James A. Harding: “A Bible Reading on Giving”

James A. Harding, the namesake of Harding University and co-founder of Lipscomb University, placed as much emphasis on giving, tithing and trusting in God’s provisioin as he did any other topic.  The sin of covetousness is idolatry and it “hurts the church more than any other,” he wrote.  We hate the extreme, but we tolerate the subtle when it is the “chief end and aim in life” to make money, where someone “comes to meeting with tolerable regularity, lives well, dresses well, and gives about two percent of his income publicly to the Lord’s cause” but thinks of making money ten times more than anything else.  Such a man “trusts in money” and “he heaps it up” because he does not trust God to take care of him or his family (“Two Dreadful Sins that are Very Prevalent,” Gospel Advocate 29 [1887], 658).

Not money, but the kingdom was Harding’s central concern. How one holds their wealth and how one treats the poor are as significant to discipleship as any other value. He was not opposed to making money, but he advised loaning it to the Lord. “If Christians are wise,” he wrote, “they will be diligent in business; and then, when they have money, they will use it with a free hand in ministering to widows and orphans, in caring for the poor, in having the gospel preached, or to sum it all up, in lending it to the Lord” (“Scraps. Wealth and How to Use It,” Gospel Advocate 26 [1886], 674). Indeed, Christians should think of their careers as not only participating in the kingdom of God but also that their income is for the sake of the kingdom of God.   “If every Christian in the world would run his business, whatever that may be, solely for the advancement of God’s kingdom; if he should consider himself as being in the world simply and solely for that purpose, what a wonderful change we would have in the world” (“Three Contradictory Theories,” The Way 3.1 [4 April 1901] 4).

Harding was a firm believer that every follower of Christ ought to give “at least” ten percent of their income to helping the poor and helping others proclaim the gospel (“The Churches and the Societies—A Contrast,” Gospel Advocate 25 [1883], 794). Harding practiced what he preached. In 1902 Harding testified that some thirty years previous he had decided to tithe and that over those years he had increased the percentage “eleven times” (“Scraps,” The Way 4 [10 April 1902] 10). L. C. Sears, Harding’s grandson, tells us that “in later years [the Hardings] were giving 65 percent of their income” to the kingdom of God (“J. A. Harding,” in Harding College Lectures 1967 [Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1967], 74).

His “Bible Reading on Giving,” which is rooted in some specific testimonies from Scripture, has added power because it aries out of the life of family who embodied the principles taught therein. He published it several times, but for the first time in The Way 3 (January 26 1899) 10-12 which was one of his first articles in his newly founded periodical.  The lengthy article is provided below.

     The topic class of the Bible School recently had for the subject of the day: “The Bible Doctrine of Giving.” We will endeavor to reproduce the lesson here as an example of what we do in that class and what will appear from time to time in the The Way. As we read the rich promise of God to those who give, nothing but a lack of faith will prevent us from becoming more generous and whole-hearted in his service.

     1. Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedec.  “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him a tenth of all.” (Gen. 14:19,20, R.V.; read the entire chapter; also Heb. 7:10.) From this we learn the custom of paying tithes was at least four hundred years older than the law of Moses. It was incorporated in that law, but was recognized as a righteous thing to do for hundreds of years before. The Arabs, the Greeks, the inhabitants of Sicily and those of the Roman province of Asia, the Carthaginians, Phenicians [sic], and many other ancient nations, especially those of the East, paid tithes. Among the Mohammedan States is I practiced to this day. Many Christians regularly give the full tenth of their incomes to the Lord; some of them, much more than this. The law of Moses required a tenth to be given to the Levites; and, as it appears, a second tenth was to be expended at Jerusalem at the annual feasts for feeding the poor. If every member of the church of God would give one-tenth of his entire income to the Lord, what an abundance we would have for attending to our poor and for spreading the gospel! Abraham’s giving did not impoverish him; he grew richer and richer; and no man of his day was so highly honored and blessed by the Lords.

