Scattering And Increasing
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE husbandman would starve who did not reserve some seed for sowing. He must throw it away in order to get more. The seed-corn must be the best, and there must be an abundance of it. Poverty will come in at the front door unless the granary at the back provides bountifully for the fields. One must sow if he would reap, and he must sow bountifully if he would reap bountifully. The merchant who hoards all his receipts will come to want. He must re-invest a large part of them or he will soon have no customers. If he scatters a good deal in advertisements he gets a rich return; if he scatters more in "bargains"—and the commercial world is full of "bargains"—he will not do amiss; and if he scatters more in gifts to his neighborhood—in promoting public improvements, and in winning the good-will of his customers, he will be wise in his generation. Some newspapers give away a part of their daily issues ; they place at every agent's stand more than he can sell ; it pays. Theatres and opera-houses and concert managers distribute free tickets to the public—not merely to secure an audience, but to propitiate favor, to secure generous references in the press, and to advance their own interests. It pays.
Niggardliness in any line of life is a blunder. Stinginess is a sin ; but it is quite as much a mistake. From the standpoint of policy alone—saying nothing of principles or character or the law of God or obedience to God or the claims of religion—from the standpoint of policy alone, it is, true that " there is that scattereth and yet increaseth ; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet and it tendeth to poverty." This proverb, like every other, is the ripe fruit of a large and rich experience of life ; and it is very old. But the experience which ripened and bore fruit in this form of sound words has been confirmed by ages of experience since. We do not value the beneficence which advertises itself in order to get gain. When merchants give away their goods for the purpose of attracting customers, we do not account them generous, but shrewd.
When a man with blare of trumpets and beating of drums gives largely that he may have monetary gain or glory, we know very well what are the chief motives which actuate him. But his selfishness and love for distinction and desire for gain do not invalidate the proverb ; they rather illustrate it ; they reaffirm it ; they declare that generosity is profitable, that even a reputation for generosity is profitable; it is well worth paying for; there could be no better advertisement. It pays to be generous.
But if this be the settled conviction of mankind ; if even worldly-minded people seek to trade upon it in the common walks of life; how valuable the real virtue must be! There cannot be a counterfeit for that which has no intrinsic value. There cannot be a spurious coin unless the imitated coin has worth. The real thing is good; it must be good; it must have interest, and in this case, eternal worth.
The fact is, beneficence is a divine attribute, and he who disciplines him-self in beneficence is developing his character in that which makes him like God. No one can be godlike who is not beneficent. Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, points to the bounty of God in Nature, and exhorts those who believe it to be bountiful even as God is. How generous are God's gifts ! how unceasing his benefactions ! Even to his enemies, and to those who do not care for him, he gives. For his name is love, and love is nothing if not beneficent.