By S.D. Gordon
(Luke xvi:1-18.) 
Touching a Limitless Circle.
There is an inky shadow over the home of God. There is a sharp pain tugging at the heart of God. It's a family matter; a family disgrace. One of God's family has gone off from the home circle and made a bad mess of things. Such an affair is always a source of great grief, especially where the family is an old one, with fine blood. And here the family is of the oldest, and the blood the best. The Father feels the sharp edge of the knife of disgrace very keenly. The hearth fire of God is lonely for the one gone away.
All of that Father's great love and rare wisdom have centered and blended on a plan for winning the estranged member of His family back home, of his own free glad accord. The other members of His family have gazed with awe-touched faces upon the marvels of that plan. Its tenderness, its depth, its wondrous love-wisdom have excited their deepest admiration while they watch breathlessly to see the outcome.
That prodigal is our own splendid planet. Some of us down here have gladly welcomed the Father's plan and the Father's Son. His Son is His plan. But most of us don't seem to understand the Father. And that is hard on Him. And the greater number of us, by far the greater number, haven't even heard of the Father's plan or of His Son, and have lost the memory of His loving voice calling. He is always calling. And everyone hears that calling voice. But very many do not recognize it as the Father's.
In great tenderness the Father's plan for winning all includes the help of those already won. Through His Son first, and then through His sons, newborn, reborn, He is reaching out His warm, eager hand to all. He breathed His own Spirit upon His Son. He breathes that same Spirit upon each of us who will, that so we may, each of us, touch all the others with the touch of God.
Five great touches of God there are, each charged with a mighty current of power. The fragrant life-touch, the musical voice-touch, the warm service-touch, the potent golden-touch, the secret, subtle prayer-touch. The first three of these are limited to a narrow circle, the circle of the immediate personality. The last two are limitless. They are like our own spirits. They reach directly, resistlessly, clear out through the personal circle as far as the spirit reaches, even around the whole circle of the planet.
Just now for a little while we want to talk together about one of these, the potent yellow golden-touch. The word service has been thought of quite commonly as referring to certain restricted things that one may do for another. It has a broader meaning too. Whatever we do to help another is service. Not merely the direct activities, but praying and giving are service of most potent influence. Money supplies a channel through which one may reach most intimately to others, near by and around the world. It is the golden channel of service.
Peculiar Effects of Money.
Money is queer stuff. The opposites meet in it so strikingly. It may be the most cruel, exacting tyrant. It may be the most faithful, intelligent servant. If it come into a man's life unaccompanied by a high, controlling motive power, it has most peculiar effects upon him. It often wrinkles up his face, and ties hard knots in the wrinkled lines. It can dwarf a warm hand into a cold, hard, muscle-bound fist. It drains the warm blood from the heart, and dries all the sweet, fragrant dew out of the spirit. The hand suffers much. It is often stricken with a sort of palsy while in the pocket, and cannot be withdrawn. Sometimes there is a violent cramp, or a sort of pen paralysis that prevents the signing of the name--to certain sorts of checks.
But if, on the other hand, it come into a man's possession accompanied by a pure unselfish motive that controls, it comes the nearest to omnipotence of anything we handle. Gold of itself seems to have the puckering quality of a green persimmon. The green fruit will contract the mouth to its smallest proportions. And unmellowed gold acts in the same way upon the mouth of the pocket.
This is true of all gold and of all pockets. There are no exceptions. The only possible way of effecting a change is to let a stronger power come in and counteract the contracting power. Gold has the greatest contracting power of any earthly substance. Its only sufficient counteractant is God. God has the greatest expanding power known to angels or men. Gold contracts. God expands. If God be the dominating motive power in a man's life, then does gold come the nearest to omnipotence of any tangible thing. It takes on the quality of Him who breathes upon it.
Jesus' Law for the Use of Money.
Jesus gives us the simple law for the right use of money. It is in that sixteenth chapter of Luke. He is talking about the dishonest overseer of a wealthy man's estate. His dishonest practices have been discovered, and he is required to make a final settlement preliminary to his being discharged. He has evidently been living extravagantly, for the loss of position threatens him with beggary. Distressed to know what to do he hits upon a farther extension of his dishonest practices, and uses the position he is about to lose to buy up friends for his coming days of want.
