This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
The call of heathenism is that men shall find God near. The tragedy of Christianity is that men have made God distant. Contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, they have thought of God as though he were afar off. They have not recognized that he is near, and always near. It is commonly deplored that this failure of men to recognize God's nearness has made them "unspiritual." But this cannot be true. Spirituality is not like the bloom on a peach. Man is a spirit. The heart and core of him is spirit. Dullness of apprehension could not change his essential being, could not make a spirit "unspiritual." Rather, there is an estrangement. For men have neglected—we will not say evaded—a plain obligation of honor. That good men should persistently disregard the rights and duties of property is an amazement. The patient God is dishonored, not because men fail in their devotions—in this the Spirit of God would tenderly help our infirmity—but because they covetously grasp as their "own" the property of Another. A religious temperament is perhaps needful for mystic communion, but "the wayfaring men, though fools," can readily understand when trust funds have been juggled!
These are serious words that we are writing, but every one of them is weighed. The tragedy of Christianity is, indeed, that men have made God distant, but the scandal of Christianity is this: men of highest character permit themselves to practice a strange obliquity; they continue year after year to use value which they know they do not own, yet they make no regular and honorable provision for the acknowledgment of the fact. Absorption in business does not shut God out; it, rather, invites him. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," said the tireless Christ. It is the persistent disregard of his sovereignty that alienates the patient God. Can men wonder that the Holy One, dishonored, withdraws himself? Or is it strange that men have small desire to seek his averted face? As one may sit at table with a friend who has been estranged— they sit together, yet are they miles asunder—so God is ever close at hand, yet distant from the man who has dishonored him.
We venture here to say, and to say with absolute confidence, that if any man, any so-called "unspiritual" man, will honorably acknowledge God's ownership of value, if he will use his plain business judgment, as he sits at his desk, and will relate himself in honor to a plain financial statement, a statement which he himself shall prepare, he will know and feel the Presence which hath been from the beginning. Let no man say we magnify the power of "mere money." We are not dealing primarily with money at all, but with the subtle element of value. Though it is no doubt commonly measured by money, yet value itself is a hidden and spiritual force. Value relates the soul to God, the Author of it, as electric energy relates a house to a central power plant. Our challenge calls for no discussion in theology; it is a matter of human testimony and experience. It is an open clinic in value which any man of honor may put to the test. Let us approach it, as a merchant approaches his stock-taking, to learn the bottom facts.
First of all, we are to remember that "money-making" is spiritual business. The business itself and the manner of conducting it relate it either to spiritual evil or spiritual good. Obviously, evil business is eliminated from our examination. That "money-making" is not always "value-making" is the fault of our unchristian social order, and the result of a misdirected commercial conscience. Nevertheless, let a man meet conditions as they are until they can be shaped to something better. Let him take stock of what he has in hand.
Second, God's method of finance is not "different," therefore there is no need whatsoever for a special financial statement. The kind of bookkeeping that honorable firms use in Chicago and Philadelphia, this is exactly fitted to our examination. The kind of securities that are valid at the First National Bank, and at the Continental and Commercial, these are the very kind we shall require. Or, if our audit is concerned with the simpler accounts of a "cash grocery," or the careful figures of an industrious farmer, these also will answer our purpose. The expense book of a lad just starting for himself, or of a housewife with her weekly budget—it is all one; we shall get on. Any plain statement of accounts is sufficient if it will enable men and women to know financially "where they are."
And now our problem. We shall require a pencil, a sheet of paper, and an honorable purpose —nothing more. Our task is a very practical one: we are to measure value. The value itself penetrates into the depths of our life, and we cannot fully know its reach and power; but we can both recognize and register its "pull," and the dial-plate is not difficult to read; it is written in plain figures—dollars and cents. We are to compute in money our annual income, and set apart one tenth of the amount.
There can be no special or private method for the computation of the tithe. It is all open as the day. We conceive that intelligence and honor will know how to perform the task. One suggestion may be of interest in case the task seems difficult. A certain "average man" objected that he could never compute his exact yearly income, in money, and he could not therefore judge how much his tithe should be. He received mental illumination from the following reply: "Suppose the Legislature of this commonwealth should pass a 'Thrift and Industry Bill,' providing that every citizen should send to the State treasurer a certified statement of his full income, computed in money, and covering the fiscal year. On receipt of this certified statement the treasurer was authorized to remit to such citizen a cash bonus equaling one tenth of the amount. Do you think you could qualify for the bonus?" This average man, on second thought, believed that the computation might be made!
No small part of the material prosperity which always accompanies the rendering of the tithe is based upon the fact that a man is compelled squarely to face the amount of his income. Knowing his exact income (it may be smaller or it may be greater than he was aware before he made an actual calculation!), his tithe is at once determined, and system has taken charge of all his affairs. We would not be captious for details; we are certainly not zealous for the tithing of "mint and anise and cummin," although it is fair to remember that this was the one virtue in the Pharisees which Jesus could honestly commend, and which he did commend; nevertheless, we must insist that the folly of "guessing" at the amount of an honorable obligation, or making an estimate that would "about cover it," does not commend itself to business men. The men of Malachi's day, who had forgotten honor, complained that the Lord's tithe was "a weariness," but men of to-day who reverence God will not care to repeat that ancient shame.
The tithe of God is rendered. It lies before us, a coin, or a handful of coins, perhaps a modest roll of bills, or, for men of affairs, a debit entry in the account under a new ledger heading. It is not "the whole tithe," but it is the beginning of it; it is the tithe of our income as the record stands to-day, the tithe of what we have in hand. Pay day will be next week, or the oats will be sold, and the account will begin to look better. There is a sick feeling in the heart as one remembers back-tithes that were never reckoned and never rendered. We dare not face that bitterness, but commit it unto Him who "upbraideth not." If God shall prosper us—but let the words remain unwritten; he knows our purpose of honor concerning every debt, whether current or arrears. We are making no promises, but we are beginning, with a strange new sense of his nearness, to walk by faith.
The tithe is rendered, but it is not paid. It lies separate and apart; in very truth it is holy. Yet it remains under our own hand, and no man has power to touch it save ourself. It lies before us, but it is not a mere sum of money. It is the tithe of value. Shall we let loose its hidden force as chance or caprice or desire shall give occasion? Is the tithe-box another convenience in the house, like the tin of telephone nickels, ready for a ring?
Is the tithe account a mere nerve-saving expedient, a fortunate reserve fund, against which one may smilingly draw his check for churches and charities, for missionaries and mendicants, knowing that the main current of one's business will in no wise be affected ? The tithe is rendered, but shall a man cheapen the obligation which honor has acknowledged?
The rendering of the tithe is the beginning of stewardship. Stewardship is the record of a complete administration. It includes not only a tenth of value, but the entire value that is committed to the hands of men. The administration of the tithe is, of course, part of that complete administration, and will be considered in its proper place. Stewardship, therefore, must now engage our thought.