The Lost Beatitude
February 28th, 1954 @ 10:50 AM
THE LOST BEATITUDE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Lost Beatitude. In our preaching through the Word, we are in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts. And this is the last message in that chapter, and it is taken from the closing words of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders before he kneeled down and prayed with them all. The reading of the Word is in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts. And I shall begin at the thirty-second verse. Acts 20:32:
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace,
which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all of them which are sanctified.
I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
Yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
I have showed you all things, how that so laboring, you ought to support the weak,
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all.
And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,
Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.
And they accompanied him unto the ship
And then he went on his way to Jerusalem, to Caesarea, to Rome and to death. So the text, "and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35].
And I have called it The Lost Beatitude because, had it not been for this word of Paul, we would never have known that the Lord Jesus said that. You will not find it in any of the four gospels. It was a thing that our Lord said that was much spoken of and repeated among the first Christians. Do you remember the Apostle John closed the fourth gospel, the Gospel of John, with this word? That, "there were also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they all were written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books, which should be written" [John 21:25]. What we have of the Lord Jesus is just a very small part – very infinitesimal part – of what the Lord actually said and did. And among those things that were not recorded by the four evangelists is this beautiful beatitude: "it is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. The Lord Jesus knew the human heart, and He knew our spirit, and He knew our response, and He knew how we feel about things, and He knew that it was a blessed thing to receive, and it is.
Some body gives you a gift; like the choir gave me that beautiful, beautiful watch, which I treasure and prize so highly. So many other things people give me and they make me happy. Any body who is recipient of a gift is made happy. It is blessed to receive, to say words of appreciation and encouragement; to have people say fine things to you and about you makes you happy; it is blessed to receive. But the Lord knew the deeper spirit, and He probed the fountain of our soul and He says as happy as it is – and as beatific as it is, and as wonderfully blessed as it is – to be a recipient, to receive, it is more blessed and it is happier to give. It is more blessed to give than to receive. And you yourselves could testify to that. Do you love any body? A boy – a sweetheart – to give her a gift is a wonderful thing and she receives it with gladness and joy. But she does not receive half the gladness or know half the joy of the boy as he prepares it, and thinks about it, and plans it, and buys it, and finally bestows it. He has the happier heart and the more blessed spirit.
I was amused one time in talking to Brother Dolph Johnson, the late and lamented deacon and clerk of our church who was with us here for forty-two years, I had made a trip around the world and in coming back had spoken on a Wednesday night and once or twice here in the pulpit about some of the things that happened along that world journey. And one day, as I was standing by, he said to me, he said, "Pastor, do you know what impressed me most about your trip around the world?"
I said, "I have no idea Brother Dolph, what was it?"
He said, "What impressed me most was this: when you told us that you gave your clothes away to the missionaries all the way around the world." He said, "That impressed me the most."
Well, I got to thinking about that. I’ve got some shoes that are walking over there in Korea, right now, unless he has worn them out. I have got some suits in the Philippines. And I have got some clothes in Africa, and in India, and in Jerusalem, and in Japan, in Indonesia; I have got some clothes, unless they have worn them out, all around this world. Then I got to thinking about that thing. The missionaries were kind to give me some little tokens of interest, and love, and remembrance as I made that journey, but I received far more joy out of giving away my clothes than anything the missionaries gave to me. I remember that and I had not thought about that until Brother Dolph mentioned it to me. It is a fine thing to receive, but it is a lot happier thing to give. I had to take a lot of clothes because in July and August we were in the tropical section of the country. And then we wound up preaching in that preaching mission in November, in Japan. And it is cold in Japan in November. So as I went along the way, I just gave my clothes away. And after all I found, you do not need nearly as much as you think you do.
Over there in Africa, there was a little colored boy – one of those little African natives who came to one of our mission Sunday schools – and he did not have any clothes on. So – he just never had had any clothes, they just do not wear clothes over there until they are about eleven or twelve years old – and then after that, they do not wear very much. Well, this boy came to Sunday school without any clothes on. And so the Sunday school teacher said to the little fellow, the Sunday school teacher said, "Son, you go home and tell your momma to put some clothes on you. You cannot come to Sunday school without any clothes on." So the little boy went home and told his momma that he could not come to Sunday school unless he had some clothes on. So the little fellow returned pretty soon and he was so proud, he was so proud with the clothes that he was wearing. Do you know what he had on? He had on a pair of suspenders!
Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," whom do you think was the more blessed? The men who received from the hands of the disciples the meat and the bread, or that boy, a teenage boy who stood by the side of the Master, to whom he had given all that he had – of the loaves and the fishes? And he saw the Master break it and multiply it and feed the five thousand. Whom do you think was the more blessed? The rich young ruler who turned away with all of his great possessions or Zacchaeus who said to the Master, "Lord, at Thy feet I dedicate every thing that I have and all that I am." Whom do you think had the fuller life? The rich and the well-to-do who pass by the temple treasury and out of their superabundance dropped in some gold coins, or the poor widow whom Jesus noticed, who placed into the treasury all that she had, even all of her living?
Whom do you think has the fuller life? Lucifer – son of the morning, the created archangel of light – who, in the beauty of his person and in the glory of his excellence, became proud, and possessive, and arrogant, and lifted up himself in confirmation or the Lamb of God who emptied Himself and poured Himself out? Who, as Paul said once again, "Remembering the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich" [2 Corinthians 8:9]. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
So when we come down here to this church, and we join this church, and we are members of this church, one way we can come is like this: I expect to be ministered unto. I want the people to shake my hand. And I want them to seek me out, and I want them to smile upon me. And I want them to pamper, and pet, and praise me. And if they do not do it, I will be mad! Yes I will! And I will draw away from there and I will say, "They are unfriendly and uncharitable people and they made me unwelcome." Because when I go down there and join that church, I want them to minister to me; I go to receive."
Or somebody who comes down to the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the way they come, "Here, give me your hand, I want to shake it. Here, look at me, I want to smile at you. Here, turn around, I want to speak to you. Here, pastor, is there anything you have for me to do? I want to help, I want to work. I want to make other people welcome, I want to make other people glad they have come down to the church."
Ah, if all of us were like that, wouldn’t we have the most radiant sunshine scintillating around here that you ever saw in your life? Nobody has got a chip on his shoulder; nobody has got his feelings stuck out where they can be brushed; nobody is sensitive; nobody mad; nobody angry; nobody sore; nobody finding fault. But everybody doing what they can to make every body else happy and glad – shake their hand, smile at them; say a good word, talk about things that are marvelous and good and glorious and fine. "This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice in it and be glad." [Psalm 118:24] Wouldn’t that be like heaven on earth? Well, we would all start sprouting wings around here and just fly to heaven itself. We just would; we just would. Well, why not? It is just as easy to stand and shake some body else’s hand as to stand and wait for them to shake your hand.
Why, I know what they say to me, "Now, you must not speak to a woman until she first speaks to you." Aw, pshaw! Speak to her any way! Speak to her any way; let Emily Post go by the board. Down here at the church, speak! Speak, "Hello, how do you do?" And if she does not speak, well, that is all right, she will be thinking about it, and next time she will. You just cannot tell what might happen around here.
You be nice, and you be kind, and you be gracious, and you smile, and don’t you come down here to this church for all of the other people to pat you on the back; you come down here to the church to pat other people on the back. Tell the song leader how good he did – whether he did good or not, that is not the point – tell him he did good; he did just fine, and he will do better next time. And every body around here, if we are not doing the thing just like it ought to be done; well, encourage us, and we will do it better the next time. Oh, it is more blessed to give than to receive!
Now, I want to talk to you for a moment about us down here in the church. It is more blessed to give than to receive – and it is; and it is. And dear fellow member, and all who love and pray for this ministry, we need you. We need you. God needs you, and you will be happy in it, if you respond. We need you to help us in this tremendous program, by which under God we are seeking to further the kingdom of Christ in this earth. We need you to help us in our stewardship programs, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," as great a joy as you might have in coming down to our church and being blessed by its facilities, and by its ministries, and by its services. You will be far greater blessed if you will have a part in it; take a part of you and coin it. After all, that is all that money is, it is you! You take your time and your life and you trade it – a day, a month, a year – and you trade it for a recompense. And take that recompense, all that you can, and bring it down here and give it to God. And we need your help in this tremendous work of our church, Sunday by Sunday, in this giving program.