As he tells the story Jesus adds this comment: "for the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of light." Practically they go on the supposition that the present generation is the only one. For the short space of years making up their own generation they are wiser than the sons of light. But for the long space of all coming generations they are the rankest fools. That is included by contrast in Jesus' words. The man who in his use of money thinks only or chiefly of the years making up his own present life is--a fool. The man who takes into his reckoning not only the present generation, but all coming generations, in disposing of his money is the shrewd financier.
Then occurs the sentence that contains a wonderfully simple statement for the keen, wise use of gold. The old version runs like this: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations." The revised version, both English and American, reads this way: "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness that when it shall fail they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles."
I have ventured to make a rather free translation that I feel sure is true to the words here in their connection and that gives in simple English just what Jesus means. "Make to yourselves friends by means of money, which the unrighteous world reckons riches, that when it fails they may receive you," and so on. Money is not riches. The world commonly has been befooled into thinking that it is. Perhaps we have not all quite escaped that delusion. And money is not unrighteous. It is neither righteous, nor unrighteous. It gets its moral quality from the man owning it for the time being. It is as he is. It takes on the color of its ownership.
Make to yourselves friends by means of the money that comes into your control that when it fails they may receive you. That is to say, exchange your money into the kind of coin that is current in the kingdom of God. Exchange your gold into lives. That is the sort of coin current in the homeland. This yellow stuff we call riches they use for paving stones up in the homeland. Would that we might get it under our feet down here, instead of being ruled by it.
The current coin of heaven is lives of men. And that too will be reckoned the precious metal when the Kingdom of God comes to the earth. Exchange your money into men; purified, uplifted, redeemed men. Buy letters of credit that will be good in the homeland, and in the coming Kingdom days on the earth, if you would be wealthy.
"That when it fails," Jesus says with fine discernment. Money will fail. There is an end to the power of gold in itself. Money will be bankrupt some day. It has enormous buying power now. Some day its buying power will be all gone. Then it will take the place of cobble-stones. Yet it would seem to be a failure there unless some new hardening process had been found for it. Better use it while it has power of purchase. Better not be caught with much of the yellow stuff sticking to you when the true values are being settled. It'll all be dead loss then; dead stock, not worth the space it occupies.
You remember the very old story of the wealthy man who died. And in a group of people talking together somebody asked the usual question, "How much did he leave?" And a wise man in the company replied tersely, "Every cent; didn't take a copper along." That story is apt to provoke a smile. But, do you know, it is sadder than it is witty. The man had gained great wealth. He must have been endowed with some force and talent to do that. His whole life and strength and talent had been devoted to making money and hoarding it. That money was the whole output of the man's life. Then he died and the whole output of his life was left behind. He passed out of this life stripped to the skin. Into the other world, where wealth is reckoned otherwise than in gold, he entered a sheer pauper. The purchasing power of his wealth stopped at the line of departure out of this world. It failed.
Exchange your gold into men. Buy up some of the kind of coin they use in the homeland, so that you may have some wealth when you get there. Suppose you should be over on the continent of Europe, shopping in Berlin. You buy some goods in a store and lay down upon the counter a twenty-dollar gold piece in payment. The salesman would say, "What sort of money is this?" and you would likely say, "That is good American gold, sir." And he would probably reply, "I have no doubt that is true, and that it is good money. But it is not the sort we receive here. You will have to go to the bankers and get it changed into German marks and then I'll be pleased to complete this sale." And so you would be obliged to do if you had not thought to provide yourself with German money.
There are some people that will have an experience like that after a while, I'm thinking. Some one thinks that that is not a very likely illustration. A man going to Europe would provide himself with proper money to use. Maybe it is not a very good illustration for Europe. But how about some other strange lands to which folks go? There seem to be several people who expect to go to a strange country, and yet do not provide any of its recognized coinage before going.
