This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
Granite rock is an enduring foundation for temples and for palaces, but it makes an indifferent grindstone. When the foundation law of the tithe is pressed into a financial campaign, in order to turn money into depleted church treasuries, or provide for a missionary budget, it is an act of violence against the whole structure of Christian doctrine. This primal law of acknowledgment, whose purpose is to denote the divine sovereignty, has been lugged into finance committees as "the tithing plan," and its comparative merits discussed with the "subscription plan," and the "apportionment plan," and the "pew-renting plan." It is the history of every fundamental doctrine that its friends have been its enemies. That the tithe still abides, and daily increases in strength, in spite of petty notions concerning it, is proof of its inherent vitality. For consider: It is not a seemly thing to exalt the acknowledgment-money, so that, in the minds of Christian people, it seems to be the substance of the acknowledgment itself. It is confusing to the simplicity of elemental truth when a second consideration—as it were, an afterthought—is strongly stressed, and the primary purpose is not commandingly present. It is so evident that the observance of the tithe will solve the harrowing problem of church maintenance and missionary advance that it is natural, and would seem absolutely necessary, to press the tithe for the support of Christian work. But the Lord our God is a jealous God. It is himself, and not his kingdom, that is first. When a minister preaches the tithe for the sake of the budget he has unwittingly cheapened a great message, which may therefore be defeated by its own irreverence. It is for this reason that many high-minded, though undiscern-ing, ministers will not preach the tithe at all; and it is for this reason that many high-minded laymen will not accept it when they hear it preached. High truth, for revenue, awakens suspicion. Native instinct is always right.
Three things should be written down concerning the value-tithe and teaching. Each of them enters a vast field, and each should receive major treatment. We can but name them.
First, reverent but insistent preaching of the tithe will restore the lost note of personality in our modern Christianity. It is idle to sigh for other days, and talk of "the old times," as though men were "more religious" in the days of tallow-dips. Senility will not help us to meet our present task. If the Methodist "class meeting" is gone, let it go! Gone also are the love feasts of the early Christians, and the hidden passwords, and the mystic Christian symbols of that age; gone also are the high pulpits and the Puritan Sabbaths, and the rigid discipline of a noble past. What of it? There are other ways of molding men—
And God fulfills himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
It is the era of "others," a generation whose key-verb in religion is "to help." If men are not inclined to talk religion, let them know that doing it is still religion, and religion of the highest type; only let it be religious doing, and not a misnamed "social service," as though instinctive worship had culminated in something better. Let God be in it, personal, present, and revealed.
There will be many ways for Christian men to serve their generation, but in this day of commercial and trade expansion none will so insistently remind them that they walk in the presence of God as a stated footing of their "Tithe Account"—their personal acknowledgment of God's sovereignty. The hum of trade will never be quite loud enough to drown that voice within, and, where that voice is, God is. I am permitted to repeat the words, spoken to me by a Western senator, as we sat in the quiet of his library. He spoke with feeling: "I was a Christian man; I never doubted the fact of God, nor the truth of his revelation. I think it is fair to say that I lived a consistent Christian life and helped my fellow men. But it was not until I recognized God to be the actual owner of the property which I held that I understood the thrill of fellowship with God. When I paid my tithe, in acknowledgment of that ownership, it seemed as though every fiber of my being acknowledged him. I knew that God owned not only the property which I possessed, but myself as well. From that day to this, fellowship with God has been natural and easy."
It is enough. To add words would be to darken sweet counsel. The tithe is not a call from depleted church treasuries. It is not a pious performance of duty, not that; nor is it a merely human zeal for human betterment, nor Christian zeal for Christian conquest. These are good, but not good enough for a man. The rendering of the tithe means the identification of a man with God. It signifies personal fellowship and spiritual partnership. It marks the entrance into the abundant life for which a man was created; the limitless life, glorious, eternal.
Second, the plain and simple teaching of the tithe is the open door to childhood religion. It is God's own "kindergarten" method; it brings infinite truth to infant minds and makes it clear by visual demonstration. In the current discussion of "childhood religion," there has been much of hysteria. No doubt we have a more satisfactory psychology of the child mind, and the teaching method is vastly improved, but it may be fairly questioned whether the content of current teaching has brought primary religious truth more perfectly within the grasp of children.
