Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-22-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Testimony to Our Lord. This time of the year, in the fall time of the year, our church is dedicating itself to a tremendous stewardship program, the largest in the history of Christendom. There is not a church in the earth that attempts one half as much for our Savior as does this dear church. Now the last several years, our budget committee has requested that at this Sunday the pastor preach a stewardship message.
People who are outside of our church, ministers, pastors, leaders, when they hear of the tremendous response of our people to our stewardship appeal, they think that all the pastor does every Sunday is ding-dong for money, trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. They have that attitude and that spirit about us that I am forever pleading and begging for money. I rarely ever mention it. So rarely, and so infrequently do I ever refer to it, that as I said, the stewardship committee, our men, come to me and request, "Pastor, on this Sunday in October, please won’t you preach to us a stewardship sermon?" Well, I’m happy to do it. It blesses my heart to prepare it. It blesses all of us to listen to God’s way of taking care of His work in the earth. And Sunday by Sunday, all of us are blessed by having a part in this service we dedicate to Jesus.
So in keeping with the request of those men, the sermon today is from the fourteenth chapter of Genesis and the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews; and the text will be Hebrews 7:8. Now first, the passage in Genesis:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God . . .
And blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies in to thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
Now Hebrews 7:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham . . . and blessed him;
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; this Melchizedek, first by interpretation, king of righteousness,
that’s what his name means melek – king, zedek – righteousness, king of righteousness,
and after that also, king of Salem –
which is, king of peace, shalom, peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, without beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest forever, continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth . . .
And verily they that are the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law . . .
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
And as I may so say, Levi, the priestly tribe, who receiveth tithes, gave tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
Now the text; Hebrews 7:8: "And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth." Now the word "here," "now here, men that die receive tithes," that is the Levitical priesthood under the law, and you read it in the last chapter in Leviticus. The Levitical priesthood received by commandment a tenth part of all that the people earned; their increase [Numbers 18:21, 24]. "Here men that die receive tithes"; the Levitical priesthood, "but there," Melchizedek, "there he receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8].
Now there are many learned scholars who believe that Melchizedek was a theophany of Christ; He was Christ himself, He was the Lord God Himself. There are many great scholars who believe that. Whether that is true or not, this is true: the seventh chapter of Hebrews says that our Lord Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 7:11, 17, 21]. And when this passage is read, "Here men that die receive tithes," the Levitical priesthood, "but there he receiveth them," Melchizedek, who was the prototype of the Lord Jesus, "there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8]. Which brings to my mind this kind of an adoration, this kind of a worship.
In the olden days, by commandment, they brought their offerings and their gifts, their tithes, and laid them before the priest [Numbers 18:28]. But in our day, the writer of the Hebrews says, "In our day, we bring our gifts and our offerings and our tithes, and we lay them in consecration and dedication at the feet of the great High Priest who liveth forever; and He receiveth from our hands our gifts, our offerings, our tithes" [Hebrews 7:8]. And in keeping with that figure that I have in my mind of our Savior receiving the offerings that we bring, the sermon is made this morning.
I lay before the Lord, I consecrate to Him, this envelope. What is in this envelope that I bring before the Lord, and that I lay at His blessed feet, and that He receives from my hand? What is in that envelope? First, this envelope is a part of my adoration, and my worship, and my praise, and my love for the Lord. As the psalmist said:
Give unto the Lord, all ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth.
And in that glorious paean of praise in this beautiful ninety-sixth Psalm, praising the Lord, giving the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering and come into His courts; and as I praise the Lord, and as I pray to the Lord, and as I love the Lord, as I sing to the Lord and rejoice in the Lord, a part of our worship of God I also shall worship God with an offering dedicated to His name. And like David, "neither will I offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. It shall be a worthy gift. It shall reflect somewhat of my hope and blessing and promise in Him.
I read of an internal revenue employee. Some people, of course, give for income tax purposes; some people give for respectability’s sake, to salve their conscience; and some people give because they love God. It is a part of their worship and adoration of the Lord. Well, the internal revenue officer was looking through the returns, and he came across one from some queer guy who had an income of less than five thousand dollars a year, yet he had a deduction there where he said he gave $625 to his church. Well, the internal revenue man picked that up immediately. So in the evening he went out to the man’s house and called on him. And to his surprise, instead of the man being frustrated or embarrassed he cordially invited the internal revenue officer into his home, and they sat down together. And the internal revenue man said, "Well, this really is an unusual guy." So he said, "Now, I’ve come to talk to you about your contributions; $625; you make less than five thousand dollars." And the man said, "Yes, yes. $625; I gave it to my Lord, I gave it to my church." Well, the internal revenue man was kind of nonplused; he said, "Well, well do you have a receipt from your church for it." And he thought he’d have the guy squirming at that. And the man replied, "Why yes, I keep the receipts in the drawer where I have my church envelopes." So he went into the other room and came back; and there was the receipts from the church, $625.