Here is a man who gets through his life down on the earth, and goes out into the other life. Judging by the whole tenor of his life he will attempt to take some of his belongings with him. Indeed so much are these belongings a part of his very life that they seem inseparable from him. Here he comes up to the gateway of the upper world. He is lugging along a farm or two, some town lots, and houses, and a lot of beautifully engraved paper, bank stock and railroad bonds and other bonds. They are absorbing him completely as he puffs slowly along.
And as he gets up to the gateway, the gateman will say, "What's all that stuff?" "Stuff!" he will say, astonished; "this is the most precious wealth of earth, sir. I have spent my whole life, the cream of my strength in accumulating this." "Oh, well," the reply will be, "I have no doubt that is so. I am not disputing your word at all. But that sort of thing does not pass current up in this land. That has to be exchanged at the bankers' offices for the sort of coinage we use here."
The man looks a little relieved at this last remark. The other talk has sounded strange, and given him a queer misgiving in his heart, as he listened. But "banker" and "exchange"--that sounds familiar. The ground feels a bit steadier. He picks up new spirit. "Where are the bankers' offices, please?" he asks eagerly. "They are all down on the earth," comes the quiet answer. "You must do your exchanging before you get as far up as this. That stuff is all dead loss now. You can't take it back to the bankers' now, and it is of no value here. Just leave it over on that dump heap there outside the gate, and come in yourself." And the man comes in with a strangely stripped and bare feeling.
What we get and keep for the sake of having, we lose, for we leave it behind. What we give away freely for Jesus' sake, for men's sake, we will find by and by we have kept, for we have sent it ahead in a changed form.
There will be a strange readjustment of values on the other side. Some men of splendid strength have spent it in accumulating earth's wealth. They give, even freely it seems to be, in very large amounts. Yet be it keenly marked the sum given by these men always bears a small proportion to what is kept.
Others there are of equally splendid strength, and fine powers, who have been spending that strength in influencing men. Their passion seems to have been for men, for men's selves, for men's lives. The great bulk of their strength and time has been deliberately given to this. And some that have not understood have thought such conduct strange, a sort of fad with these men. But when values are readjusted by the standards of the final clearing house, some who have been very wealthy down here will be reckoned among the very poor. And some who have been reckoned poor will be found to be the shrewdest of investors. They will be the millionaires of the Kingdom time and in the homeland. I do not mean dollar-millionaires, but life-millionaires. The standard of wealth in the homeland is lives, not dollars.
And some too there will be, and not few in numbers, who have given of their strength in business pursuits to the making of money, as the Spirit has guided them, or to whom it has been left in trust by others, and who have been steadily investing the wealth that has come in the lives of men. Some folks ought to be getting better acquainted at the foreign exchange desk in the banks where this sort of business is done.
There are a good many banks that make a specialty of this sort of foreign exchange. The great Church Boards, the International Committee of the Young Men's Christian Associations, the American Committee of the Young Women's Christian Associations, the individual churches and associations, and the Bible Societies are a few of the better known of the banks having a large exchange business of this sort.
Their methods of business have been very thoroughly systematized for the convenience of investors. In almost every pew of a church may be found little deposit envelopes, mediums of exchange. There are weekly opportunities for making deposits. And the handling of the money has been so thoroughly systematized, too, that, as a rule, a very small proportion is taken up in keeping the banks running, the great bulk passing directly out to the designated place of use.
Jesus says that our money in its new form will be waiting our arrival on the other side. The men and women into whose lives we have been exchanging it will be eagerly looking for us as the ship pulls into port. When you get through with your life down here--it will be a long life, I hope--you will go up and into the homeland. And--I suppose--at the first you will have eyes and heart for nobody but Jesus. My mother used to say to me, "I have thought that I would like to have a talk with Moses, and with Elijah, and with John and Paul, but"--with the quick tears of deepest emotion filling her dark eyes--"I have never been able in my thinking of it, to get past Jesus yet." Even so it will be, no doubt, with all of us.
But this word of Jesus' own suggests that as you go in you will find some one coming eagerly up with outstretched hands and such a glad face to meet you. And he will say, "Oh! I have been looking forward so eagerly to meeting you; welcome." And you will say, "Well, this is very kind of you. But, pardon me, I can't just recall your face. Where was it I knew you? in New York?"
