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brethren, they gladly denied self, and thus abounded in the fruit of benevolence.
When Paul sent Titus to Corinth to strengthen the believers there, he instructed him to build up that church in the grace of giving; and in a personal letter to the believers he also added his own appeal. “As ye abound in everything,” he pleaded, “in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also." "Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: . . . being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God." 13
Unselfish liberality threw the early church into a transport of joy; for the believers knew that their efforts were helping to send the gospel message to those in darkness. Their benevolence testified that they had not received the grace of God in vain. What could produce such liberality but the sanctification of the Spirit? In the eyes of believers and unbelievers it was a miracle of grace.
Spiritual prosperity is closely bound up with Christian liberality. The followers of Christ should rejoice in the privilege of revealing in their lives the beneficence of their Redeemer. As they give to
13 2 Cor. 8:7, 11, 12; 9: 8-11.
the Lord, they have the assurance that their treasure is going before them to the heavenly courts. Would men make their property secure? Let them place it in the hands that bear the marks of the crucifixion. Would they enjoy their substance? Let them use it to bless the needy and suffering. Would they increase their possessions? Let them heed the divine injunction, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." 16 Let them seek to retain their possessions for selfish purposes, and it will be to their eternal loss. But let their treasure be given to God, and from that moment it bears His inscription. It is sealed with His immutability.
God declares, “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters." 15
A continual imparting of God's gifts wherever the cause of God or the needs of humanity demand our aid, does not tend to poverty. “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty."" The sower multiplies his seed by casting it away. So it is with those who are faithful in distributing God's gifts. By imparting they increase their blessings. “Give, and it shall be given unto you," God has promised; “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
14 Prov. 3:9, 10. 15 Isa. 32: 20. 16 Prov. 11:24. 17 Luke 6:38.
Laboring under Difficulties
WHILE Paul was careful to set before his converts the plain teaching of Scripture regarding the proper support of the work of God, and while he claimed for himself, as a minister of the gospel, the “power to forbear working” at secular employment as a means of self-support, yet at various times during his ministry in the great centers of civilization, he wrought at a handicraft for his own maintenance.
Among the Jews physical toil was not thought strange or degrading. Through Moses the Hebrews had been instructed to train their children to industrious habits; and it was regarded as a sin to allow the youth to grow up in ignorance of physical labor. Even though a child was to be educated for holy office, a knowledge of practical life was thought essential. Every youth, whether his parents were rich or poor, was taught some trade. Those parents who neglected to provide such a training for their children were looked upon as departing from the instruc
11 Cor. 9:6.
tion of the Lord. In accordance with this custom, Paul had early learned the trade of tent-making.
Before he became a disciple of Christ, Paul had occupied a high position, and was not dependent upon manual labor for support. But afterward, when he had used all his means in furthering the cause of Christ, he resorted at times to his trade to gain a livelihood. Especially was this the case when he labored in places where his motives might have been misunderstood.
It is at Thessalonica that we first read of Paul's working with his hands in self-supporting labor while preaching the Word. Writing to the church of believers there, he reminded them that he might have been burdensome” to them, and added: “Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of
And again, in his second epistle to them, he declared that he and his fellow-laborer while with them had not eaten “any man's bread for naught.” Night and day we worked, he wrote, “that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.": 3
At Thessalonica Paul had met those who refused to work with their hands. It was of this class that he afterward wrote: “There are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. ” "1 Thess. 2:6, 9.
3.2 Thess. 3:8, 9.
While laboring in Thessalonica, Paul had been careful to set before such ones a right example. “Even when we were with you,” he wrote, “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
In every age Satan has sought to impair the efforts of God's servants by introducing into the church a spirit of fanaticism. Thus it was in Paul's day, and thus it was in later centuries, during the time of the Reformation. Wycliffe, Luther, and many others who blessed the world by their influence and their faith, encountered the wiles by which the enemy seeks to lead into fanaticism overzealous, unbalanced, and unsanctified minds. Misguided souls have taught that the attainment of true holiness carries the mind above all earthly thoughts, and leads men to refrain wholly from labor. Others, taking extreme views of certain texts of Scripture, have taught that it is a sin to work, that Christians should take no thought concerning the temporal welfare of themselves or their families, but should devote their lives wholly to spiritual things. The teaching and example of the apostle Paul are a rebuke to such extreme views.
Paul was not wholly dependent upon the labor of his hands for support while at Thessalonica. Referring later to his experiences in that city, he wrote to the Philippian believers in acknowledgment of the gifts he had received from them while there, saying, “Even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity."" Notwithstanding the fact that he received this help, he was careful to + 2 Thess. 3:11, 12, 10.
5 Phil. 4:16.