Well the internal revenue man said, "Well, that’s just fine. That’s good"; and shook hands with him to bid him goodbye and said, "I’m sorry I troubled you, but I have to look through an account and a return that has an unusually large deduction, and I beg your pardon. And thank you," and he started to leave. And as he did so, the man said to the internal revenue officer, he said, "By the way, sir, could I invite you to attend our church some time." And the internal revenue officer said, "Oh, no thank you, I have a church of my own!" And the man said, "Well, well, excuse me, the possibility had not occurred to me."
And as the internal revenue officer left he pondered that last remark. "The possibility of my belonging to a church had not occurred to him. What could he mean by that?" Then he said, "The following Sunday morning when the collection plate passed and he dropped in his usual quarter, it came to him. I shall not tip God, no sir; neither will I offer unto the Lord that which costs me nothing [2 Samuel 2:24]. When I come before Him and bow in the presence of the great God of glory, the offering that I bring in my hand will be a part of that love and praise and worship.
As I come before the Lord and lay this offering at His feet, it is not only part of my praise and my worship and my adoration, it is also a part of me. If I work a day and make $20.00, that $20.00 represents a day of my life. And when I hold that $20.00 in my hand, that represents me; I have traded a day of my life for that $20.00. And if I come before the Lord and lay at the feet of my Savior $10.00 of that $20.00, that represents one half of a day of my life. Money is nothing but a representative of time and of service and of work, work.
A man dreamed – I heard one of the greatest business executives in America tell this at a convocation one time; he was president of a great railroad system. He said a man dreamed that he woke up one morning and went to the door to get the paper and it wasn’t there. He went to the backdoor to get the milk and it wasn’t there. He went out into the streets to find a grocery store. Everything was closed. And when he asked what had happened, this is what had happened: the newspaper boy was a millionaire, and the shine boy now was a millionaire, and the grocery store man was a millionaire, and the milkman was a millionaire, and everybody was a millionaire, and nobody worked; and the whole fabric of life came to a standstill. Money is nothing except as it represents work. If a man had a million dollars he still ought to work. God intended for us to work. Preacher ought to work; maybe he doesn’t work with his hands, maybe he doesn’t shovel gravel, but a preacher ought to be a slave to his high calling. A preacher ought to work. All of us ought to work. And money is nothing except as it represents us, labor, work. And when I bring to God in an envelope an offering it represents a part of me.
What’s in that envelope? It’s not only a part of my adoration to God, my worship of the Lord; it is not only part of me, I’ve traded myself for an income, and when I bring a gift to the Lord it is a part of me. It is a part also of the training of our little children. Sometimes people will greatly object to my insistence on taking these pledge cards and these church envelopes to our little children. Oh, they say such things to me, "They don’t understand, they’re too young; how could they fill out a pledge card? It is nothing and meaningless to them." Oh, they say such things! But I reply, "Sir, but I read it in the Book. I got it out of the Book." Then they say to me, "Where does it say in the Book that you’re to take this to little children, and they share in this program of worshiping God and serving the Lord in an offering like the rest of us; where does it say that in the Book?" And I say, "It says it here in the first Corinthian letter, chapter 16, verse 2, "Upon the first day of the week" – that’s Sunday – "let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him – a part of every thing we have we give to the Lord – that there be no collections when the preacher stands up to preach" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
Your preacher is not to stand up there and ding-dong for money and beg for money. Anytime the people have the impression that what the preacher’s interested in is money, you ruin his ministry. And any time that people have the impression that all church is interested in is money, you ruin the spirit and appeal of the church. When the preacher stands up to preach, the people shall have, according to the Word of God, taken care of all of those things. And when he stands up there to preach, he just opens God’s Book and preaches God’s Word; and there’s no burden on his soul, and there’s no heaviness in his heart because the people have failed the Lord. "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no collections when I stand up to preach" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Did you get that? "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you." So this man objects to these cards given to our little children; but God said so. So I asked him, "In your family, are you one? Yes sir, I’m one."
"Well, let me ask you, is your wife one?"
"Yes sir, my wife is one."
"Well, let me ask you again, is that little boy one? Does he belong?"
"Oh yes, that little boy is one."
"Well, let me ask you just once again, is the little girl one? Does she belong?"
"Oh yes, yes the little girl belongs."
