Under the Sun: “When We Must Economize” (1931)
When Samuel G. Craig was editor of The Presbyterian in the late 1920’s, he began to use his position to speak out against the changes going on at Princeton Seminary, as modernists were put in place on the Seminary’s Board of Trustees. For that vocal opposition, “Management” let him go. Craig then turned around and formed The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company in 1930 right at the start of the Great Depression. J. Gresham Machen provided some of the start-up capital. Craig’s first publication was a bi-weekly magazine called Christianity Today and it ran consistently through the Depression era. From a conservative Presbyterian viewpoint, Christianity Today and The Christian Beacon were the two publications of record covering the modernist controversy in the Church. Thus the importance of these publications. Later, as Craig’s attention turned more to publishing books, Christianity Today was slowly put to rest, and the last issue appeared in 1949. [note: the same name was picked up by a different publishing group in 1956 and that publication continues to this day].
So much for background. But my point here today is how striking it is, when looking through old issues of Craig’s magazine, that there are so very few references to hard times. The bulk of the magazine was published from May of 1930 until May of 1940, effectively coinciding with the full duration of the Great Depression. And yet there are few references to economic disaster. How should we explain this? Anyway, here is one of the few such items to appear on the pages of Christianity Today that spoke to the economic situation in those years, an editorial which Craig excerpted from another publication. Good words for the Church when times are tight. And good words even now when the Church so often comes in conflict with the wider culture :—
When We Must Economize
Editorial in Grace and Truth.
When we must economize, where do we start? The answer to this question is a good test of our love for our Lord. If our first step in the hour of financial stringency is to discontinue our offerings to our Lord’s work, can we truly say that He has the pre-eminence in our lives? Does such a step not betray that our love for Him has waxed cold? Does it not show that we are depending upon ourselves for the supply of our needs rather than trusting His gracious providence?
The spirit of the Macedonian believers was in striking contrast to this. Of them the apostle Paul testifies that “in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (II Cor. 8:2). Such a spirit shows that souls are responding in a scriptural manner to the testings which God permits. But any other spirit shows that our souls are missing the blessing which God designs for us in adversity.
Our gifts should be an expression of the worship of our hearts. It is poor economy through reducing our gifts to try to make up for shortage of funds caused by expenditures for luxuries. Such a policy indicates that we are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. God’s Word teaches giving proportionate to our means, and when our income is reduced it may be His pleasure for us to reduce our offerings; but most certainly He would have us start with other things first, and it may even be that in the face of reduced income He would have us increase our giving.
We invite our readers to visit the PCA Historical Center’s collection of Christianity Today. Volumes 1 through 8 are now online (1930-1938). A great deal of very useful content is to be found there.