Fifty-one percent of what we bring down here in this giving program, we send away outside of this church for the ministry of Christ in the earth. Some of it goes all the way around the world. They are sleeping now while the sun is shining on us. And when we sleep tonight, the sun will be shining on them. And a part of what we bring is for the worldwide preaching of the gospel of Jesus. That we have it in our own city, these missions that we try to support, and how God has blessed them. And our hospitals, and our orphan’s homes, and the aged minister, in how many glorious ways does God sanctify that fifty-one percent that is sent out of this church to the ministry of others. Then forty-nine percent of it is kept here for the work of the church that it might go on; building a great lighthouse for Jesus downtown. And we need your support and your help, God must have it. Besides that, about three thousand dollars every Sunday, we must bring down here to the church in order to pay for this building program. And we need your help.
Pretty soon, beginning next Sunday, we shall prepare for that spring appeal by which our people shall underwrite for another year our indebtedness on this building program. For the next few years, Sunday by Sunday, let us bring here to this house of God an offering for our building program, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus; how He said It is more blessed to give than to receive. To look upon it and say, "I have a part in it; that is a part of me."
Sunday by Sunday, to dedicate it is a blessing and strength to your heart – more than you could ever receive by sharing in the thing itself. How shall I do that? It is more blessed to give than to receive. I do not think the Lord would give us a great task without a way and a plan to do it. I do not think He would; I cannot conceive of God doing that. And through the years and through the centuries, all the churches of God have worried about and wrestled with this thing of under girding its financial program. They have sold indulgences; oh, and how despicable and unnameable! And then the churches have had bazaars, and they have had pie suppers, and box suppers. When I was a boy, I used to go to pie suppers and box suppers in the church, and they had to sell clothing, and make quilts, and sell it in order to carry on the work of the church. Even as a boy, I looked on it with askance. I think God who gave us this task to do and this ministry to keep; I think the Lord also gave us a marvelous way to do it.
You listen to it, "Upon the first day of the week," 1 Corinthians 16:2, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no collection when I come." On the first day of the week, every one of us, every one of us, every member of the family – for they all share in the breadwinner’s way, in the father’s way. Every one of us on the first day of the week lay aside for God as God hath prospered us; a proportion belongs to Him.
In the days of the long ago so far back no body knows, when God and Abraham, and Isaac, and all of those people – God and Moses, and God through the prophets, Malachi – they all said, "a tenth belongs to the Lord." Proportionately, systematically on the first day of the week as God has placed in our hands, take a tenth of it and dedicate it for the cause of the Lord. Bring it down here to God’s house and you will find the truth of the beatitude of the Savior, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." You will feel different, you will be happy in your heart. You will be prospered in your life. Malachi 3:10: "Bring ye all of the tithes in the storehouse. . . and prove Me now herewith,saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out such a blessing as you are not able to receive it." It is more blessed to give than to receive – a tithe; a minimum – on the first day of the week as God has prospered us. "And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. It is more blessed to give than to receive." [1 Corinthians 12:31]
In the eighth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, described the churches of Macedonia – how they gave. And in that eighth chapter he says this, "and this is the way they did it., not as we thought they would do it, but first they gave their own selves unto the Lord, and then they gave unto us by the will of God" [2 Corinthians 8:5]. But first they gave their own selves to the Lord. God needs you, and our church needs you, and this work and its ministry needs you. It needs you. And somehow things will turn, just to happen so.
In my first pastorate out of the seminary, I was seeking to build up the church, to get those people back into the church. And I went visiting on an afternoon, and I stopped at a doctor’s office. The doctor, the physician, belonged to the church but he did not come any more. So I stopped at his office and visited with him, and asked him to come back to the church. And after my little brief stay there, why, he pulled out his desk drawer and took a checkbook, and wrote a check and gave it to me – pushed it across the table to me. And I took it and looked at it, and I read there; it was a generous offering to our First Baptist Church. I put it back on the table and pushed it back to him, and I said, "I do not want it. I do not want it. You take it. You take it. I haven’t come for what you have, I have come for you. And if you want to give anything to us in that church and in the kingdom of God, you bring it down there to the church and you put it in the collection plate, you do it. I do not want it. I do not want your money; I want you. I want you."
