David Lipscomb on Wealth and Possessions

“A stingy church cannot be a true church. It cannot be rich in faith and trust in God. It cannot be rich in works to benefit and bless man or to honor and glorify God. It cannot continue rich in this world’s goods. A stingy man may gather together and hold for a time, money and property. A stingy man with millions hoarded is a poor man. A poor, stingy, sordid soul may have property, but he lives a pinched, poverty-stricken life, watching and caring for and adding to his money, but enjoying nothing of it. He does not enjoy it, but it is an oppressive burden to him. He may cling to it while he lives; but when death loosens his clutches upon it, his family soon scatter it to the four winds, and come down to grinding poverty. It works the same with churches as with individuals….”

“All the good a man gets out of what passes through his hands here is from what he uses for good in serving God. What he properly uses for himself and for his own family, if they are serving God or if it is helping them to serve God, is as much used in the service of God as what he gives to others to help them. Everything that is used for selfish purposes and to promote the fleshly desires of himself or family is lost, is worse than lost. It is positive injury and hurt to himself and family. True happiness is found here on earth, not in the gratification of the desires and appetites of the flesh. A larger proportion of those who seek happiness by gratifying the flesh in a few years tire of the disappointments and burdens, and a greater proportion of this class seek forgetfulness of life’s evils and burdens in suicide than of any other class.  Churches, like individuals,  to enjoy life and prosper, must be liberal and self-denying in their labor and in the use of their means in doing good to others. This is the only true good to be gotten out of property, talent, or ability of any kind. The man who uses his means and opportunities otherwise squanders his means and trifles with his opportunities. He is a spiritual profligate who hoards his money, keeps his property and refuses to so use it as to abound to his spiritual account at the last day.

“These are called ‘strenuous times.’ This means the struggle for existence has become sharp and fierce. A man must ‘hustle’ if he makes a living for himself and family. If he is indolent and idle he and his family must want. They will suffer for food and raiment. These strenuous times affect the spiritual conditions as much as the pecuniary. If a church is not active, alive, energetic in using its means and opportunities to save and help others, it will come to penury and want. By virtue of its indolence and indifference to its own growth and the salvation of others, it will take the dry rot and die.”

David Lipscomb, “Use of Means and Opportunities,” Gospel Advocate (19 December 1907), 807.

5 Responses to “David Lipscomb on Wealth and Possessions”

  1.   Jeff McVey Says:

    Interesting how the ‘scenery’ of life never changes: struggle, heartbreak, disappointment, challenge, anxiety…

  2.   Clark Coleman Says:

    One of my favorite quotes from John Wesley: “The last part of a man to be converted is his wallet.”

  3.   Ralph Williams Says:

    When we were looking for support for our mission work, we were astonished at the number of elderships who told us that it was our Christian duty to have a good 401K and a substantial retirement plan. I have no objection to being wise stewards of God’s blessings, and there are certain real benefits to having a stable retirement.

    However, when we make worldly wealth into a christian virtue, we make it very difficult to deal with the poor, or with people from cultures where such savings are impossible.

    Lipscomb surely knew bretheren who were part of the “faith missionary” movement; who were determined to trust in God (and in His people) to supply the needs of their mission work. I understand Benjamin Franklin was one of these; who would arrive in the railway station with “nothing for [his] journey.”

    •   Clark Coleman Says:

      Ralph, you need to understand that, to the shame of the kingdom, many good men have labored for a lifetime in churches and retired with nothing. It makes them appear to be discarded by their brethren after they are no longer of service. We could continue to support them in their retirement, but that opens up a mess of questions about supporting those who preached for 10 years vs. those who preached for 40 years, etc. A good alternative is for elders to start being concerned about not leaving retired preachers and missionaries destitute, encouraging them to save for retirement, and offering to contribute money to those retirement funds while they serve as ministers or missionaries.

      •   Ralph Williams Says:

        I understand that completely. Neither my father nor my grandfather had any retirement benefits after laboring for a lifetime.
        I have no objection to elders being concerned with the issue, and I heartily approve of churches providing enough that their ministers and missionaries can set some aside for retirement. I also applaud those churches who continue to support retired missionaries like Joe Cannon, who labored in the field long before retirement plans were available for missionaries. I’m glad that churches now expect preachers to be able to purchase a home, rather than paying less because they are providing a home.
        However, at the time it seemed to me that the emphasis was more on laying up treasures in the 401K, than on laying up treasures in heaven.


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