And he will say, with a flush of earnest feeling, "Oh, no! I never saw New York. And I never saw you before. My home was over in the heart of China. Our lives were very miserable there. There was a great tugging at my heart that nothing seemed ever to ease. But one day a stranger came into our village, with some little books, and as we gathered about him he talked to us about Jesus, and you can never know how that story of Jesus came to me, and how much it meant. My whole life was changed, and my home and our village were changed. And since coming up here I have learned that it was through you that that man came, and I want to thank you. Next to Jesus I think you're the best friend I have."
And you will be thinking, "I'm so glad I gave that money. I had to pinch quite a bit, but that's nothing compared to the joy of this." And as that is flashing swiftly through your thought, here is somebody else eagerly pressing up, with the same word of welcome, and a face with such a glad light the sight of which is alone quite enough to even up any sacrifice. And you will say maybe, "And where did I meet you? are you from China, too?"
No, this one is from a western frontier settlement where the home missionary had gone, and now this one elbowing by her with the same lightened face is from the mountain section of the South. And so they come eagerly up from many places where you have never been in person but where you have gone potentially through your money. That is what Jesus means. Make to yourselves friends by means of money which the unrighteous world reckons riches, that when it fails they may welcome you eagerly into the homeland. Exchange your gold into lives.
There is a divine alchemy whereby money may be transmuted into redeemed, purified, uplifted lives. There is another alchemy whereby men, made of finest gold in the image of God, may be transmuted into the basest metals. When Moses coming down from the presence of God saw the shocking sight of the people worshiping a calf made of gold, he reproached Aaron for permitting it. Do you remember Aaron's answer? He had the gift of speech, you remember, an easy, smooth way of explaining things. Yet in the light of the recited facts the answer seems rather lame. It needs a crutch to steady it up. He said, that he had put in the gold and--"there came out this calf."
A great many men might fairly make use of Aaron's explanation. They have put into the crucible of life their gold, themselves, God's finest gold intrusted to their hands. And under their manipulation what has come out is as a vealy, callow calf, a bull calf at that too, scrub stock, fit only for the ax.
There is the other, the divine alchemy whereby a man may put in the gold intrusted to his handling and there shall come out lives, sweet, strong, fragrant lives, made anew in the image of their Maker.
The Fragrance of the Life in the Gift.
It is a part of the peculiar potent value of money that there can be a practical transfer of personality through its use. For instance I have a friend whose heart burned to go to a foreign mission field for service there. But the physician said it would not be wise for her to go. Yielding to his expert judgment, she still yearned to be of service there. In the providence of God she became intrusted with large wealth. And so she arranged to have a man go in her stead to China, she caring for all the expense involved, while he was so left wholly free for the service.
Tell me, was that not a practical transfer of her personality to the point of service where he is engaged? Then she arranged for another, and another, and yet others. It is not only a transfer of personality in practical results, but a duplication of personality, and a triplication, and more. For she is busy in her home circle, while her representatives are busy elsewhere through the influence of her action.
A young woman, graduate of a western college, developed much talent in speaking to other young women of the Christian life. Her public service was much blessed in the lives of large numbers of women. She had no wealth, but was dependent upon her efforts for a livelihood. Another young woman, in the East, came under the warm spell of her personality and speech. And her life was blessedly revolutionized by that spell. Her own heart burned to be doing something of the sort for her sisters out over the land.
But she seemed not to have gifts of that kind. Yet she had been intrusted with large means. And so she said to her new friend whom God had so graciously blessed to her own life, "Let us be partners together. I will so gladly give what I have, that you may be wholly free to give to others what you have brought to me." And so it was arranged. And the one woman gives of the gold of her inheritance while the other gives her life and her special gift. The one in her home pays and prays. The other goes constantly here and there, and lives are ever transformed through the Spirit of God resting upon her.
Is not that a practical transfer of personality? and duplication of personality, too? Is not this young woman whose own actual personality remains, in the gracious providence of God, in her home, is she not going potentially about from place to place winning her sisters up to the highlands of the best living? It surely is so.