An earlier generation required in children an "experience" before they could be regarded as among the "saved." It is easy to say that it was an inferior psychology and a false theology that required it, and that such forced "conversions" wrought violence to sacred infancy. Nevertheless, the child-mind was impressed with the majestic doctrine of God, his personality, his presence, his holiness. What primary teaching to-day brings home to childhood these basal truths? They cannot be learned out of a book nor taught by words. In some way the floating conceptions of Deity must be visualized, and stamped upon the sensitive minds of children, or child religion will degenerate into a fairy tale, and child ethics into a game. If the majesty and sovereignty of God can no longer be brought home to childhood by a "change of hearty" how, then, shall children learn to fear and honor him? How shall God be revealed to them as personal and present in the world? We answer:
The child can learn more quickly than the man the sacredness of possession. The child to-day is primal man, as he was in the beginning. And primal man acknowledged God, for sin had not yet fogged his mind nor blotted out the remembrance of God's image. Through the first fruits and the tithe, God was visualized to him, the unseen Creator and Sovereign of the world. The child is virgin mind, and needs but to be quickened. He is ready to believe. He does believe. Every word that tells of God he drinks into his soul. The child-thought instinctively rises into the unseen, and challenges us to make God real to him. The parent or the teacher who fails of this has not discerned the natural kindergarten method which God instituted in the beginning for the child-mind of the race.
We teach our boy the best peach is for mother; yes, but why?—that Dick may learn courtesy, and so become a little gentleman? Paltry, vain, and stupid surface-work! Why will we not discern the deeper truth, and make it real to that wide-eyed, waiting boy? Courtesy is not the strong compulsion that makes his mother first, and we have wronged the boy if he learns so to regard it. It is' because his life-pulse flowed from mother; therefore his first thoughts run to mother, his first love is for mother. His mother is to him as God. Therefore the first and the best must be reserved for her—the first fruits, ever holy. And who is the owner of the fields and the cattle, and of every living good that passes through men's hands? Every dollar and every dime belongeth unto God; and these are placed in our hands in trust, to measure, and then to keep in store, the needful things and the pleasant things of the world. How easy, in the joy of his first "allowance," or the pride of his first "earnings," to build the buttress of honor, instinctive to the mind of a boy. A dime a day is an allowance well bestowed, that every tenth cent shall be joyfully rendered in acknowledgment of God, the giver and the owner of all. In such an atmosphere the beauty of child religion becomes as sunrise upon the mountains, but the strength of it as the strength of the everlasting hills.
We have not yet named the one consideration, which, if it lacked all other value, would make the teaching of the tithe an absolute necessity upon the earth. It is our final word, and it is addressed to Christian missionaries.
The teaching and observance of the tithe will quickly separate Christian converts from heathen contaminations. The average American or European will not realize the practical difficulty that is here suggested; the missionary will at once understand it. There is a philosophic background to idolatry, and this, in the last analysis, is the unseen power which holds in thrall the millions. This philosophy is strangely fascinating, and very human, and thinking paganism is obdurate and proud. But the strength of heathenism is not in its philosophy. The millions do not think. They dimly apprehend the unseen spiritual forces, of which their leaders speak, but the overwhelming power of heathenism is what the people see with their eyes, and handle with their hands, and observe in the daily habits of their lives. It is small matter what the people believe, for they believe all imaginable things, wicked and horrible, pleasing, and even beautiful. No one gives the least concern to what the people think. Teaching is a negligible quantity throughout the heathen world. The strength of popular paganism is never words but things. Graven figures, painted rocks, grotesque formations visualize the spiritual world. Some religious act is waiting for the people when they eat, or drink, or journey—at births and marriages and deaths. Stated ablutions, spoken phrases, holy relics, sacred places, pilgrimages, festivals, floating lamps, waving flags, and symbols of all sorts—these are the visible hands that reach forth from the unseen, and hold the millions in a pitiless and deathless grip. Not philosophic doctrine but visible tokens and habitual acts are the strength of heathenism. These things are ever present to make religion real to human minds. The task of the missionary, and his ceaseless problem, is to bring the living God to these same human minds, and make him real in the midst of visible tokens of the gods.
The missionary instinct of Francis Xavier was profoundly right, and heathenism was driven headlong under the first assault of Roman Catholicism. But to exchange heathen idols for Roman images was not worthy the illustrious missionary leader of the sixteenth century. He had an amazing perception of the heart of the missionary problem, but he was a product of his church and of his century, therefore his missionary evangel was marred and distorted. Heathenism was strangely moved, but the Roman Catholic message was not great enough to destroy the heart of it. Xavier thought to visualize God and bring him near in the midst of idolatry. He failed, for he had not searched the Scriptures. But shall not modern missionaries profit by his success and by his failure? May not the Scripture-taught missionaries of to-day fulfill this ministry?
