Silver and Gold
James Smith, 1864
We are in the habit of looking at all spiritual blessings as in the hands of Christ, and entirely at his disposal, to be received from him, and used by us to his glory. It appears to me that we are not sufficiently impressed with the fact, that temporal things are equally so. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." He claims all the living creatures as his, "Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. The world is mine and the fullness thereof." And, our beloved Redeemer, taught his disciples to look upon their heavenly Father, as claiming, caring for, and feeding them. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."
So also the precious metals are his, and are claimed by him. Hence to encourage the Jews, under their comparative poverty, when building the second temple, he said, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord Almighty." Every penny, every dollar is the Lord's. He may lend to us — but he still claims the whole as his own. We are at best but stewards, entrusted with a little of his property, for a little time, and for a specific purpose. Let us meditate on this subject for a short time, and may the Holy Spirit may condescend to make it a blessing to us. It is a Scriptural, and consequently a holy subject, therefore it may be profitable.
"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord Almighty." It must be the Lord's, for he created it by his power, he concealed it in his earth, he has unveiled it just when and as he pleased, he disposes of it to whom he will. He still claims it, makes use of it, and it is either made a blessing or a curse to its present possessor. "The Lord makes rich." The rich man's heart is in his hands, his life lies at his mercy, and he is held accountable for the use he makes of the wealth entrusted to him. Here the Lord raises up the poor from the dust, and puts him in possession of wealth; there he strips the wealthy of what pampered his lusts and fed his pride, and sends him to the cottage of the poor.
No man has an absolute right to any of the property he possessess, at best he has but a life interest in it, and not always that. What then have the rich to be proud of? What cause have the wealthy to boast? The more silver and gold we possess — the greater our responsibility. It is a means of usefulness — but it may become a cause of condemnation. Well then may the Prophet say, "Let not the rich man glory in his riches."
Let not the poor man envy the rich. Let not the Lord's people look too much to the wealthy, when they need silver and gold to carry on the Lord's cause. Let us all devoutly hear the Lord say, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord Almighty."
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then, let us look to him for what we need, either for ourselves or his cause. We must use the means that are put in our power — but we should always look above the means to the Lord himself. If I need anything, whom should I ask for it, but the owner? As the Lord therefore claims the silver and gold as his, I will look to him first, ask of him first, and entreat him to dispose the minds of his stewards to do his will in this particular.
I fear we all look too much to man, to circumstances, and to second causes. Let us endeavor to correct this mistake, and in future let us first ask of God, and then apply to man.
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us expect to be held accountable for the use we make of it. We are not at liberty lavishly to spend it on dress, furniture, or pleasure; on ourselves, our children, or our relations — while God's cause and God's poor are in need. Many a Lazarus still desires to be fed with the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table. Many a rich man will give pounds for a fine picture, who will not give a few pence to the Lord's poor. Many will squander hundreds upon gilding, adorning, and enlarging their own dwellings; who say they have nothing to spare to build, enlarge, or beautify God's sanctuary. Many spend more upon themselves in one day — than they do upon the cause of God in a whole year. Can such realize their responsibility? Do they look upon themselves as stewards? Do they believe that they must give an account of themselves to God? Do they consider their silver and gold as the Lord's?
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us honor God with it. He commands us to do so. He assures us that it is the way to thrive. Hear his own faithful word, "Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine." He who honors God with his property, will enjoy it, even if he does not increase it. He who hoards when God's cause needs — will lose; while he who gives, will secure what he has and increase it. As it is written, "There is one scattered and yet increases, and there is one withholds more than is meet, and it tends to poverty."
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us be willing to part with it when God calls for it. Does he send a poor Christian to you to ask for assistance? See God's hand in sending him, and obey God's word is relieving him. Does he send some minister of Christ, or the collector of one of our great societies to you? Give as if you were giving the Lord's money, and not your own. Give cheerfully. Give according to your means. Give with prayer that God's blessing may accompany what you give. Give and feel relieved of a part of your responsibility.
If he sends one of his children, be careful to treat that child kindly. If you are cross, sour, or unlovely in your carriage toward a Christian, ponder well our Lord's own words, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have dove it unto me." Matthew 25:40. Jesus takes what is done to his people — as done to himself — whether it be kindness, or unkindness; and he especially observes what treatment his ministers and his poor people receive, and sympathizes with them. May we never forget this; but may it be deeply engraved on our hearts, be constantly before our eyes, and so influence our conduct in everyday life.
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us beware of setting our hearts upon it. Money itself is harmless; yes, it may be a blessing. But the love of money is the root of all evil: and yet there are professors who are in love with money. They love to get it, love to talk of it, love to keep it — but they cannot bear to part with it. They seem to love money more than they love Christ, they certainly love money more than they love the poor, the house of prayer, and the missionary cause; for if they did not, with the money they have, the poor in the church would never lack, the house of prayer would not be in debt, and the funds of the missionary societies would not be so low.
O love of money, what mischief have you done! What misery have you produced! What dishonor have you cast upon the Gospel! What grief have you caused God's ministers! What power have you given to Satan! What multitudes have you sent through the house of God to Hell! What a curse have you been to God's church!
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us praise God for it when he gives it. It always comes from his hand — but not always with the love of his heart. If we inordinately desire it, he may do by us as he did by Israel of old, of whom we read, "He gave them their desire — but sent leanness withal into their soul." A full purse does not always bring comfort with it. Better, often, is a little — with the fear of the Lord. But if the Lord pleases to give us wealth, let us thank him for every penny. Let us construct a ladder of gold and silver, with which to reach to his throne. Let us bless a giving God, and stand prepared to bless a taking God too.
The way to enjoy our wealth, is to feel that we are unworthy of it, to view God as the giver of it, daily and hourly to praise him for it, and to make a good use of every part of it.
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us bow submissively to his wise and holy will — if he keeps us short of it. He may see that it would be too powerful a temptation for us. He may see that we would not know how to use it so as to improve it. Unquestionably, if we are Christians, there is mercy in his keeping us short of it. "The Lord makes poor," and if he has made us poor, let us not repine; but if he has given us food and clothing, let us be content.
We may imagine now much good we would do if we had wealth — but it is one thing to have the heart without the means, and another for the means and heart to be possessed together. Better have the will without the wealth — than the wealth without the will. Many have boasted what great things they would do if God would only trust them with the means; he trusted them — and they did nothing! Are we better than they? No, never, there must be special grace given with silver and gold — or they will prove a curse and not a blessing. Many in poverty have walked close with God — but in plenty have wandered from him. Depend upon it, that Divine wisdom, mercy, and love have combined to keep you poor; and they have done so just because it is best for you.
Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us ask God's blessing upon it, for "the blessing of the Lord makes rich." He promised Israel saying, "I will bless your bread and your water," and why not bless your gold and silver? Whatever has God's blessing attached to, it will do us good. A little with God's blessing, will go a great way. Many receive money without gratitude, keep it without prayer, and use it without a sense of responsibility. This is decidedly wrong, for it dishonors God, it depraves the mind, and gives Satan an occasion against us.
Finally, Is the silver and gold the Lord's? Then let us make a good use of it. Let us use it to circulate God's word. To send out Christ's missionaries. To build sancturics for the Lord's people. To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and make the widow's heart to sing for joy. Jesus thought so little of it, that he trusted Judas, the only thief among the Apostles, with it. He kept the bag — there was no sin in that; but he loved that which was put therein — there was sin in that.
Let us not hoard — what we should use; or lay up — what we ought to lay out. Let us not waste — but frugally employ as Scripture dictates. He who uses what he has well, may expect to be entrusted with more. But if we do not manage a little as we ought, it is not probable that God will give us much. The best men have often been kept short — but it did not make them unhappy, Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have;" but he said it without one sigh of regret, or without one anxious wish.
Beloved, let this subject have its proper influence upon our minds. Never perhaps was it more necessary. It will be sure to do us good, if we rightly employ it. Whatever we have is the Lord's. It is lent us for a time. All that is temporal will soon be taken away from us again, for "naked came we out of our mother's womb," and naked shall we soon leave this world. What we use for God's glory, and the good of souls — will be remembered with pleasure, and will be rewarded by the Judge of all. But what we have unduly hoarded and left behind us, will . . . . I say not what — but leave the future to decide. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith." Let us not imitate the wicked and slothful servant, who went and dug in the earth, and "hid his lord's money."
Let us receive all as from God,
let us hold all as belonging to God,
and let us use all for God.
Let us live daily in prospect of eternity. Let us commit the keeping of our souls to God in well-doing. Let us do what good we can while we live, and thus endeavor to leave the world better than we found it. Yes, let us so live, so act, and so die — as reasonably to expect our Lord and Master to say to us, "Well Done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things." May it be even so. Amen.