I went next to the most successful insurance man, he had quit coming to the church. And after I visited with him, he did the same thing. He pulled out his desk drawer and opened his checkbook and wrote out a check and pushed it across the table to me. And I looked at it and I put it back on the table and shoved it back to him. And I said, "I will not take it. I do not want it. I do not want it. If you want to give anything to God, you come down to the church and you put it in the church. I do not want what you have, I want you."
I went to the man who was our State Senator who lived in that town. And I visited in his office. He had quit coming to church. And after I had talked to him, he did the same identical thing – pulled out that desk drawer and wrote a check and pushed it across the table to me. And I gave it back to him, like I had the other two with. "I do not want it. I am not interested in it." God has the cattle on a thousand hills and the gold and the silver is all His. He does not even need what we have, but He needs you. If you want to give anything to God, you come, you come. Y’all come. Y’all come! And bring it to God and put it in the collection plate, you do it; we want you, not what you have. "They first gave their own selves to the Lord."
Ah, the time goes by! Dear people, you are going to see in just a minute one of the sweetest things you ever saw in your life, and I want to tell you about it before we stand and sing. As you know, I love our Good Shepherd Department, I had that in my heart ever since I came to this city. When we got our new building over there, it gave me the opportunity to organize it. Well, this week the boy who superintends the department, Pat Fitzpatrick and one of his teachers, Mrs. Jagog, brought up to me in my study over there in the new building – they brought the sweetest couple; both of them blind, both of them blind. And they had in their arms, a new little baby girl – both of them blind, and the little baby girl is the sweetest little doll you ever saw. So after we visited a little while, why Mrs. Jagog and Pat went out so I could visit; and took the baby with them so I could visit with the blind couple. She is coming by baptism, by confession of faith in baptism; and he is coming by letter.
And so, as I sat down and talked to them, well this is what they told me. They said, "Oh pastor, you cannot know, you cannot know the joy of these things." He said, "I work in the dark room at Baylor Hospital." And being blind, isn’t that an ideal thing for him to do? He works in the dark room out at Baylor Hospital, and he said, "I so wanted to come down here to the First Baptist Church; so wanted to come. But," he said, "our street car lets us off; we have to get off at an intersection that is very dangerous downtown, and both of us being blind," he said, "I could not come, we could not come." He said, "You know, on a day some body knocked at our door" – that is my Good Shepherd Department – "somebody knocked at our door and said, ‘Why we will come by to see you, and we will pick you up, and we will bring you to the church. You do not need to worry about a busy intersection.’" So he said, "Mr. and Mrs. Jagog pick us up every Lord’s Day and bring us down here to Sunday school and to church." And he said, "You know what pastor, what? Last Sunday, they took us home to dinner, we ate dinner out there at the home of the Jagog’s." And he said, "I tell you, we never had such a good time in our lives. We never had such a good time in our lives as we ate dinner there in that home – the guests of those dear people." Giving yourself; giving yourself.
I know – I have got sense enough to know that our church will not be prospered if we have financial difficulty in it. I know that. There is not a man here but that would lose confidence in this ministry if we do not carry on this church in a good financial way. And our deacons do a grand job, and you can trust them. And our men do a grand job, and you can trust them. But beyond that gift that we bring on the Lord’s Day; beyond it is that appeal for you. Oh, may God bless the men and women who take time out of their lives and work with our intermediates; who take time out of their lives and work with our young people; who take time out of their lives and work with our little children; who take time out of their lives and invest it here in the ministry of Christ! You, you, putting yourself in it, "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Giving yourself, you, "My heart, and my love, and my time, and my life, and my days. All, Lord, all – here I am giving it to you."
Well, we have to quit. That is the appeal we make this morning; anywhere, all over this great auditorium – that crowded balcony to the back seat, any where around, any where around, you can find those stairwells leading down here to this floor, from side to side any where; some body you, give your heart to the Lord. "Preacher, I give my heart to the Lord and my hand, I give to you." Or, coming into the fellowship of the church, "Pastor, here is my whole family." One, somebody you; anybody, somebody you, while we sing this song of appeal today, will you make it now? "I will make it now, pastor, and here I come." While we stand and while we sing.