During her long lifetime of 94 years, Fanny J. Crosby, the famed blind composer of many religious hymns, often recounted the story of a minister who spoke as a guest in a church one morning. He was accompanied by his little son.
After the worship service the minister recalled that no offering had been taken, and, as he was in the habit of never going to the Lord's house without presenting an offering, he left a coin in the offering box that he noticed beside the door. As he and his son walked away from the church, one of the church officers came running after them, saying, "It is our custom here to give to the preacher whatever we find in the offering box after the service." And the man handed to the minister the coin he himself had left there. Whereupon the little boy looked up into his father's face and observed, "Papa, if you had given more, you would
have gotten more, wouldn't you?"
In his simple, but striking comment, the little boy underlined the Biblical principle given by inspiration and penned by the wise writer centuries ago: "A man may spend freely and yet grow richer; another is sparing beyond measure, yet ends in poverty." (Proverbs 11:24, N.E.B.)* Jesus made it clear that the last days would be dominated by men having a strong materialistic attitude. Eating, drinking, building, and hoarding money would be central in the thinking, talking, and doings of men. We who live in the seventies when so many other of the last signs are being fulfilled, can hardly avoid noticing the realization also of those prophecies. And further: We find it difficult to avoid being influenced by the same attitudes ourselves.
The Lord's Sacred Claims
First of all: There is. no question about the fact that God calls us to be stewards. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (I Peter 4:10). "You are not your own; your Lord has sacred claims upon your supreme affections and the very highest services of your life ... to the fullest extent of your capabilities, for His own honor and glory."—Counsels on Health, p. 385. Notice how wide the scope of our responsibility is: "Stewards of the manifold grace of God" and the "Lord has sacred claims upon your supreme affections and the very highest services . . . ." The totality of life is included: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).
This part of a Christian's relationship to God is closely knit to the atonement. He bought us with all that we are and have. He did this, not only to free us from our transgressions and their consequences, but also for a purpose while serving Him here: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (I Corinthians 6:19, 20). To glorify God because we are bought with a price takes in much more than we usually consider. Note this: "I will enforce truth on the conscience, and men shall be My witnesses, throughout the world asserting my claims on man's time, his money, his intellect. All these I purchased on the cross of
May these words sink into our minds: On the cross Christ paid the price, first of all for our sins, but He also bought our time, money, and intellect. Everything now belongs to Him, even though he left the administration to us. Therefore, when we see the fuller meaning of the cross, it leads to humility, thankfulness, acceptance, and even dedication.
When Graf von Zinzendorf, as a rich young man in Germany, stood one day before a painting of the suffering of Christ on the cross, he noted the words written under it: "All this I suffered for you. What have you done for me?" The picture and the message touched his heart. Then and there he decided to give his life and all that he had to the Master's service. He became the founder of the Hernhut Brudergemeine (Renewed Brotherhood), a missionary and religious leader. His strong influence throughout his life was due to his deep personal devotion to Christ.
God's Only Way
"God permits us to show our appreciation of His mercies by self-sacrificing efforts to extend the same to others. This is the only way in which it is possible for us to manifest our gratitude and love to God. He has provided no other." —Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 18, 19.
Sometimes we may wonder why God chose "self-sacrificing efforts" in order to bring God's grace to others, as "the only way" in which we can show our love to God. Why did he provide “no other” way? Here is at least part of the answer: "God could have reached his object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ's, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy—the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice—we must participate in His labors for their redemption."—The Desire of Ages, p. 142.
In other words: The greatest blessings flow back to ourselves as we try to follow God's plan. The following words of Jesus that did not get into the Gospels but which Dr. Luke placed in the Book of Acts, express the experience of many of God's children: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
In the light of this instruction from Jesus, we see that life is not meant to be a grab bag from which we take those things we desire. If that is our philosophy, we shall indeed be deeply disappointed. Life is rather an opportunity to share. It will then go out and multiply and return to us in forms we need, to our own joy and growth in Christian experience.
Stewardship, in its deep spiritual and practical meaning, is not only acts or good deeds. It is much more. It is an experience. We share ourselves in the transactions. When this philosophy dominates our lives, we open doors to blessings we could not obtain in any other way. STEWARD-SHIP DAY, therefore, offers us an invitation to stop and consider life's true priorities.
by ALF LOHNE ,Vice President General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists