Chadwick strongly believed there was a close tie between our faithfulness in paying tithe and God's blessing. What follows is a sermon and an appropriate illustration on systematic giving.
Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts… Mal. 3:10
"Unless a man cultivates a habit of systematic giving when he has not much to give, he will give little when he is rich."
I. The first proposition that lies at the basis of this challenge is: THERE IS A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN RELIGION AND PROSPERITY.
I do not mean spiritual prosperity, but prosperity in the material things of life. There is a close and intimate relationship between the righteousness which is enjoined upon us of the Lord and the prosperity which is promised to follow.
The Old Testament makes no secret about it; it does not mince matters. Irrespective of all appeals to motives of selfishness, and the fact that it lays itself open to reproach from critical and cynical people, it boldly and plainly declares that if the children of Israel will be obedient to the covenant and keep the commands God has enjoined upon them, they shall be rewarded in return with plenty, with prosperity, with an abundance of happiness and peace.
All the history of all the nations of the earth confirms that declaration, at any rate from national standpoints. The nations that rise to pre-eminence rise in virtue of their righteousness. No nation has ever fallen through external forces. It has first of all been honeycombed and undermined with inward deterioration, and then when the first breath came from without, it was sufficient to bring about its overthrow and ruin. And England will never fall if England is true to the tradition of godliness and of honour.
When it comes to personal matters, the same principle must apply. But immediately difficulties appear. We recall at once the Book of Job. We remember the 37th Psalm. These have their explanation in the Providence of God. But notwithstanding these, the general rule holds good that religion tends to prosperity. I remember when the only son of a distinguished mayor of one of the largest cities in the North of England got converted. His father was not troubled with too much seriousness in matters of religion. He was one of the keenest of business men, and one of the most level-headed fellows in the country. He shook hands with me as I sat in the private room, and said: "Mr. Chadwick, what has happened to my lad to-night is worth more than you think. I would have given £100,000 for it." I thought he was not serious until I looked up and saw the tears in his eyes. He repeated it. "The commercial value to the lad is worth more than £100,000," he said. I found out he was not far wrong. I have met with more than one father who would have given more than £100,000 if he could have guaranteed his son's conversion, and it would have been cheap at the price. Godliness is profitable to the life that now is, as well as to that which is to come.
I am not going to contend that every man who becomes a Christian will become a millionaire; I am not convinced that being a millionaire is a sure indication of prosperity. Barney Barnato was a millionaire, and at last he jumped into the sea to cool his brain! If a man to make millions sacrifices his soul his millions are bought at too big a price.
Neither am I going to contend that all Christian men will be equally prosperous. If a man is born with only ninepence to the smiling, that is threepence short. Christ can never make up the threepence short, and he will always be short, converted or not converted. My contention is that God can do more with ninepence than the devil can do with half a crown; and that there is nothing in this world so calculated to make the best of a man as the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, intelligently grasped and enthusiastically lived.
Of course, you will ask me, what about the good men who do not get on? Well, there are lots of them, and they are problems. But I have never known a good man fail to get on because of his religion. A great many people go on the assumption that religion can enable them to dispense with the common principles of success. That can never be. If a man brings cattle to the market when the fair is over he will not succeed, and he must blame himself that he did not get up sooner in the morning. His religion should be manifested by promptitude, and not, by pious expressions. Religion never makes up for laziness. Religion never makes up for bad workmanship and lack of punctuality I would not give much for the religion which does not make a man a better worker and a more punctual workman. It is not brain that is wanted, but things coupled with character. That which commands the highest price in the market to-day is efficiency and trustworthiness. It is the greatest insult to this generation to say it is impossible for a man to maintain his integrity and get on. He may not get on very fast, but he will have a peaceful life and be prosperous if there is a God in heaven and truth in the Book.
II. THERE IS A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN WHAT A MAN GIVES AND WHAT HE GETS.
Some men will never lose less until they give more. God calls for the whole tithe, not for a tithe.
I believe people who give much lose much of the blessing of it, because they give contrary to the principles laid down in the Bible. They often give as the result of impulse or rivalry and competition.
God has never let go His right to the things material. Everything a man gets God snips a bit out of it, to remind the man that he did not get it by his own skill and wit. God gave it to him, and man is not the proprietor but the steward. And the principle laid down is this — that a man has got to settle between himself and his God what the proportion ought to be which he should give to God. I think a tithe is a generous maximum for the poor and a mean minimum for the rich. Unless a man cultivates a habit of systematic giving when he has not much to give, he will give little when he is rich.
"In the north of England two brothers went into business. They were enthusiastic in religion and made an agreement that the Lord Jesus Christ should be a partner in the concern, and that a fixed proportion should be given to Him out of all the profits. They so gave, and the lads prospered. The first year they had a nice lot of money to give. The second they had still more. The third they had still more; and the fourth year the profits were so great that they went into four figures. Then they thought the proportion to be set aside for God was too much to give to charity. It was for "charity" now, not for the Lord. Seeing that it was so much, they divided it, took half for themselves, and sent the other half away. The next year they did not make a copper; and before the end of six months the following year, they had come to a crisis."
"The two brothers met one day and locked themselves in the office to face the situation. And William said to James, We have never prospered, James, since we robbed God. The first charge on the business must be to pay back what we have robbed. They knelt down and prayed and made this promise. Before the end of the year the business had pulled round. Strange enough, after another four years they made a similar mistake and had a similar experience. Today they are amongst the wealthiest Methodist people. They never failed when they honoured God."
The Mr. Chadwick related several similar experiences, but we will quote one more, and this for the benefit of those who may think that being in debt is a reason why the tithe should not be paid.
"In concluding his sermon, Mr. Chadwick urged his hearers to put into practice the principle that he had been presenting, and stated, "Here is a way out of your difficulties—your bad times." There happened to be one man in his congregation who was so hopelessly in-debt that he had instructed his lawyer to call a meeting of his creditors. But after hearing Mr. Chadwick's sermon he decided that he would put into practice what he had heard. On his way home, he called at the lawyer's residence and told him that he had changed his mind and would not call his creditors together. On the following Sunday morning Mr. Chadwick received a letter from him containing ten shillings. He said he could not trust himself to wait till the end of the month, but he would divide his takings now. He sent ten shillings the second week, and fifteen shillings the third week, and a sovereign the fourth week. Then he said. the whole aspect of affairs was changed and that he had taken more money in the month than he had ever taken in two months in his business previously."—Illustrations taken from the Australasian Record, June 4, 1923.
"The first person who introduced me to the system of systematic giving was a widow woman who was my landlady many years ago. She had been very poor. She was talking about this matter, and she told me her income once was only ten shillings a week, and she gave a tenth then.
I said, "How did you manage it?"
She said, "When I got my ten shillings, I put them on the Bible in a row, and I took the best looking of the ten out, and I put that in the Lord's box. I had nine shillings left."
I said, "How did you live?"
She said, "I do not know unless it was this: I believe when I had taken one shilling for the Lord, the Lord made every penny of the nine shillings go as far as twopence." She believed that the God of Elijah was not dead yet, and that He who had power to increase the cruse of oil and the handful of meal, could make a penny go as far as twopence if she honoured Him.—The Bible Echo, September 24, 1900