Vol. 10 — No. 31 August 3, 1969


The Use of Earthly Gifts and Blessing

Proverbs 11:23-31

The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the heal of him that selleth it. He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him. He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall he servant to the wise of heart. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.

Merciful heavenly Father, thou who first caused the light of day to shine into the darkness: do thou now shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Enlighten us to see thy will in all things, and then give us that obedience which will let thy Word rule always. Grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord: It is the high art of a Christian to say, “Thy will be done.” For a believer so to live that his thoughts, words, and deeds are pleasing, not to himself, but to the God he loves—that is victorious living which overcometh the world. Consecrated believers are that way: they want things the way God wants them, because they know that God’s ways are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth.

When the believers, that is, those who, according to our text, are called “the righteous,” desire those things which God desires, then they are desiring that which is good. Then they are seeking their true welfare. When men are wicked, out of tune with God, wanting their own will to be done instead of the will of God, their expectation is, according to our text, wrath. That is why we say that it is the high art of a child of God to say, “Thy will be done.”

And when we are learning this precious art, let us be sure that we are not being instructed by anyone else but by the Holy Spirit of God, our heaven-appointed Teacher, our Guide into all saving truth. Let us make sure we are learning from God’s Word. Let us not listen to our perverted human reason, which will lead us only into human wisdom,—human wisdom which is foolishness with God. Be sure to guard against this, for “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Rom. 8:7. The best wisdom of men, the wisdom of the world, will not lead you one step closer to God. It will lead you to hell. “Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord… Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Jer. 17:5.7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we read in the Proverbs. “I am the…truth,” said Jesus, and he also said that everyone that is of the truth heareth His words. Yes, it is the noblest work a Christian can do, to buy the truth and sell it not; to give up everything that is essentially his own in order that he may purchase the Pearl of Great Price. Then is he making those words the principle of his life: “Thy will be done!”

Please do not forget that this is something practical. It is one of the sad commentaries upon Christianity today that those who profess it have very often separated it from their daily life. It is like the copy of the Bible in many homes: a beautiful divinity circuit edition that lies in an honored shelf untouched, unsoiled, unread. Too often Christianity is like a full-dress suit, that is worn on occasions, but not in everyday life. It is like a wall-flower, beautiful to look at and admired for its esthetic values, but worthless in everyday life. Thus men speak the Word, perhaps when they go through the Lord’s Prayer, when they join in the hymns in church, and they may utter a pious expression when death is near or has struck the home. But why not make it a part of daily life? One of our boys in the military service wrote recently that he has spent many a Sunday afternoon and evening in the homes of a certain congregation of our fellowship in a large city. What struck him as very excellent was that hardly had he been in the homes long before someone asked some question concerning something in the Bible, something concerning church life, or some other question concerning eternal truths. Yes, the Word of God is practical. It speaks on everyday matters. It answers questions about the way our people these days talk very rottenly. It enters into respect for parents and the authority of government. It tells you whether this practice or that practice is allowed in business. It tells you whether a man or a woman will receive blessing or cursing in this marriage or that marriage. It shows you plainly that one of the saddest things is mixed marriages, spiritually-minded with worldly-minded. It instructs us in behavour toward one another. And it cuts deep at the roots of sin.

Thus you see that there is no end to the many ways in which Christianity is applied to our lives, if only we will apply the healing balm that God gives us! It is intensely practical. It is as useful every day of our lives as the very food we have for our meals. To apply it at every turn is the art of living a Christian life. It is the skill of applying what God has said; it is the art of practicing what we say in the expression: “Thy will be done.”

Today we have instruction in one of the most important features of a God-pleasing life; we have a lesson in

The Use of Earthly Gifts and Blessing

or, to bring it home more impressively, THE USE OF MONEY.

The improper use of earthly gifts and blessings is when we use those things selfishly. Our text speaks of those who withhold more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. Where help is called for; where there is a situation in which there is need of help for one less fortunate, there we are selfish if we hold back, and we are subject to the curse that is sure to follow. That is the plain Law of God, and we are up against its sure punishment if we disobey it. There we have a plain truth; let us not becloud it with further unnecessary words about it. Where there is need, it is our duty to share. Words of sympathy and well-wishing are not enough. God’s Word says: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Jas. 2:15f. Then we are selfish. And the curse upon it is that very often such a selfish person is reduced to poverty. Poverty is very often God’s way of blessing us; but it is also God’s way of punishing the miser.

Another misuse of earthly goods is pointed to in another verse of our text: “He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him.” That refers to the selfish practice of speculation in the effort to increase riches quickly, at the expense of others. This is the sin of withholding corn, grain, food, so that those who need it are compelled to pay more for it than it is actually worth, so that they are compelled to pay more than a fair price to him who has labored to produce it. Such a get-rich-quick method is cursed by the people, and it is plain that God concurs in the curse. He who practices that method is selfish; concerned about himself alone, and is void, absolutely without love, and is under the curse both of God and men.

The other misuse of God’s material blessings is mentioned in the verse which says, “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.” Those who put confidence in their riches and securities commit fine idolatry. And they, of all sinners, are the ones whom God calls “fools.” They are the ones whom God’s Word causes to look ridiculous. “Labour not to be rich; cease from thine own wisdom,” says the sacred Proverb; “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (23:4f.) There you have the picture of a man looking foolish, even silly; who thought he had something, but stood there holding an empty bag. You remember the parable about the rich man who planned to tear down his barns to build them bigger; God called him a fool. He said to him: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall these things be; which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20f. He is called a fool. In Jeremiah God’s Word says again: “As a partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” (17:11). As a hen that sits on fruitless eggs all summer and must finally walk off feeling foolish, so is he that unjustly assembles himself much riches only to leave them all,—getting no good out of them himself, and seldom, very seldom leaving a real blessing, even for his children,—more often just something to quarrel and fight about. Yes, the Word of God is practical; it give us instruction for the use of the goods which we have in our hands every day.

Now what is the right use of our earthly goods and blessings? The right use is on the basis of liberality that distributes money and other kinds of assistance where it is needed with a free hand? Listen to what the Word says: “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.” Under God’s blessing such a person increases his portion of this world’s goods instead of decreasing it. We say, under God’s blessing. Such a person is under God’s blessing in just the same way as he reaps a harvest under God’s blessing who scatters in the spring. Does not the farmer increase his stock of grain and corn by scattering some of it? Does it look as though he should get more by taking some out of his granary and throwing it into the dirt, where it will rot and die? Would he be further ahead by selfishly keeping that excellent seed in his bins? But why does his goods increase by his scattering some of them? Because he is acting on the basis that God has established as the true basis. He is in tune with God’s will and plans. In the matter of his corn and oats and wheat and beans he is willing to trust God! In those matters he knows that if he does not say “Thy will be done” he will receive no increase.

Why, then, are we so slow to trust the promise and arrangement of God in the matter of our dollars and cents? Why will we not also be practical in this matter? Why can we not also here say “Thy will he done”? Increase also here, under the blessing of God, is on the basis of giving, on the basis of blessing, on the basis of liberality. Yes, the grace of God has prompted many hearts to take God at His Word also here. And whenever we see one of our Christians who shows by his actions that he believes also this truth of God, we are prompted to praise God for the successful work His Holy Spirit is doing also in this matter. For the encouragement of many more to take God at His Word also in this matter we want to make clear that the liberal use of our earthly blessings is a gift of grace, a grace that God would gladly give all of us.

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth…The liberal soul shall he made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.” Yes, blessing shall be upon the head, not only of him who scattereth; but blessing shall be upon him who does not seek to receive a false and inflated value for that which he produces himself. Blessing shall be upon the head of him who does not seek to take advantage of the need and misery of another. One cannot but shudder at the curse that must come upon our land for seeking richly to line its pockets in these days of war;—but I remind you again of the grace of God which underlies the promise: “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; the liberal soul shall be made fat.”

Yes, Christian giving is God’s gift to us. What we give, under God’s blessing, is what we keep. This is only the reflection of the whole make-up of the Christian man. Under the grace of God, schooled and trained by the Holy Spirit, he become liberal in all things. Jesus showed how all these things go together when he said (and mark how he begins!): “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (note that to follow those precepts all you need is this God-given generosity); give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:36ff. As you have received the grace from God, so will you show grace unto others, so will they measure grace back to you. And thus you grow up in the virtue of love,—for what is love? It is something which cannot live without being busy doing good to others. Oh, it is an important part of our Christian life, this matter of learning aright to grow up according to God’s will by using aright the earthly goods with which God has blessed us so abundantly.

And to grow in it we must remember always that it is a matter of the gospel of Christ. Yes, there is also the aspect of Law also here. The Law speaks up and says that in this matter God is not mocked, and that as we sow we shall also reap. The Law says that if we be stingy with God, we will in eternity lose everything that we ever had and in addition our salvation. It says that if we withhold more than is right, we will also in this life be deprived of much that God would give us.

But the motive power that can cause us to grow in this grace also is the grace of God. As we learn to appreciate His grace which brought us salvation, we will learn to grow up in this grace also. You cannot be filled with the water of life from the perpetual fountain of God’s love and grace without overflowing for the benefit of others. Therefore if you wish to become one who scattereth and yet increaseth, then look to Christ whom God raised from the dead and placed at the righthand of His throne, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. For why did God highly exalt Him and give Him a name that is above every name, a name at which one day every knee in heaven and earth and hell shall bow? Why is Christ today Lord of lords and King of kings? Because there was a time when Jesus gave away everything that He had, even His very life. Jesus gave away His very life; but He got back again not only His own, but the life of all His redeemed saints. “THERE IS THAT SCATTERETH AND YET INCREASETH!” God grant that we have learned this lesson today, and never forget it. Amen.

—Pastor Martin Galstad

Immanuel Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, Florida

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