"Then why don’t we do like it says in the Book: ‘Let every one of you’" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
Sometimes a father, a husband will come in an imperious and contumacious, egotistical manner and say, "I earn the living for this family, I bring in this paycheck, I get the money"; as though his wife who toils and labors and sews and cooks had no part in it whatsoever, and as though those little children were just appendages, they weren’t really in the family at all. My brother, according to the Word of the Lord, God says, "He has set the solitary in families" [Psalm 68:6]; according to the Word of the Lord, every member of that family belongs. Are you a husband? You are one; God bless you. Are you a wife and mother? You are one; God bless you. Do you have a little boy? He also is one; God bless the little boy. Do you have a little girl? She also is one; God bless the little girl. And when we come to church, the father will bring a gift in his hand, and the mother will bring a gift in her hand, and each little child, he’s one too, she’s one too; let every one of you bring a gift in her hand. And if the child’s too young for a gift, pin it to his didey and bring him. I don’t know of a finer way to train children than by doing just what God says.
I couldn’t help, about a week ago, being interested as I overheard a conversation between my wife and little Cris, our little boy we’re fetching up. You see, little Cris came home, and he said to his mommy, to his grandmother, he said, "My little friend down the street," a door or two down, "they’re having a big thing at their church." And the little boy was so wide-eyed. He said, "Mommy, you can buy chances and get prizes and bring them home. And I want to go! And I want some money that I can buy those chances and maybe bring something home, a big prize." And his mommy said, "Now, now, Cris, we don’t believe in those things. We don’t buy lottery tickets; we don’t buy raffles; we don’t buy chances on things. We don’t believe in that; to us that’s kind of like gambling and we don’t do it."
"Oh," said little Cris, "Mommy, you don’t understand. You don’t understand. This is for the church. We’re going to have a big to do at the church; and we’re going to buy prizes and we’re going to get tickets; and we’re going to buy tickets and we get chances and all the money is for the church; you don’t understand, Mommy." And his mommy said, "Cris, I do understand. And that’s what I’m talking to you about. God gave us a way to support the church and take care of the church; and it is not by buying lottery tickets and by buying tickets when they raffle off things. So son," she said, "you tell your little friend how much you appreciate his invitation; but we don’t do that in the church." Well, I just overheard all that going on. There’s no finer way you can teach the child how God wants us to support His kingdom than by putting in his hand an envelope, and Sunday by Sunday let him carry it to the house of the Lord and dedicate to Jesus. I must hasten.
"There he receiveth tithes, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8]. When we come before the Lord and bring an offering, what’s in that envelope? In that envelope is the very existence of the church itself. Now, we don’t have to have an offering to have a church. Some of us could come down and clean the floor, some of us come down and stoke the furnace, others of us come down and mend all the building, others of us come down and preach the sermon, others of us come down and go out as missionaries, others of us do all the other work of the church; but you’d surely have a difficult and hard time. It is a lot better, a much better way for us to turn ourselves into coin personality and bring somewhat of our selves down; and then we have somebody that we can pay to be the janitor, and somebody we can pay to stoke the furnace, and somebody that we can have and send and support to be the missionary and the pastor, and all the multitudinous of ministries in our church.
And I love to review once in a while all that our church does. Oh, dear me! Our little children, our teenagers, look at them here; if we were to invest everything that we give in these boys and girls, it’d be eminently worth it all. And I think of our ministry among our Young Adults and our Young Marrieds, among our other people; oh how much it means!
This last week one of our Young Marrieds, she looked like a girl to me, she’d been married just a little while – I guess she’s eighteen, nineteen years old – she came to me and sat down in my study. And she said, "Pastor, the doctor has told me that I have leukemia. And I’m in such pain," she said, "that I can hardly stand it. And I have come to you. I need help and I need courage to bear this pain and to die. And I thought maybe you could help me find that courage." Oh, dear me; one of our sweetest couples! I said to her, "Dear child, about all I can do is cry with you. And then we’ll just pray and ask God for the courage to bear the pain and to face death unless there is an intervention from heaven." That is my church. Oh, the church represents so much, so much! And finally, I think it almost represents everything that is worthwhile in life. Do you have a child? Oh, what the church means to you! Do you have a home? Do you have a family? Do you love God? Do you seek things that only God could bestow? Our church represents it all.
Nor have I time to speak. What’s in that envelope? Our love for the whole missionary outreach of God in the earth. We have seven of those missions here in this city of Dallas in our Jerusalem. I had a convocation with them last Wednesday night; Lord bless them. Oh, how much could they do. And Dr. Bennett, and these men who help guide our denomination, a part of all that I bring supports that work to the ends of the earth. To some who are hungry, it’s food. To some who are sick, it is medicine. To some who are orphaned, it is a home. To some who are lost, it is the promise and hope of God. Oh, my soul! This is no burden to me. This is one of the highest privileges God has ever given to a man. And to share in it shall be my highest praise and dedication to Jesus. "For here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them" [Hebrews 7:8].