In his later teenage years Hudson Taylor became a medical assistant in Hull. He was certain that God had called him to take the Christian message to China and was preparing himself for his life’s work.
He had already forsaken various comforts in order to develop a more robust and flexible lifestyle, which he felt would equip him for future unknown hardships.
Whilst in Hull he began to consider the issue of tithing. Tithing is the practice of giving the first 10% of one’s income to the local church. Christians don’t do this in order to earn their salvation from God but as a response to His grace, as an expression of trust and as an acknowledgement of their dependence upon Him as the ultimate provider.
But Taylor had a dilemma. He received two amounts of income. The first was essentially his salary as a medical assistant. The second was an amount for board and lodging – the exact amount. Taylor personally felt that this, too, was income and should be tithed. He therefore left the more comfortable arrangement that had been made for him and took a cheaper place specifically that he might tithe the amount.
This may seem like nit-picking to us but for Taylor it was a significant test of whether he was able to trust God fully and be responsible with the funds he received – right down to the penny. In his ‘Retrospect’ he obviously wants to communicate to potential donors that he is trustworthy, and that this had been part of his training.
By watching his spending carefully he found that he was able to give more away that he had at first thought possible.
The Reign of Christ breaks the power of greed
At a fairly early point in his theological study Taylor came to believe in the premillenial reign of Christ – the idea that when Christ returns He will reign for a period of time, on this earth, in history (ie, before the eradication of sin) and prior to the Day of Judgement (the primary passage referred to by those who hold this view is in Revelation 20).
Taylor said that this teaching, rather than cause him to speculate on when Christ might return, breathed into his spirit a readiness and an eagerness for Christ’s return that infused him with energy for service.
It also drew his affections heavenward and freed him from materialism. ‘The effect of this hope was a thoroughly practical one.’ He went through his possessions selecting books and clothes which he could give away, to benefit others. This was a practice he kept up throughout his life.
He began to purchase fewer ‘luxurious’ goods. ‘My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave away, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.’[i]
This drive towards self-denial and generosity did not lead to a harshness or meanness of spirit in him, but rather to joy – because one day Christ would come and rule.
And all this was preparation for the mission – to take the gospel to China.
© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides
[i] Retrospect (To China With Love), Bethany, p.21