How shall God be made known among a people who are not able to apprehend him—his love, his beneficence, his Fatherhood? How shall the thousands of inquirers be taught to "believe" in him? It is not enough that they have broken down the village idol, and vowed that they are free from Krishna, Ganesh, and the rest. God pity them, they would be if they could! But Krishna, Ganesh, and the rest leer on them in the night, and who shall succor them ? They believe in God, but how shall they know whom they have believed? Is there not some simple act of daily life, some service of the hand or habit of the mind, whose significance is instinctively understood, that can lift our people out of sordid heathen conceptions? They see the falling rain and growing corn, and eat their daily portion. Can these not be made an instant means, not primarily of teaching gratitude to an absent God whom they but dimly apprehend, but, rather, of making real and present that very God himself? They look into our faces, as children look into the faces of their parents. They believe in us—us missionaries—and when the pull of heathenism is fierce against them the dumb darkness in their eyes cries out, "Deliver us!" Must we teach them words and words, and wait for some miracle of God to open their spiritual understanding? Has God not placed in our hands a Moses's rod, that shall utterly destroy the serpents of idolatry, and then, in budding fruitfulness, provide for days to come?
There was once a nation of idolatrous slaves whom God delivered. Isis and Osiris were behind them, with all the sacred beetles and bulls of Egypt; in front of them were Chemosh, god of the Moabites, and Moloch, god of the Ammonites; on every side of them were Ashtaroth, and Baalim, and all the abominations of the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. So hopelessly were they corrupted through centuries of slavery among Egyptian idolaters, and so virulent was the poison of heathen habits, that they reverted to the nastiness of the Nile, and proclaimed a calf their god in the face of a miraculous deliverance from certain death and in the presence of smoking Sinai. Idolaters they were, and surrounded by idol abominations they must live, and yet from idolatry they were delivered. In the midst of heathen rites the exalted worship of one God prevailed, and the savor of it, going forth, has preserved the earth from corruption.
What wrought this miracle in the midst of them ? The Spirit of Truth through an ordinance of the law. The inspired lawgiver of Israel reached back through the centuries, back of Abraham and the Chaldeans, and, seizing upon a primal law of the beginning, framed it into a statute. The truth of one God destroyed idolatry in Israel, but the acknowledgment of one God gave vital force to the truth. Nor did that acknowledgment lie in a lofty liturgy nor stated teaching. What had a race of slaves to do with noble thought! It would be centuries before there would come a David or an Isaiah or the formal temple worship. But even a generation of slaves shall eat and drink and tend the herd and gather in the corn; therefore in their days of common necessary toil shall lie their supreme acknowledgment of one God. Thus it is written: "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord. . . . And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. . . . These are the commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai" (Lev. 27. 30-34). The people would forget high teaching, for their minds were warped; but they never would forget to sustain their own life; they would measure their corn and count the herd and the flock, and, lo! the vital belief in one God thrilled them, for they acknowledged him in the things which their hands did handle. Thus wrought our God through Moses, when he had talked with him in the mount. Shall he not thus work again through the men, the missionaries, who stand sponsor for the deliverance of vast millions from the same blasting death of idolatry?
Indigenous churches in mission lands must become self-supporting; otherwise Christianity is not established. The missionaries are therefore driven to teach the grace of liberality. They find no standard of giving at once so convenient and so scriptural as the tithe. Therefore, with few exceptions, missionaries teach the tithe, and, of course, they practice it.
The tithe is taught upon the mission field. Already it is a familiar word. Therefore the task of the missionary is very plain: He is to hold the minds of Christian inquirers to one elemental fact —the tithe is the acknowledgment of God's sovereignty; he is utterly to avoid the suggestion that its purpose is the support of the church. "Self-support" should flow on the mission fields to-day, deep and wide, as it flowed in ancient Israel. All the tribe of Levi had their inheritance with their brethren, both corn and wine in abundance, and this was "for their service which they served, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." But there was no weary task in Israel of "raising a support" for the sons of Levi! The tithe was ready for a high and holy service in the land, for it had already been poured forth in acknowledgment of God's supreme ownership.
If the tithe is true at all, it is wholly true. Let missionaries therefore remove the teaching of it from its awkward place in the chapter on "Christian Advice," and enthrone it, where God ordained that it shall stand, with "Primal Doctrine." Its place in Christian teaching is before, not after, baptism. If Christian inquirers shall be taught the simplicity of this truth—that the tithe is the acknowledgment of one God—an act as the expression of a belief—there will doubtless be a temporary lull in the movement toward Christianity, for it will strike the core of covetousness, "which is idolatry." It may seem, for a while, that the corn has been buried beneath the mountains; that it will not grow again. But it will grow, for the life of God is in it; and when the corn shall appear again, upon the top of the mountains, the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon.