This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
To say that the churches always respond, and respond equally, to the religious and social needs of the race, is to say what is not true. But to believe that religious culture and social redemption can be accomplished apart from the churches is to acknowledge that one has not yet thought through to the end of his problem. The fact is, if the churches, defeated, should lay down their commission to-day, next week would see the people gathered together, seeking to formulate some other religious or social movement that would do the work in the world which the churches are set to accomplish. Therefore a program of stewardship that does not recognize the primacy of the churches, and does not make full provision for their wide service in the community and throughout the world, has cut the nerve of stewardship itself.
Our word is not to churchmen, excepting as the average man honors and upholds the churches. And here the average man has not been wholly fair. The mortal foe of the churches is anaemia; their constant need is red blood. The average man has poured out both himself and his money in the activities of daily life, even to the point of exhaustion; the churches have been served with a poor and meager remnant. That they have been able to maintain even the form of organized life is a miracle of vitality.
During recent years, and more especially during the last decade, the average man has been "finding" himself in a new definition—or, rather, an old definition revived. He is recognizing himself to be a steward of social and religious values. Paul the apostle said it in a phrase that will not die: "stewards of the mysteries of God." Such man is and must be. That he is beginning to recognize it with genuine interest is a commanding hope for the churches. With almost the accuracy of a returning comet, the stewardship revival of sixty years ago is repeating itself to-day, preceded by the same massing of the human appeal. Again we have seen, for a full decade and more, political insurgency in every civilized state; again social amelioration has commanded the thought both of politics and trade; and again the swift movements of the warring nations have been equivalent to a new creation. The analogy of to-day and sixty years ago is more than interesting ; it suggests a divine prescience of human history, and denotes the majesty of God in the midst of the nations. Once again the thoughts of men are in the melting pot, and once again stewardship is the mold ready for their recasting. The revival has come at the appointed time; may the churches be strong to receive the word and interpret the message.
The stewardship revival has already wrought into the heart of the changing social order. That the churches should now come into their own is instinctive justice—their own, yet not for their own. When the churches have "their own," then the world receives their full, rich ministry of helpfulness. And what riches of service stretch out on every side, the ripe product of these amazing days! Narrowness of resources has long been a weakness of the churches; henceforward it shall be no other than a crime. One would hesitate thus to magnify the enormity were other agencies competent to perform the service which the churches alone can accomplish; but the churches only can lead the advance against spiritual error, and they only can minister in the thousand avenues of sorrow and sin.
There is one word which ought to be spoken, and, if possible, emphasized with all strength. The financial and spiritual atrophy which characterizes many of the churches is not caused by so-called unfavorable circumstances, such as location, removals, debt, etc.; it is wrapped up with an unchristian attitude toward life itself and toward the entire social body. There is economic injustice in the existing social order; one dare not close his eyes and say that things are well. But, whatever social and economic solutions shall be finally determined, it is certain that the churches themselves have an unfailing and present remedy. If the individual is a steward of social and religious values, the churches are absolute power centers, set for the radiating of vital force throughout whole communities. Stewardship, as an attitude toward life-values, determines whether any church shall save, and therefore be saved by, the community, or whether both church and community shall wither at the roots. Moreover, stewardship, because of the human brotherhood which it invariably fosters, is the only salvation of that menace to organized Christianity, the class church.
The gospel of stewardship covers the whole broad doctrine of the higher life. There is the stewardship of opportunity, of experience, of knowledge, of talent, the stewardship of personality itself. But of these we do not write. They are enticing themes and call to the preacher instinct, for these are they that mark the Christian man. No shibboleth of words can answer if these marks of royal service be not found. Yet these are not our theme, for we are set to write of property, income, and wealth, and of that material stewardship that counts and handles money.
And, truly, the word that we now seek to write is needed—then most when men talk largest of the higher values, for without an honorable stewardship of property and income the whole broad meaning of stewardship is vitiated. There is no higher stewardship than this: to acknowledge God's sovereignty in the material world, and to maintain it by the devotion of material possession to exalted use. When men talk of "spiritual stewardship," and forget that it is grounded in wholesome dealing with material facts, they advertise the meager quality of their discrimination. Sophistry is the handmaiden of selfishness. Just here has been the defeat of the churches. Their motives have been pure, their program noble, but they have been literally robbed of the material means to carry forward their redemptive work in the world. Go to! How shall the churches say to the massed multitudes, in this and other lands, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled," notwithstanding they give them not, and cannot give them for very poverty, those things which are needful!
To write of the various movements, organizations, and other agencies now at work whose purpose is to promote an intelligent survey of the whole broad program of the churches, and to write of the various methods, both wise and unwise, whose avowed purpose is to provide the immense revenue required for its accomplishment, this will be the serious task of some later historian. The most significant contribution to the stewardship revival, now established, is the courageous faith which has demanded an exhibit of the whole task now before the churches. The very immensity of that task has compelled men to recognize the folly and weakness of all money-raising expedients whatsoever. Financial "plans," whether new or old, are alike futile, unless God's ownership is both recognized and acknowledged. Only as the underlying principles of stewardship are understood and accepted can the churches hope to overtake their stupendous task in the world.
What those principles are, and how they are bound up with the worship of God and the whole broad program of Christianity, it is now our business to consider.