MONEY: A Parenthetical Insertion by George MacDonald

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A passage worth reading from Thomas Wingfold, Curate, on making a living while following Christ:

“‘Jesus buying and selling?” said Wingfold to himself. ‘And why not? Did Jesus make chairs and tables, or boats perhaps, which the people of Nazareth wanted, without any admixture of trade in the matter? Was there no transaction? No passing of money between hands? Did they not pay his father for them? Was his Father’s way of keeping things going in the world too vile for the hands of him whose being was delight in the will of that Father? No; there must be a way of handling money that is noble as the handling of the sword in the hands of the patriot. Neither the mean man who loves it nor the faithless man who despises it knows how to handle it. The former is one who allows his dog to become a nuisance; the latter one who kicks him from his sight. The noble man is he who so truly does the work given him to do that the inherent nobility of that work is manifest. And the trader who trades nobly is nobler surely than the high-born who, if he carried the principles of his daily life into trade, would be as pitiful a sneak as any he that bows and scrapes falsely behind that altar of lies, his counter.’

From another chapter called “Divine Service”:

“‘Mr. Drew, your shop is the temple of your service where the Lord Christ, the only image of the Father, is, or ought to be, throned; your counter is, or ought to be, his altar; and everything thereon laid, with intent of doing as well as you can for your neighbor, in the name of the man Christ Jesus, is a true sacrifice offered to him, a service done to the eternal creating Love of the universe.’

‘I say not,’ Polwarth went on, ‘that so doing you will grow a rich man, but I say that by so doing you will be saved from growing too rich, and that you will be a fellow worker with God for the salvation of his world.’

‘I must live; I cannot give my goods away!’ murmured Mr. Drew thinkingly, as one that sought enlightenment.

‘That would be to go direct against the order of his world,’ said Polwarth. ‘No. A harder task is yours, Mr. Drew – to make your business a gain to you, and at the same time to be not only what is commonly counted just, but interested in, and careful of, and caring for your neighbour, as a servant of the God of bounty who giveth to all men liberally. Your calling is to do your best for your neighbour that you reasonably can.’

‘But who is to fix what is reasonable?’ asked Drew.

‘The man himself, thinking in the presence of Jesus Christ. There is a holy moderation which is of God.’

‘There won’t be many fortunes – great fortunes – made after that rule, Mr. Polwarth.’

‘Very few.’

‘Then do you say that no great fortunes have been righteously made?’

‘If righteously means after the fashion of Jesus Christ — But I will not judge: that is for the God-enlightened conscience of the man himself to do, not for his neighbour’s. Why should I be judged by another man’s conscience? But you see, Mr. Drew – and this is what I was driving at – you have it in your power to serve God through the needs of his children all the working day, from morning to night, so long as there is a customer in your shop…Purely ideal or not, one thing is certain: it will never be reached by one who is so indifferent to it as to believe it impossible. Whether it may be reached in this world or not, that is a question of no consequence; whether a man has begun to reach after it is of the utmost awfulness of import. And should it be ideal, which I doubt, what else than the ideal have the followers of the ideal man to do with?’

‘Can a man reach anything ideal before he has God dwelling in him, filling every cranny of his soul?’ asked the curate with shining eyes.

‘Nothing, I do most solemnly believe,’ answered Polwarth. ‘It weighs on me heavily sometimes,’ he resumed, after a pause, ‘to think how far all but a few are from being able even to entertain the idea of the indwelling in them of the original power of their life. True, God is in every man, else how could he live the life he does live? But that life God keeps alive for the hour when he shall inform the will, the aspiration, the imagination of the man. When the man throws wide his door tot he Father of his spirit, when his individual being is thus supplemented – to use a poor, miserable word – with the individuality that originated it, then is the man a whole, healthy, complete existence. Then indeed, and then only, will he do no wrong, think no wrong, love perfectly, and be right merry. Then will he scarce think of praying, because God is in every thought and enters anew with every sensation. Then he will forgive and endure, and pour out his soul for the beloved, who yet grope their way in doubt and passion. Then every man will be dear and precious to him, even the worst; for in him also lies an unknown yearning after the same peace wherein he rests and loves.’

He sat down suddenly, and a deep silence filled the room.”

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


13 Comments

  1. kelli

    Ron…I’m so glad you moved this from a comment to a post.

    Even though I have read it (and many other similar passages from GMD) many, many times, I was again struck by the simple truth in this (and just read it about 5 more times).

    I also love how Polwarth’s dream further fleshes out how we can use our work to be in partnership with God’s.

    Since discovering George MacDonald about 10 years ago, I find I cannot step away from his writings for very long, if at all. And characters like Polwarth are the reason why.

    Oh to be filled by my Maker in every cranny of my soul…I long for this! GMD’s characters, though flawed, join me in this journey and teach me much along the way.

    Living simply…or better yet…simply living.

  2. Jud

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Ron. They fit well with Andrew’s previous post.

    It surprised me a bit that this fine work of MacDonald was not discussed at Hutchmoot. I was right in the middle of it at the time (often reading during breaks when I probably should have been socializing). It seems quite a bit more accessible that his more fantastical works, yet no less moving.

  3. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jud, I agree. Thomas Wingfold, Curate, is one of my favorite MacDonald novels. But for my part I wanted to focus on his true self/false self themes in Lilith and Phantastes. MacDonald is so rich we could talk about him at every Hutchmoot from now on and pick a different theme. Maybe “The Christ of Commerce” might be a good theme.

    Kelli, I never get away from his books very long. Seems like I’m always either rereading them, starting a new one, or remembering bits here and there and going back to those passages.

    To be filled by our Maker in every cranny of our soul – that is the point. Fortunately we are filled full with him in our spirits: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him.” The words for “fulness” and “complete” are “pleroma” and “pleroo,” both from the same root. They both mean “filled full,” and the image is of a sailing vessel outfitted with everything it will need for the journey – freight, merchandise, soldiers, sailors, oarsmen. Because Christ is in us we are filled with the presence, power, agency, and riches of God in Christ. All that remains is to release that Power in us by recognition – or as we say, by faith. Then he is released to go into our soul-land and destroy all the usurpers of our soul – the inner Canaanites. I think one of the reasons MacDonald was so powerful and saw God so much in everything is that he continually recognized Christ as the root and source of goodness in himself. In our modern Christianity we spend way too much time thinking, “I’ve got to become good, so I’m going to try really, really hard.” Lewis: “No temptation is every really overcome until we ‘throw in the towel.'”

  4. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    By the way, the word “pleroo,” for “you are complete in Him”, is in the perfect tense – a done deal, finished, and it is in the passive voice, meaning we were the recipient of the action. God filled us full in Christ once for all time. All we do is utilize the provisions by recognizing the Source of them all. God himself really is the Supply. That’s what he gives us – an eternal supply of himself.

  5. DrewP

    Ron, I am overcome with peace after reading this post. I, along with my family own a small business here in NC. For years I have been struggling with the question of how to work in my business and keep it in the black without serving money. Your post today and Andrews has set a firm and solid peace in my soul. Thank you for helping me understand a little more about my calling as a Christian business man. May God richly bless you.

  6. DrewP

    Ron, I am embarrased to ask this question but not being familar with George MacDonald, (I know…I’ll work on it I promise!…) I am not sure how this book is sold. When I looked on Amazon I saw I think 3 volumes, is that right? If so which volume do you reference? Thanks for being patient with me.

    Drew

  7. kelli

    Ron…I appreciate the reminder of “pleroo.” The fact that the Source is already there. He is just waiting for me to open that door wide, to work with Him to get myself out of the way so that He can truly fill each nook and cranny and live through me.

    As I was typing that, the image of Neo’s light streaming and bursting out of Agent Smith, near the end of The Matrix, popped into my head. I want to let THE Light burst through every nook and cranny of my soul in that way…not to destroy me but to pour out from my very being. To permeate who I am like the brightness of Moses’ face after he glimpsed his Maker.

    The removing of the shadow self, the opening wide of that door…that is what I must allow, to faithe Him to do.

  8. Steve Fronk

    Drew, The original works were released in three volumes. There are editions available today in one volume.

    Johannesen Publishing has most of MacDonald’s works available in hardcover format. They can be found at http://www.johannesen.com/.

    If you are looking for a collectible I would recommend The volumes from Michael Phillips which can be found here http://www.macdonaldphillips.com/index.html.

    Most of MacDonald’s works are also available in a digital format for a very reasonable price at http://www.george-macdonald.com/store/ever_yours_na.html

    G. K. Chesterton made a good summary of MacDonald’s writing when he said, “he wrote nothing empty and much that is too full.”

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