplored by all good people. When stewardship works to a program such follies will cease.
There are three things that should be said:
First, a recognized obligation of stewardship, without a program, is not intelligent. Second, a narrow, local, or provincial program will frustrate its own purpose. Third, an intelligent program demands a fair understanding of the modern problems and opportunities of the kingdom of God.
First, then, what shall be said to the man who "feels like giving"? This writer, at home on furlough, never knows release from the burdens of a missionary. The pressure of a heavy load is never lifted. His keen temptation is to answer his own question in terms of quick cash, and in so doing he would speak the fervent wish of thousands of other men in the church, both at home and abroad, whose business is to get under heavy burdens. Thus he would answer: "Say nothing; money talks; take his contribution, and take it quick, while the feeling lasts!" But we are working in the presence of vaster world-problems than can be served by the ready cash of a few generous-minded men. The kingdom of righteousness demands money in vaster sums, and in quicker cash, than have ever yet been named. Therefore this answer must be written down: "Tell him to hold his money and think his problem through."
In saying this we take issue with many good men who affirm that the correct basis of giving is immediate and outward response to warm desires and strong inclinations. They do not care for "cold, calculating finance," but prefer "spontaneous, open-handed giving." The writer was delivering a missionary address at a certain church, and sought to outline the task laid upon our generation. At the conclusion of his address the pastor spoke. "I consider it wrong," he said, "to stir a congregation with a great vision of duty, and then deny them the immediate opportunity of setting about that duty; let the collectors wait upon the congregation." So three hundred prosperous people proceeded to drop silver coins into purple bags. They were setting about the task that rests upon our generation! The congregation then went home to dinner, and the missionary withdrew to his room to cry, "How long, O Lord?" The fact is, virile human emotion demands a task worthy of its strength; it would impel a man or a congregation to undertake a large and intelligent program. To whet a man's interest to a keen edge, and then ask him for his ready money, is a serious human affront
The preposterous custom of taking "an offering," when the one thing required is human service, is responsible for a widespread failure to recognize personal responsibility. Take, for instance, our dealing with the poor. "Blessed," said the psalmist, "is he that considereth the poor." Yet how much of our common charity "considers" the poor at all? We give money for coal because the days are chill. We would be in utter misery to sit beside a blazing hearth, knowing that our neighbor was crouching in misery beside dead embers. But summer days will come, and we shall be distressed no longer. The poverty of our neighbor has not been alleviated, for we have not "considered" it. When winter returns we shall give more money to buy more coal, for our neighbor's misery will be again upon him. Had we "considered" him during the months of the summer, he might be buying his own coal.
We fully recognize that men will not administer their possessions in behalf of others unless they see that there is a positive human need. Stewardship cannot exist without this human motive ; it cannot rest in mere abstract duty. Therefore a compelling motive must be present to warm the heart and fire the brain. We have no patience with that forced conventionality which speaks in level tones though men are dying. It is not sincere. Motive there must be, and the motive must be commensurate with the need. No appeal, however fervent, and no presentation, however thrilling, can ever reach the actual tragedy of the human facts themselves. But the fatal error is this, that men are often reached with a gripping sense of obligation, and yet there rises before them no program of service that is worthy of this new-found sense of stewardship. They are ready for sacrifice, they are waiting for a great word and the outline of a great plan. When that word is not spoken a recognized obligation of stewardship finds expression in eccentric or extravagant ways, or, as is more frequently the case, it becomes atrophied at the root. Stewardship is a large word; it cannot express itself in meager and shrunken lines.
This leads us, in the second place, to recognize that a narrow, local, or provincial program of stewardship will frustrate its own purpose. It is serious business to give, but it is more serious business to accept, the control of value which is to be administered as a trust for the good of others. For instance, a good man may have accumulated a fortune. He desires to use it to advance the cause of education. "To found a college" —what more noble or more permanent contribution to human welfare than this! Now, it is certainly true that there are places and conditions where such use of his money would produce large and permanent results for the good of men; but there are certainly other places and conditions where the founding of another college would be subversive of all true standards of education. Fancy a wealthy Iowa farmer offering to establish another Methodist or Presbyterian college in some corner of that State which happened to be fifty miles distant from a denominational institution! And yet, on sight of the money, Methodists and Presbyterians, not a few, would consider themselves in duty bound to accept the trust and try to administer the obligation.