And these two are but illustrations of the many who have come to understand Jesus' law for the right use of money. And there are to be many more as the days go by, doing just that sort of thing. And let those of us who have not been intrusted either with the large amount of money, or with the large power to earn, remember that the amount involved does not affect the law of results. All who have felt the blessed contagion of the Master's example will give freely of what is in store, whether much or little.
Those whose giving is in smaller amounts by our bulky way of reckoning values, may still be making that same blessed transfer and doubling their own capacity for service through the agency of their gold. For the gold given represents the life that gives. And the gift takes on the quality and power and fragrance of the life that gives it. I have sometimes thought that there seems to be a peculiar potency in the smaller gifts, that represent as they so often do the greatest, most devoted sacrifice. Could we trace the intricate crossings of the lines of influence in the web of life, we would be awed many times at the potency of the giving that is small in amount but tinted red with the life-blood of sacrifice.
It should be remembered that through this strange stuff called money there is a double transfer of personality going on all the time. Men are constantly transferring themselves into gold, in a perfectly proper way. A man gives his labor, and at the end of a specified period he gets a certain amount of money. That money represents himself. It is himself for that length of time. That is the first transfer of manhood in money. It is going on all the time. It is necessarily so, for so we get our food, and clothing, and home.
Then there is the re-transfer of this money into some other form. As we choose to use this money, so we are re-transferring ourselves into what forms we will. The money is the transition state of ourselves. We pass through it out into the exchange of life. We reveal ourselves in the way we pass it out. In no way does a man reveal the true inner self more. And if perchance we let it, or some of it, lie and gather rust, there we are, some part of us being covered with rust.
Sacrifice Hallows and Increases the Gift.
But there is more yet to be said here. The great blending of the spirit forces with gold comes out wondrously in this: that sacrifice hallows what it touches. And under its hallowing touch values increase by long leaps and big bounds. Here is a fine opportunity for those who would increase the value of gifts that seem small in amount. Without stopping now for the philosophy of it, this is the tremendous fact.
Perhaps the annual foreign missionary offering is being taken up in your church. The pastor has preached a special sermon, and it has caught fire within you. You find yourself thinking as he preaches, and during the prayer following, "I believe I can easily make it fifty dollars this year. I gave thirty-five last time." You want to be careful not to make it fifty dollars, because you can do that easily. If you are shrewd to have your money count the most, you will pinch a bit somewhere and make it sixty-two fifty. For the extra amount that you pinch to give will hallow the original sum and increase its practical value enormously. Sacrifice hallows what it touches, and the hallowing touch acts in geometrical proportion upon the value of the gift.
Better turn your gown, and readjust your hat, for the sacrifice involved will give a new beauty to the spirit looking out through your face. And real folks will not be able to get past the beauty of face to the incidentals of your apparel. Wear your derby another season, and get your shoes half-soled, and some deft mending done. Let that extra horse go to other buyers, and the automobile be picked up by somebody who has not yet mined any of the fine gold of sacrifice. The coming rainy day will never be able to use up all that some folks are salting down for it.
And yet some folks, many folks, should be spending more on their bodies and giving less. The giving should never intrench upon the strength of one's personality. That is a treasure to be sacredly guarded. All the power of one's life, in serving, in giving, in praying, in speaking, and in personal contact, the power of all roots down in the personality. The safe rule, and the only safe rule, is to decide such questions with the knee-joint bent, and the door shut, and the spirit willing. A strong will played upon by the Holy Spirit, mellowed by emotions that have been moved by the need, and held steady by a disciplined judgment must attend to loosening the purse-strings.
But the one fact being emphasized here just now is that the element of sacrifice must be in the giving if it is to be effective. Sacrifice was the dominant factor in God's giving of His Son, real sacrifice. It was dominant in Jesus' giving of His own self and His life, keen cutting sacrifice. Who will follow in their train? Whoever will, will be getting a post-graduate course in financiering and in multiplying of values. He will be astonished at the results working out, and most astonished at the final disclosures.
Keeping out of circulation more than one's wants, properly adjusted, call for is poor financiering. For that which is held back is not earning anything. All beyond one's needs should be out in circulation for the Master in His campaign for a world. Yet nowhere is there finer chance or greater need for the play of keen judgment than in deciding that question of need. Mistakes are made on both sides. It looks very much as though the most serious mistakes are being made on the side of too little sacrifice or none. Yet clearly some serious mistakes are made on the other side too. But no one may criticise another. Each must decide for himself. In the judgment of charity we are to presume that each is doing what he thinks right and best. We are, none of us, the keeper of our brother's purse.
A Living Sacrifice.
There is a simple story told that contains its truth in its very naturalness and simplicity. It reveals a bit of the real life ever going on all around us unnoticed. A minister in a certain small town in an eastern state received from the home mission board of his church a letter asking for a special offering for a needy field in the West. With the letter was literature setting forth the need. The call appealed to him and with good heart he prepared a special sermon, calling the attention of his people to the great need.
Sabbath morning came and he preached the sermon. But somehow it did not just seem to hook in. That banker down there on the left looked listless, and yawned a couple of times behind his hand. And the merchant over on the right, who could give freely, examined his watch secretly more than once. And so it was with a little tinge of discouragement insistently creeping into his spirit that he finished, and sat down. And he remained with head bowed in prayer that the results might prove better than seemed likely, while the church officers passed down the aisles with the collection plates.
Meanwhile something unseen by human eye was going on in the very last pew. Back there, sitting alone, was a little girl of a poor family. She had met with a misfortune which left her crippled. And her whole life seemed so dark and hopeless. But some kind friends in the church, pitying her condition, had made up a small fund and bought her a pair of crutches. And these had seemed to transform her completely. She went about her rounds always as cheery and bright as a bit of sunshine.
She had listened to the sermon, and her heart had been strangely warmed by the preacher's story of need. And as he was finishing she was thinking, "How I wish I might give something. But I haven't anything to give, not even a copper left." And a very soft voice within seemed to say very softly, but very distinctly, "There are your crutches." "Oh," she gasped to herself as though it took away her very breath, "my crutches? I couldn't give my crutches; they're my life." And that strangely clear voice went on, so quietly, "Yes--you could--and then some one would know of Jesus--if you did--and that would mean so much to them--He's meant so much to you--give your crutches." And her breath seemed to fail her at the thought. And so the little woman had her fight all unseen and unknown by those in the church. And by and by the victory came. And she sat with a beautiful light in her tearful eyes, and a smile coming to her lips, waiting for the plate to get to her pew.
And the man with the plate came down the aisle to the end. It seemed hardly worth while reaching it into the last pew. Just little Maggie sitting there alone, with her one foot dangling above the floor. But with fine courtesy he stopped and passed the plate in. And Maggie in her childlike simplicity lifted her crutches, and tried rather awkwardly to put them on the collection plate. Quick as a flash the man caught her thought, and with a queer lump in his throat reached out and steadied her strange gift on the plate.
And then he turned back and walked slowly up the aisle toward the pulpit, carrying the plate in one hand and steadying the crutches on it with the other. And people commenced to look. And eyes quickly dimmed. Everybody knew the crutches. Maggie--giving her crutches! And the banker over here blew his nose suddenly and reached for his pencil, and the merchant reached out to stop the man returning up his aisle.
As the pastor stood with his eyesight not very clear to receive the morning's offering, he said, "Surely our little crippled friend is giving us a wonderful example." Then the plates were called back toward the pews. And somebody paid fifty dollars for the crutches, and sent them back to that end pew. When the offering was counted up it contained several hundred dollars. And the little girl, crippled in body but not in any other way, hobbled out of church the happiest little woman in the world.
She had recognized and obeyed the inner voice. That was the simple explanation of her giving. And her gift, small in itself, touched with sacrifice, became worth several hundred dollars in its earning power. And the original investment was returned for its usual service. And her gift has been increasing in its earning power as its recital has reached other hearts, and the end is not yet. I do not know just where Maggie is now. But I do know that she will be a greatly surprised woman some day when she finds out what God has done with her sacrifice-hallowed gift. She recognized and obeyed the inner Voice. That is the one law of giving, as of all living.