     2. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Gen. 28:20-22). When Jacob made this vow, he was going from his father’s house, with no property but the staff in his hand; when he returned twenty or forty years later, he was rich in wives, children, herds, flocks, and servants—so rich that he considered it a little thing to make his brother a present of five hundred and eighty animals, including goats, sheep, camels, kine, and asses. He did not lose anything by giving a tenth.

     3. “Honor the Lord with they substance, and with the fist fruits of all thine increase; so shall they barns be filled with plenty, and they vats shall overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9,10.) Here is a positive promise that if a man will honor the Lord in giving, as he ought to do, he shall be blessed with an abundance—a promise that all believers in the Bible are assured was most fully kept in Old Testament times; but many are not so fully assured that it holds good now, and hence they are afraid to give. Many  Christians, according to their own confessions, give but trifling sums for the support of the religion of Christ, not as much as they spend for coffee or tobacco or for some secret society or for a pleasure trip to Niagara. Some will spend more for a piano for their children than they will give in five years for the cause of Christ.  Surely they do not believe the promise holds good now; but we will see about that when we come to the quotations from the New Testament.

     4. “There is that scattereth, and in increaseth yet more; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want. The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” (Prov. 11:24,25, R.V.) It pays to please God. He who is generous and liberal in ministering to others, who does to others as he would have them do to him, pleases the Father, and the Father will not fail to bless him most abundantly here and hereafter.

     Jesus says: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel’s sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29,30, R.V.). So Jesus spoke then, and he changes not. He is “the same yesterday and to-day, yea and forever;” and he who does not believe it is as much as an infidel, it seems to me, as he who does not believe “He that believeth [10] and is baptized shall be saved.” Every word of God is true, one as true as another; every promise of God is good, and any one of them is just as certain to be fulfilled as any other as any other one when the conditions have been complied with. When one takes God at his word and acts on his promise; when he is liberal and grows in liberality, the fulfillment of the promises greatly strengthens his faith till he can say in full assurance by faith: I know that God “is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.” Such faith becomes like knowledge, and is called knowledge in the Bible.

     5. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and his good deed will he pay him again.” (Prov. 19:17, R.V.) Sam. Jones, I believe it was, who, in commenting upon this passage, said: “If you like the security, come down with the cash.” If a man gives to the poor in the name of the Lord, he lends to the Lord; and who can believe that with such a loan in his possession the Lord would let that man suffer from want? Even a kind, just man would promptly pay a debt, if he could, if he were to see the lender pressed hard for the money. Especially would he be prompt in returning it, if it had been loaned to him in sympathy when he himself was in some straits. If men are thoughtful and generous in such things, is not God infinitely more so? Many a man has refrained from giving to the poor when they needed help badly, or from contributing to the Lord’s cause when a fine opportunity for doing good thereby presented itself, because he was afraid he would come to want if he should spend his money in that way. What a mistake! That is the very way to lay up money so as to be sure to have it at hand ready for use when you really need it. It is right to be wise and discreet in giving, but be sure to give.

     6. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:7-12, R.V.) It is sometimes said that Jesus does not argue; the he simply states his case on his own authority without giving reasons to convince the understanding of his hearer. But notice how fine and strong the argument is here, and how logical the conclusion. Men who are weak, sinful, and selfish give good things to their children, when they ask for them; how much more, then, will the infinitely good, strong, wise, and unselfish Heavenly Father give good things to his children? It is only necessary that they should ask him in faith, with a confidence and affection similar to that which they feel to their earthly fathers. A kind, earthly father will withhold no good thing from his affectionate, obedient child that he can in righteousness give to him; so the Heavenly Father withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly. Notice also how clearly the conclusion follows from this argument. Inasmuch as God’s child can get what he needs, when he needs it, by asking for it, he can afford to give freely to other that need; so Jesus says, in conclusion of this paragraph: “All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.” And this is what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. Do you believe what Jesus says here, my brother? If you do, you will act upon it; if you do not act upon it, you do not believe it.

     7. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38, R.V.) Here the Savior teaches not only that we should give, but that we should give abundantly; for even as we give to others, so also will men give to us; God will see to it that it shall be so; he gives to us through men. Man a man is poor and has a hard time, and devotes nearly all of his time and thought to making a living, and makes a poor one at that, simply because he is close and niggardly and fearful. If he would take God at his word and begin at once, with a cheerful heart, to give a liberal pr cent of his income to the Lord’s cause, his affairs would brighten up at once.  Do you doubt it? And what will become of you if you live and die doubting Christ? The beautiful story of the Shunammite woman (see 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6) illustrates how God deals with the generous-hearted who do good to his servants. This woman saw that Elisha was a man of God, and, at her suggestion, she and her husband built a room for [11] him “on the wall” and furnished it, that he might turn in at any time as he passed to and fro. As a result of her kindness, God gave her a son, and when her property had been lost to her and her son by their long absence on account of a famine, it was all returned to her again, with all the fruits of it from the time of her departure till she returned. This is not an exception; it is simply an illustration of the rule.

      8. “But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work: as it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness abideth forever. And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God.” (2 Cor. 9:6-11, R.V.) Let us notice carefully the lessons to be drawn from this passage.  Paul was exhorting the Corinthians, as he had before taught them, and the disciples of Macedonia and Galatia, to give to the poor saints in Judea. The land of Palestine was greatly troubled at this time. The troubles that culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the awful miseries that afflicted the Jewish people at that time, were already distressing the people; business was interrupted, agriculture interfered with, and the Hebrew Christians were poor and poorly prepared to stand the famine.

     (a) In exhorting the  Gentile Christians to contribute to their wants, Paul teaches the following lessons:

     (b) Giving in God’s service is not squandering the means for your own support in old age or sickness; it is rather a sowing from which you may expect to reap a big harvest, when the need comes, if you have sown liberally.

    (c) If a man gives little, he will receive little; if he gives much, he will receive much.

    (d) Each one should give cheerfully as he chooses to give, and not at the dictation of another; for God loves a cheerful giver.

    (e) God is not only able to supply you abundantly with all that you need, but, when you do liberally and cheerfully give in his service, he will supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and he will increase the fruits of your righteousness, so that you shall be enriched in everything, and your liberality shall cause many thanksgivings to go up to God.

     My brother, do you believe this doctrine? Then you will give liberally, and, as your faith grows, you will give more and more. You will not long be content with giving a tenth; soon you will give fifteen cents on the dollar—then twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-three and one-third, thirty-five, and so on; for you will find that the more you give, the more you will have to give, and the more good you can do, and the more the name of God will be glorified in you. As Solomon says: “The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered himself.”

     9. “Be ye free from the love of money; content with such tings as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in nowise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me? Remember them that had rule over you, which spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, yea and forever.” (Heb. 13:5-8, R.V.)  This is a good passage and one that we need to meditate much upon. “Be ye free from the love of money.” As an illustration of what it is to love money to the very greatest degree, consider the following incident:  While waiting at a railway station, a few nights ago, I overheard a man say to another: “My greatest pleasure is in making money; and my next greatest pleasure is in keeping it.” What a worshiper of Mammon! With him money was far above every other God. Never before had I heard a man so openly and boldly announce himself a money worshiper, an idolater, an utterly selfish man. Perhaps there are not many as bas as he proclaimed himself to be; but there are many people who love money, who hoard it, who are misers without knowing it. Many others are selfish and spend money rather for their own pleasures than for the cause of Christ. The miser takes pleasure in making money and in keeping it; even self-denial and pain become pleasures to him when they enable him to make and keep money. The Christian should take pleasure in making money by honorable diligence that he may spend it for Christ; self-denial and pain should give him pleasure when he realizes that thereby he is advancing the cause of Christ. As the chief pleasure of [12] the ardent Mammon worshiper is to make and keep money, so the chief pleasure of the child of God should be to advance the cause of his Master in every way that he can. With him the all-important thing should be the service of Christ, the glorification of his name, the extension of his kingdom, the salvation of his people; this devotion should be so far first in his heart that all other interests are as nothing in comparison with it. God help us to be real Christians.

      This passage teaches that the Christian need not concern himself about how he will come out, if he is thus free from the love of money, and content with such things as he has, for the apostle reminds us that  God has said: “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.” And Jesus, long before this letter to the Hebrews was written, had said: “Seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you;” and the Master was talking about our temporal needs—food, raiment, and such things—when he said it. Then the apostle exhorts these Hebrew Christians to remember the ancient worthies who had the rule over them, and who spoke unto them the word of God; and he tells them to consider their lives, to observe how they terminated, and to imitate their faith. He wants us to consider Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the great host of heroes of the former days, and to live lives of faith and self-denial like they did.  Are you afraid to do it? Do you fear that such a life would not turn out so well for you? Then he reminds you that Christ has not changed; he is the same being they served—just as strong, just as wise and good and loving, just as considerate of his servants as he ever was, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and forever.” He just as positively tells us under the new covenant the he will give us temporal blessings as he spoke it to them under the old covenant; his assurances that he will hear and answer prayer now are just as full and complete as they were then. All that is lacking is that we should believe now as those grand servants of God believed then, and the blessings will be poured out upon us in abundance.

      I have quoted, in this article, as I do generally, from the Revised Version. If you will compare the quotations with the same passages in the Common Version, you will see how much stronger and clearer some of them are in the Revision.   J.A. H.



3 Responses to “James A. Harding: “A Bible Reading on Giving””

  1. Profile photo of Bobby Valentine  Bobby Valentine Says:

    Harding still blows me away sometimes …

  2.   Randall Says:

    Amen! and again, Amen!

  3.   rich constant Says:

    a wonderful man TEACHING GODS ETHIC…
    AND IMPLEMENTING the ethic in his life.

    Words fail, although at root i believe we all try.
    and then another “although” their is the evident failure in the local body it “seems to me”
    to follow through on the pattern that is brought forward in the dynamic principal exercised in acts 2:42-47.
    (By elders “doing what has always been done” and lacking creativity in the sharing of currency our common exchange medium.) 1st preach the gospel…then the redistribution of stuff (including currency)every on one then was content so that not ANYONE had NEED.

    JOHN MARK
    WOULDN’T IT BE NICE AS EASY AS IT IS TO SET UP A TABLE.
    AND AS EASY AS IT IS TO BUY “GIFT CARDS” (CASH, STORES,FOOD CLOTHS ANYTHING!!!!BY INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL BODY).
    AND AS EASY AS IT WOULD TO PUT LITTLE BOX’S ON THAT TABLE.
    PUT A NAME ON THAT BOX $10,$20,$50 $100 AND UP
    KIDS ARE US, BIG LOTS ECT….

    AND ALLOW MEMBERS TO USE THOSE CARDS AS THEIR NEED’S ARISE…
    OR ARE WE SO CAUGHT UP IN THE PATTERN OF CONTROL THAT THE ELDERS WOULD NOT ALLOW THAT KIND OF TABLE TO GO UNSUPERVISED.EVEN THOUGH IT COULD BE CONSIDERED NON CHURCH FUNDS.
    BECAUSE OF A PERCEIVED ABUSE…

    JUST A THOUGHT OF ACCOMPLISHING THE RESULT OF ACTS 2:46-47.
    because of THE DIVERSITY OF OUR COMPLEX SOCIAL INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY and the charity ethic OF FALSE PRIDE IN THE FACE OF REAL NEED…

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