Christian men, generally, seem to have missed the meaning of Jesus' words. I think it due largely to the lack of teaching in the Church that world-evangelizing is a first obligation.
Recently a fire destroyed the home of a man of large wealth who lives some distance east of San Francisco. It was a beautiful palace, full of art treasures. The value of house and furnishings and the art collection was reckoned at about two million dollars. He is a Christian man, prominently identified with active Christian work, and reckoned a liberal giver. He has visited foreign-mission lands, and made special gifts to missions.
But his gifts to missions seem like a copper cent or a silver quarter given to a beggar in contrast with the two million dollars tied up for himself in the house that burned. Two millions stored up in a home, while many millions of men have lived and died in ignorance of the light and peace that comes with Jesus! Yet this man calls Jesus his Master, and sincerely, I have no doubt. And his Master said the one great thing was to tell all men of His love and death.
By no extension of the meaning of that word "need" could he be said to need a two-million-dollar home for himself and family. And there are other millions under the same man's control. It looks very much as if this good man had missed the meaning of Jesus' words. The criticism, however, must be first upon the Church and its leaders, with whose general trend of teaching this man is in accord. According to the Master's teaching, most of the money in his house, and stored up in other ways of the sort for himself, is being lost. Far more serious, the opportunity of investment in men is being lost. That money will be all loss to him when he reaches the line of departure over into the next sphere of life.
It is very difficult to use such an illustration from life. There is danger that the words will sound critical in a bad or unkind sense. I earnestly pray to be kept from that. You will know that I am talking to myself first of all; and speaking of this only to help. The bother is that this man is not an exception. Rather he represents the habit and standard of his generation.
I recall another Christian man as I speak, of large wealth, by inheritance and by dint of business keenness. His face showed plainly his fine Christian character. He gave liberally in many directions, sometimes very large sums. But he lived in a home whose value ran close to a half-million of dollars. When he died, full of years and honors, he left many millions to a son who does not inherit his father's generous hand with his wealth. Of course, the son didn't need the vast wealth.
And I wondered, silently, within my heart, how things looked to that man, as he slipped out of life up into the Master's presence, and looked down on the earth through the eyes of the One whose teaching we have been talking about. He could see China and India and Africa then as plainly as America.
How did the lost opportunity of laying up his treasure in the lives of men look to him then, I wondered. He was a good man. I saw him smile once, and his face seemed to shine as an angel's. I think probably no faithful friend had ever talked to him of the plain meaning of Jesus' words, and of world-winning being a first obligation. He hadn't been taught it from the pulpit. And he hadn't thought into it himself.