"WE GIVE THEE BUT THINE OWN"
"For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee" (1 Chr. 29.14)
INTRO.: A song that reminds us of the importance and of the benefits of giving to the Lord is "We Give Thee But Thine Own" (#120 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by William Walsham How, who was born at Shrewsbury, England, on Dec. 13, 1823, the son of a wealthy English solicitor. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he became a minister in the Anglican Church in 1845. After serving at St. George’s Kidderminster and at Holy Cross, both in Shrewsbury, he went to Whittington, a farming village in Shropshire near Wales, in 1851, and then to the rural town of Oswestry in 1853. It was while there that he penned this hymn around 1858. Containing six stanzas, it was first published in the revised and enlarged Psalms and Hymns, second edition, in 1864, edited by How and Thomas Baker Morrell. By that time, How had moved to St. Asaph in 1860 and then in 1865 began work as chaplain of the English Church at Rome, Italy.
During this period, How was joint editor of the 1871 Church Hymns along with John Ellerton and Arthur S. Sullivan. In 1879 he came to St. Andrew’s Undershaft in London and became Suffragan Bishop of East London with the title Bishop of Bedford. In 1888 he was appointed the first Bishop of Wakefield. However, he was an unassuming man who cared little for high ecclesiastical position and was best known for his work among the poverty-stricken east London slums, where he was called the "Poor Man’s Bishop" because he rode public transportation instead of private carriages. In addition to several theological and other religious works, he authored more than fifty hymns, including "O Word of God Incarnate" and "For All The Saints," both of which have received popular usage. Even though he was numbered among the "Broad" wing (more liberal element) of the Anglican Church, the words of his hymns continued to sound forth an evangelical message. His death occurred at Leenane, County Mayo, in Ireland on Aug. 10, 1897, while he was on vacation.
The tune (Schumann; also known as White, Bucer, and Heath) is attributed to the German romantic composer, Robert Alexander Schumann (1810-1856). Apparently, it was arranged as a hymn tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). It first appeared in the 1850 Cantica Laudis, published in New York City, NY, which Mason edited with George James Webb, composer of the music most commonly used with "Stand Up For Jesus." There the tune was used as the setting for "Thou shalt, O Lord, descend." The editors claimed that they had taken the melody from Schumann. However, the composer’s widow, Clara Wieck Schumann, wrote in answer to a letter from the Scottish hymnologist James Love with a question about it and said that she could not find any such melody in her late husband’s works.
Among hymnbooks published in the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The hymn emphasizes several aspects of the need for us to give to the Lord.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that we should give to the Lord because everything that we have is a trust from him.
"We give Thee but Thine own, Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone, A trust, O Lord, from Thee."
A. The Lord has always wanted His people to give to Him: Mal. 3.8, 2 Cor. 9.6-7
B. We usually think in terms of giving money, but there are many other gifts that we can give to the Lord–time, effort, talent, etc.: Rom. 12.6
C. But whatever way we give, by devoting a portion of what we have for the Lord’s work, we are lending it back to Him just as He has lent it to us: Prov. 19.17
II. Stanza 2 tells us that we should give to the Lord because we are stewards of what He has given us.
"May we Thy bounties thus As stewards true receive,
And gladly as Thou blessest us, To Thee our first-fruits give."
A. All of us have received the bounties of God because every good and perfect gift comes from Him: Jas. 1.17
B. Regarding all the blessings that God has so bountifully bestowed upon us, we must recognize that we are but stewards to use wisely: 1 Pet. 4.10
C. Using these things wisely means that as He has blessed us, we will give Him our first-fruits by first giving ourselves to the Lord as did the Macedonian Christians: 2 Cor. 8.1-5
III. Stanza 3 tells us that we should give to the Lord because we ourselves need the blessings that come from giving.
"Our hearts are bruised and dead, And homes are bare and cold,
And lambs for whom the Savior bled Are straying from the fold."
A. This is the most often omitted stanza, perhaps because folks may misunderstand what the poet is saying. Apart from Christ, our hearts are bruised and dead in sin: Eph. 2.1
B. Homes are bare and cold–both our own when Christ is not the Lord in them and other’s as well, because if the Lord does not build the house, they labor in vain who build it: Ps. 127.1
C. The fact is that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray; it is by God’s gift of Christ that we can be saved, and it is by our own giving back to Him that we are reminded of the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls: 1 Pet. 2.25
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that we should give to the Lord in order that those who are suffering may be comforted and blessed.
"To comfort and to bless, To find a balm for woe,
To tend the lone and fatherless Is angels’ work below."
A. God wants us to comfort others in need as we have ability and opportunity: 1 Thess. 5.14
B. He also wants us to find a balm for woe by providing consolation to those who are troubled: 2 Cor. 1.5-7
C. Thus, our giving to the Lord involves not only the funds that we contribute to the work of the church, but also the good deeds that we do to help others, including the fatherless: Jas. 1.27
V. Stanza 5 tells us that we should give to the Lord in order that those captive to sin may be taught the truth and brought to Christ.
"The captive to release, To God the lost to bring,
To teach the way of life and peace, It is a Christ-like thing."
A. Surely, there are those captives to sin who need to be released: Lk. 4.18-19
B. Therefore, we need to give of our time, effort, and talent to do what we can to spread the word and bring the lost to God: Acts 8.4, 1 Tim. 2.2
C. Also, we need to devote a portion of our funds to support others in sounding out the word of the Lord for the lost to hear and obey: 2 Cor. 11.8
VI. Stanza 6 tells us that we should give to the Lord because whatever we do to help others is, in essence, a gift to the Lord.
"And we believe Thy word, Though dim our faith may be,
Whate’er for Thine we do, O Lord, We do it unto Thee."
A. Because God has always kept His promises and blessed us so bountifully, we should believe His word: 1 Thess. 2.13
B. Of course, sometimes like even the apostles, due to various circumstances, our faith is somewhat dim: Matt. 16.8
C. Yet, we should remember that by helping the sick, hungry, thirsty, needy, and imprisoned we are actually helping Jesus because we are letting His influence be seen in our good deeds: Matt. 25.34-40
CONCL.: This song well illustrates what How himself once stated as the ideals for a worthy hymn: "A good hymn should be like a good prayer–simple, real, earnest, and reverent." It was written to be sung before the offering, in a manner similar to the way we often sing a song to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper. Perhaps, that is not such a bad idea. However, whether we sing it before the offering or not, we certainly need to manifest an attitude to God in whatever and whenever we give, that "We Give Thee But Thine Own."