George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Give for alms that which is within--Luk 11:41 (R.V.)
The importance of the Within
That the rendering of the Revised Version is the right one is suggested by a study of the context. The whole passage is intended to reveal to us the value which Christ attached to the within. A Pharisee had invited Christ to sup with him, and then had marveled that He had omitted washing. This led Jesus to speak His sharp, stem words on the cleansing of the inside of the cup or platter. And then, recalling Pharisaic ostentation not only in washings but in almsgiving's, He added, "Give for alms that which is within." It is the same thought as is expressed by Paul in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." It is the same thought as was expressed by Peter when, fixing his gaze on the lame man, he said, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee" (Act 3:6). For to every man there is an outward realm of all the material things which he possesses, and to every man there is an inward realm comprising not what he owns but what he is. And the law which Jesus here lays down is this, that of all giving, that is the most blessed which gives not merely of that which is without but also of that which is within.
I need hardly say that there is no encouragement here to anything like a cheap and spurious charity. No one could ever associate such a thought with any word that fell from Jesus Christ. The tender compassion of Jesus for the poor--the miracle of the loaves and fishes--the reward that is given to all who have clothed the needy in the great parable of the last judgment--all this would prove to us, if any proof were needed, how Christ regarded the giving of the outward. It is not as belittling outward giving that Jesus utters the teaching of our text. On the contrary, it is to reinforce it from a richer and a deeper spring. For when the heart is opened then the hand is opened, and when feelings are stirred the purse is never closed, and when a man so lives as to bestow, the greater he is not likely to begrudge the less. He who gives everything up to the point of money and then refuses to give that, need never think to shelter in this text when he remembers who it was that uttered it. And this I think it right to say in passing, lest any one should pervert this word of Jesus, as if it put any slight on outward charities.
Having thus safeguarded this deep word, the question which I should like to ask is this: why does the giving of that which is within have this primacy in the thought of Christ? There are many considerations I could touch upon, but I shall confine my attention to three.
The Greatness of a Gift Depends on Its Closeness to the Giver
In the first place, I would suggest to you that the giving of that which is within is blessed, because, in a quite peculiar sense, it is the giving of that which is our own.
You all know, friends, that the value of a gift depends largely upon its relation to ourselves. The closer and more vital that relationship the greater the value of the act of giving. When a king in earlier ages gifted lands away, over which his suzerainty was of a shadowy kind, that was not so eloquent of a generous nature as the giving of some palace that he loved; and so always is our giving less or more, not merely according to the greatness of the gift, but according to the place of the gift in the giver's life. It is a glad thing that God has given us sunshine and fruitful seasons and the rain from heaven. But gladder than all that is this, that God hath given us His only begotten Son. And the infinite preciousness of that great gift, viewed in relation to the Giver of it, is just that the Giver and the gift were one.
Now when a man gives of his wealth, however kindly and generous be the giving, it does not need any argument to prove to you that he has not yet given of his real self. Increase a man's wealth a thousandfold and he is not necessarily a better man. Strip him swiftly of all his affluence and he is not necessarily a worse man. There is no vital relationship at all between a man's belongings and himself, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. But the moment you touch that which is within you see that the case is different at once. You are not dealing now with what is accidental; you are dealing with what is vital and essential. You are dealing with that which makes us what we are, with that which, added to or taken from, might leave us richer or might leave us poorer, but in any case must leave us different. For you may add ten thousand pounds to a man's capital, and in the sight of God that man is still the same. But let faith, hope and charity be added, and in the sight of God that man is different. And so when we give of that which is within we give out of the depths of our own being; and so are far-off followers of God who gave for us sinners of mankind His only begotten Son.
Channels of Giving from the Heart
Once more the giving of what is within is blessed, because it opens up such an expanse of charity.
When we confine our thought of charity to outward things, there are two results that inevitably follow. The first is that almost of necessity we narrow the channel in which giving flows. Now no one knows better than I do what gladness a gift of money sometimes brings. Even a comparatively trifling gift may make the wilderness blossom as the rose. Some of you good people who live in comfort haven't the least conception of that side of things. There are hundreds in Glasgow to whom a five pound note would make all the difference in the world. Still, when that is said, and said with most intimate knowledge out of my experience as a pastor, how much there is, my brother, in the humblest life that all your money is powerless to reach. How many needs that money cannot meet, how many wants that money cannot satisfy, how many longings in the humblest heart that money is quite helpless to appease. The poorest has a heart that longs for love, and the heart of the richest can long for nothing more. There are chords that will vibrate to the touch of sympathy that will never vibrate to the touch of coin. And it was just because our Lord and Savior was so alive to the range of human need that He bade us give of that which is within. For he who gives with the hand has but one channel, and he who gives with the heart has fifty channels. He gives of his sympathy and of his loving-kindness; he gives of his happiest sunshine and his tears. He gives of his time which is the stuff of life, and of his thought which is his noblest attribute, and of his prayers when the chamber door is shut, and the heart is reverent, and God is near. Think not that such almsgiving is easy. Christ does not call any man to what is easy. He calls us to what is arduous and toilsome, and very exhausting e'er the day is done. Yet is there no life on earth so glad as the life that is ceaseless in such interior charity, for it is more blessed to give than to receive.
But when we limit the thought of alms to what is outward another result inevitably follows. It follows inevitably from that conception of it that we shut out thousands from the grace of giving. If the only almsgiving be that of substance, if the one valid charity be money, if no liberality deserves the name save the liberal giving of what a man possesses, then all those thousands in our Christian lands who fight their grim and ceaseless fight with poverty are denied the practice of the grace. It is true that the poor are wonderfully kind. Their kindness far outstrips that of the rich. The poor stand by each other and assist each other with a comradeship that is often beautiful. Yet that kindness of the poor entails such sacrifice, and makes such a drain upon the scanty means, that it can never be other than occasional. Multitudes there are in every city who can barely win the necessities of life. They are only too thankful if from a scanty wage they can bring food and clothing for their children. And though these people, as I have said, often show kindnesses that put us all to shame, such kindness from the nature of the case must always be the exception, not the rule. If material charity is to be the rule, then it can only be the rule of the minority. If the giving of means be the one valid giving, then of course there always must be means to give. And hence it follows that if the only almsgiving is the habitual giving of the outward, there are thousands everywhere who are excluded hopelessly from the practice of this grace.
Now, friends, if giving were a hardship we might see in that the ordering of God. But giving, so far from being a hardship, is one of the purest joys in human life. Look at that selfish man who in a generous moment has given a shilling to the beggar in the street. Whether or not it has made the beggar happy, it most undoubtedly has made the donor happy. And if such thoughtless and impulsive giving can bring a secret glow of satisfaction, what must the secret joy be when the giving is that of a thoughtful and prayerful Christian man? He who has missed the joy of liberality has missed one of the purest joys of life. There is no luxury of silk or tapestry that can match the luxury of doing good. And it is incredible, from all we know of God, and from all we have learned of Jesus Christ, that He should exclude thousands from this joy simply because they happen to be poor. But the moment you grasp our text you see that these multitudes are not excluded. The noblest giving, in the eyes of Jesus, is the giving of that which is within. And though a man be very poor he may have a plentiful treasure of the heart, and be a blessing by it and help others by it, in a way that silver and gold could never do. I suppose there is not a Christian worker here but has had some such experience as this. You have gone with some offering of charity to a frail or aged woman. And you have come away so helped and humbled by her trust in God, her patience, and her gratitude that you know you have got far more than you bestowed. You gave to her of that which was without, and for that you shall have the blessing of the Father. For she needed it, and it will cheer her heart, and bring her some little comfort that she lacked. But perhaps she hath exercised the richer almsgiving according to the judgment of the Master, for she hath given of that which is within.
The Perfect Aims Giver
I remark, lastly, that this inward giving is blessed for a reason still more cogent. It is blessed because it brings our lives into such harmony with that of Jesus.
If we were to reckon all that Jesus gave by His giving of the material and outward, I need hardly tell you how sadly we should fail to comprehend the wonder of it ail. We can never forget, it is true, that He fed the hungry, or that once He turned the water into wine. Neither can we forget that His poor band had a bag to hold the offerings for poor. Yet if we sought to measure all that Jesus gave by what He gave of that which was without, how little would we understand of Him! Our blessed Lord was born in a poor home, and lived to the end the life of a poor man. Others may leave fortunes when they die; He left nothing but the seamless garment. Indeed it has been questioned in these latter days, on the ground of certain well-known Gospel incidents, whether our Savior ever handled money. Measured by the test of things without, there are thousands who give far more than Jesus gave. There are men and women who in a single day give more than Jesus gave in His whole ministry. The giving of our Master is unique not in the giving of that which is without, but in the glorious and heavenly lavishness with which He gave that which is within. He gave of His virtue, and the sick were healed; He gave of His sympathy, and sorrowing hearts were comforted. He gave of His joy, and men were glad again; He gave of His peace, and restless hearts were quieted. He gave of His prayers upon the mountain side when the shadows had fallen and His locks were wet with dew, and faith was strengthened and courage was revived, and Satan was baffled of his prey. He gave of His vision of a Father-God, and men who were heavy-laden sang again. He gave of His love to the fallen and the far, and womanhood stole back to women's hearts. He gave of His life to the last drop of it until its very cup was dashed in fragments, and, because He died for us, we live. That, brethren, is the spirit of Christ, and if any man have not that Spirit he is none of His. May God grant us the joy of spending and of being spent. Ceaselessly and happily and secretly may we give for alms that which is within, for it is more blessed to give than to receive, and he that loseth his life shall save it.
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