A minister's ambition "to build a church" and a layman's determination to put his money into "something visible" are sometimes responsible for a puny program of stewardship which obscures the real needs of human society. Is a wealthy congregation at liberty to vacate the edifice in which they are worshiping because they "have the money," and can therefore afford to build a new and finer structure? This may be wholly defensible, but its only defense is this, that the congregation has entered upon a noble and far-reaching program of stewardship, extending beyond their own borders and their own generation. Failure to fulfill this stewardship is an exposure of pitiful human cheapness, and continued occupancy of the new and costly edifice, without a commensurate program of Christian stewardship for other men, serves only to emphasize the cheap and garish thing which they have done. William Roe, the merchant, recognizes that a finer office and a larger warehouse are folly unless this new equipment is needed for the increase and conservation of his business. William Roe the Christian shall one day recognize that stewardship is dishonored if extravagant in the administration of a trust. Because a man has shown peculiar skill in accumulating money it by no means follows that he will show equal skill in the expenditure of it. The storing of energy is one thing, but the letting loose of that energy is quite a different thing. Some men of wealth have shown their practical wisdom, or have confessed their unwillingness to take trouble, by employing financial secretaries whose business is to recommend the "causes" which should receive their benefactions. One of the recent novels hinges on the practical impossibility of spending "a million" legitimately. That there is an awakened conscience in the distribution of money, as well as in its accumulation. suggests a very large advance in the popular ethics of stewardship. Yet, even so, narrow notions of duty, local pride, personal vanity, and provincial prejudice still frustrate the wide program for human betterment, which, at heart, all good men desire.
Finally, then, what does an intelligent and broad program of stewardship require? Three things: First, an attitude of sympathy toward all righteous men and righteous movements whose purpose is to realize a Christian social order in the world. Second, so far as may be possible. a fair personal understanding of at least some of the modern problems and opportunities of the kingdom of God. Third, a royal confidence in the men who have been able to acquire expert knowledge in the different departments of human service, and willingness to give whole-hearted support to them and to their policies; in a word, to "play the game" and do "team work."
To endow a chair in a college on condition that such and such subjects shall be taught is like supporting an orphan boy in a mission boarding school on condition that he shall bear such and such a name. Both are reminders of an era in half-hearted stewardship, that ought speedily to pass away, is indeed passing. If college trustees and Christian missionaries cannot be depended upon to wisely administer the work committed to their hands, it is folly to support that work in any way; but if they can be trusted, they are entitled to unstinted support in the working out of their policies. To survey the broad program of human betterment, and to demand the privilege of supporting it "in my own way," is an exhibition of personal vanity difficult to understand. But it is more than this, it becomes even sinister in its bearing upon intellectual and spiritual honor. If a man has convictions that would touch the fine fiber of educational, religious, and scientific leadership, let him speak forth as a man, until other men shall listen and be convinced. The teaching of the schools and all missionary and social movements may be controlled, and ought to be controlled, by the loftiest and purest men of their generation. The content of teaching can be corrected in honor. There is a way. But to dictate the policy of an institution as the price of an endowment, or to coerce unselfish human service by the compelling promise of financial assistance, this is no other than benevolent blackmail; it is unworthy the high name of stewardship. "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity," is the seemly exhortation of Saint Paul. If my brother waits to serve his generation, and I would help him, let me stand at his side in all good fellowship. Who am I that I should seek
to coerce him in the smallest degree? If my brother is willing to go down into the pit, the least that I can do is to hold the rope, and not badger him! And, if he calls for help, it is fair to believe that he needs it.
How they stretch out before one's thought, those endless opportunities and responsibilities— some men call them "problems"—of the kingdom of God! They begin with the opportunities and responsibilities of the home—not my own home alone, but family life everywhere—as an approach to the citadel of a man's character. The training of childhood, the beginnings of education, the meaning of family culture, and the bulwark of family religion—these call for a stewardship of life and possession positively without comparison in the whole wide field of human service. But the church is very near the home, and the church requires a program of stewardship that can hardly be separated from the stewardship of the family itself. The church in the city and in the country, with all its perplexities of pastoral support, of ministers' pensions, of benevolent boards, of sustentation funds, not to mention its vast requirements for material equipment if it shall accomplish its task in the midst of society—is not here a program of stewardship that requires intelligence, sympathy, and devotion?
And what shall we more say ? The whole realm of education, with the support of schools and institutions of all grades, it is a life-program in stewardship for a generation. And there wait the colossal problems of our civilization, social, civic, political, racial. There wait also the unsearched opportunities and responsibilities of an open world. What shall we say of Romanism, torn and scattered, of Islam, staggered, and, for the first time in the centuries, approachable? And what shall we say of social and religious world-movements that are transforming pagan nations? The pen halts, for the mind cannot Compass "the business of mankind" as it stretches in lines of light before our generation. In the presence of such limitless opportunities, men cannot speak of stewardship except as a program—a program wide as the world.