By Andrew Murray
The Holy Spirit and Money
When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost to dwell in men, He assumed the charge and control of their whole life. They were to be or do nothing that was not under His inspiration and leading. In everything they were to move and live and have their being "in the Spirit," to be wholly spiritual men. Hence it followed as a necessity that their possessions and property, that their money and its appropriations were subjected to His rule too, and that their income and expenditure were animated by new, hitherto unknown, principles.
In the opening chapters of the Acts we find more than one proof of the all-embracing claim of the Holy Spirit to guide and judge in the disposal of money. If I want as a Christian to know how to give, let me learn here what the teaching of the Holy Spirit is as regards the place money is to have in my Christian life and in that of the Church.
First we have: The Holy Spirit taking possession of the money.
"All that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all according as every man had need." Acts 2: 44, 45. And again, Acts 4: 34: "As many as were possessors of land or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles' feet. And Barnabas having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the Apostles' feet." Without any command or instruction, in the joy of the Holy Spirit, the joy of the love which He had shed abroad in their heart, the joy of the heavenly treasures that now made them rich, they spontaneously parted with their possessions and placed them at the disposal of the Lord and His servants.
It would have been strange had it been otherwise, and a terrible loss to the Church. Money is the great symbol of the power of happiness of this world; one of its chief idols, drawing men away from God; a never-ceasing temptation to worldliness, to which the Christian is daily exposed. It would not have been a full salvation that did not provide complete deliverance from the power of money. The story of Pentecost assures us that when the Holy Spirit comes in His fulness into the heart, then earthly possessions lose their place in it, and money is only valued as a means of proving our love and doing service to our Lord and our fellow men. The fire from heaven that finds a man upon the altar and consumes the sacrifice, finds his money too, and makes it all ALTAR GOLD, holy to the Lord.
We learn here the true secret of Christian giving, the secret, in fact, of all true Christian living -- the joy of the Holy Ghost. How much of our giving then has there been in which this element has been too much lacking. Habit, example, human argument and motive, the thought of duty, or the feeling of the need around us, have had more to do with our charities than the power and love of the Spirit. It is not that what has just been mentioned is not needful. The Holy Spirit makes use of all these elements of our nature in stirring us to give. There is a great need for inculcating principles and fixed habits in regard to giving. But what we need to realize is that all this is but the human side, and cannot suffice if we are to give in such measure and spirit as to make every gift a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God and a blessing to our own souls.
The secret of true giving is the joy of the Holy Ghost.
The complaint in the Church as to the terrible need of more money for God's work, as to the terrible disproportion between what God's people spend on themselves and devote to their God, is universal. The pleading cry of many of God's servants who labor for the poor and the lost, is often heart-piercing. Let us take to heart the solemn lesson: it is simply a proof of the limited measure in which the power of the Holy Spirit is known among believers. Let us for ourselves pray most fervently the prayer that our whole life may be so in the joy of the Holy Spirit, a life so absolutely yielded to Him and His rule, that all our giving may be a spiritual sacrifice, through Jesus Christ.
Our second Pentecostal lesson on money we find in Chapter 3: 6: "Then Peter said, silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" Here it is: The Holy Spirit dispensing with money.
Our first lesson was: the Church of Pentecost needs money for its work; the Spirit of Pentecost provides money; money may be at once a sure proof of the Spirit's mighty working, and a blessed means of opening the way for His fuller action. But there is a danger ever near. Men begin to think that money is the great need; that abundance of money coming in is a proof of the Spirit's presence; that money must be strength and blessing. Our second lesson dissipates these illusions, and teaches us how the power of the Spirit can just be shown where there is no money. The Holy Spirit is the mighty power of God, now condescending to use the money of His saints, then again proving how divinely independent He is of it. The Church must yield herself to be guided into this double truth; the Holy Spirit claims all its money; the Holy Spirit's mightiest works may be wrought without it. The Church must never beg for money as if this were the secret of her strength.
See these Apostles, Peter and John, penniless in their earthly poverty, and yet just in virtue of their poverty, mighty to dispense heavenly blessings. "Poor, yet making many rich." Where had they learned this? Peter says, "Silver and gold have I none; in the name of Jesus Christ, walk." It points us back to the poverty which Christ had enjoined upon them, and of which He had set them the wonderful example. By his holy poverty He would prove to men what a life is of perfect trust in the Father, how the possession of heavenly riches makes independent of earthly goods, how earthly poverty fits the better for holding and for dispensing eternal treasures. The inner circle of His disciples found in following the footsteps of His poverty the fellowship of His power. The Apostle Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit the same lesson. To be ever in external things, utterly loose even from earth's lawful things, is a wonderful, he almost appears to say an indispensable, help in witnessing to the absolute reality and sufficiency of the unseen heavenly riches.
We may be sure that as the Holy Spirit begins to work in power in His Church, there will again be seen His mighty operation in the possession of His people. Some will again by their giving make themselves poor, in the living faith of the incomprehensible worth of their heavenly heritage, and the fervent joy the Spirit gives them in it. And some who are poor and in great straits with their work for God will learn to cultivate more fully the joyful consciousness: "Silver and gold have I none: what I have I give: in the name of Jesus Christ, walk." And some who are not called to give all, will yet give with an unknown liberality, because they begin to see the privilege of giving all, and long to come as near as they can. And we shall have a Church, giving willingly and abundantly, and yet not for a moment trusting in its money, but honoring those most who have the grace and the strength to be followers of Jesus Christ in His poverty.
Our third lesson is: The Holy Spirit testing the money. All the money that is given, even in a time when the Holy Spirit is moving mightily, is not given under His inspiration. But it is all given under his holy supervision, and He will from time to time, to each heart that honestly yields to Him, reveal what there may be wanting or wrong. Listen: "Barnabas having a field, sold it, and brought the money. But Ananias sold a possession and kept back part of the price, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the the Apostles' feet." Ananias brought his gift, and with his wife was smitten dead. What can have made the gift such a crime? He was a deceitful giver. He kept back part of the price.
He professed to give all, and did not. He gave with half a heart and unwillingly, and yet would have the the credit of having given all. In the Pentecostal Church the Holy Ghost was the author of the giving: his sin was against the Holy Ghost. No wonder that it is twice written: "great fear came upon the whole Church, and upon all who heard it." If it is so easy to sin even in giving, if the Holy Spirit watches and judges all our giving, we may well beware and fear.
And what was the sin? Simply this: he did not give all he professed. This sin, not in its greatest form, but in its spirit and more subtle manifestation s, is far more common than we think. Are there not many who say they have given their all to God, and yet prove false to it in the use of their money? Are there not many who say all their money is their Lord's, and that they hold it as His stewards, to dispose of it as He directs, and yet who, in the amount they spend on God's work, as compared with that on themselves, and in accumulating for the future, prove that stewardship is but another name for ownership?
Without being exactly guilty of the sin of Judas, or Caiaphas, or Pilate, in crucifying our Lord, a believer may yet partake with them in the spirit in which he acts. Even so we may be grieving the Holy Ghost, even while we condemn the sin of Ananias, by giving way to the spirit in which he acted, and withholding from God what we have professed to give Him. Nothing can save us from this danger, but the holy fear of ourselves, the very full and honest surrender of all our opinions, and arguments, about how much we may possess, and how much we may give, to the testing and searching of the Holy Spirit. Our giving must be in the light, if it is to be in the joy of the Holy Ghost.
And what was it that led Ananias to this sin? Most probably the example of Barnabas, the wish not to be outdone by another. Alas! how much there is of asking what men will expect from us. The thought of the judgment of men is present to us more than the judgment of God. And we forget that our gifts are accounted of God, Only by what the heart gives: it is the wholehearted giver that meets Him. How much has the Church done to foster the worldly spirit that values gifts by what they are in men's sight, in forgetfulness of what they are to Him that search the heart.
May the Holy Spirit teach us to make every gift part and parcel of a life of entire consecration to God. This cannot be until we be filled with the Spirit: this can be, for God will fill us with His Spirit.
4. There is still a lesson, less needful, no less solemn than that of Ananias (8: 19). The Holy Ghost rejecting Money.
"Simon offered them money saying, ‘Give me also this power.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you have thought to obtain the gift of God with money.' "
The attempt to gain power or influence in the church of God by money brings perdition.
Here, more than with Ananias it was simple ignorance of the spiritual and unworldly character of the Kingdom of Christ. How little Simon understood the men he dealt with. They needed money, they could well use it for themselves and for others. But the Holy Spirit, with the powers and treasures of the unseen world had taken such possession of them, and so filled them, that money was as nothing. Let it perish rather than have anything to say in God's Church. Let it perish rather than for one moment encourage the thought that the rich man can acquire a place or a power which a poor man has not.
Has the Church been faithful to this truth in her solemn protest against the claims of wealth? Alas for the answer its history gives. There have been noble instances of true Apostolic succession in their maintenance of the superiority of the gift of God to every earthly consideration. But too often the rich have had an honor and an influence given them, apart from grace or godliness, which has surely grieved the Spirit and injured the church.
The personal application is here again the matter of chief importance. Our nature has been so brought under the power of the spirit of this world, our fleshly mind, with its dispositions and habits of thought and feeling, is so subtle in its influence that nothing can deliver us from the mighty spell that money exacts but a very full and abiding enjoyment of the Spirit's presence and working. To be entirely dead to all worldly ways of thinking, the Holy Spirit alone can give us. And He can only give it as He fills us with the very presence and power of the life of God.
Let us pray that we may have such a faith in the transcendent glory, in the absolute claim and sufficiency of the Holy Spirit as God's gift to the Church to be her strength and riches, that money may ever be kept under Christ's feet and under ours, with its only worth as the earthen vessel for His heavenly ministry.
Blessed Lord Jesus, teach and keep us that, like Barnabas, we may lay our money all at Your feet, and hold it all at Your disposal. Teach and keep us that like Peter, we may rejoice in the poverty that teaches us to prove our trust in the power of Your Spirit. Teach and keep us, lest, like Ananias, our profession of living entirely for You be belied, by our giving to You. Teach and keep us, lest, like Simon, we think that the gifts of God or power over men can be obtained by money.
Most blessed Spirit! fill us with Yourself; come and fill Your Church with Your living presence, and all our money will be Yours alone.