God’s Business is Big Business
October 20th, 1968 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S BUSINESS IS BIG BUSINESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-20-68 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. You have just heard our sanctuary choir, and now you are going to hear the pastor thunder away on a text in God’s Book. The title of the sermon is God’s Business is Big Business. It is a textual sermon. It is the expounding of a passage in the Book, and the text is Luke 19:13, Luke 19:13.
“And he called his ten servants,” the number ten represents plentitude, fullness, everybody, “and he called his ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds.” That represents everything that we have, ten. Like the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], the whole moral law of God, ten. “And he delivered unto them ten pounds,” everything that you have, “and said unto them, pragmateuomai,” that’s a good word. We are going to look at it, “till I come,” achri hou elthe, “till He come” [Luke 19:13].
Well, let us begin. We are going to divide it into two parts; “Occupy” and “till I come.” In the language in which this blessed Book is written, there is a very interesting word, pragma, pragma. You have an English word just like it: “pragmatic, pragmatism.” In our English language which is built on that same word, “pragmatism, pragmatic,” refers to practical things, practicalities, practical values, and practical consequences; pragmatic, pragmatism. Now, the word pragma in Greek is a word used for a thing that’s done. It’s used for the word, “business.” What’s going, what’s going on, practicalities. For example, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans and the [first] verse, Paul writes to the church at Rome and says, “Now I want to commend to you Phoebe who is a deaconess in the First Baptist Church of Cenchrea” [Romans 16:1]. Cenchrea was the seaport town of Corinth, and for a church to have deaconesses in the church is all right. She was a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea. Now Paul writes to the church at Rome, and he says, “I want to commend to you Phoebe and help her in the pragma, in the business”—you have it translated in the Bible—“help her in the business for which she has come to Rome” [Romans 16:1-2]. Pragma.
Well, another instance of the use of that word—and it’s used frequently in the New Testament—another incident of that word is in the Book of the Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things, pragma, things to hope for, the evidence of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. Pragma, materialities, things, actualities, realities. Now, the verbal form of that substantive is pragmateuomai, pragmateuomai, and it literally means, “do business, trade,” and that’s the word the Lord uses here. “Pragmateuomai, do business, trade, until I come” [Luke 19:13].
Well, all of us in America are introduced to the world of business. We live in it; we live off of it; we work for it; we are engaged in it; it is the economic life blood of our national system. Business. And America has created big business. It’s everywhere. In the last few years, and it is a development of just the last few years, you have these conglomerates. There will be a holding company, and in that holding company, they’ll have all kinds of businesses, and many of them most unrelated, like making airplanes, and packing meat, and manufacturing gloves and mitts and baseballs and baseball bats; a conglomerate, a thing like an octopus that covers the whole earth, a conglomerate, a big business. And beside this development in recent days of the conglomerate, all of us are conversant with the tremendous merchandising and manufacturing enterprises that are world famous: General Motors, American Telephone and Telegraph, United States Steel, Sears Roebuck, and the great insurance companies. These are tremendous business enterprises, and it takes as much genius to create them, build them, and to run them as it does to take genius in any other field of human endeavor. It was a genius who wrote Hamlet. It was a genius who won the battle of Waterloo. Now, it is a genius in another world, but it is no less greatness to create a tremendous business enterprise, and for its achievement and in its success, your finest, ablest men pour their brains, and their souls, and their lives, and their bodies, and their energy. In America, we have witness and are blessed by the creative genius of gifted businessmen, great business.
But, with all that can be said about the tremendous business enterprises of the world of the pragmatic, there is yet, and still, and above a bigger and a greater business. I would think—if I were a magnate, if I were an industrial tycoon, if I were the head of a great business enterprise—I would look over what my men and my people and my machinery were doing, and I would rejoice in it. I think it is a great thing, it is a great pragmatism, it’s a great pragmatic contribution for a man to manufacture shoes, a great shoe company. Just think of the good that we’d do in providing shoes for people. I think it’s a wonderful thing, big business, to manufacture steel. Think of the uses, infinite, of steel. Think of the tremendous good that a man does who builds an insurance company, the widows and the orphans and the needy who are blessed by their efforts. The genius of taking money and building it and investing it so that when a man dies he can provide for his family after he’s gone, or create an endowment with which to face the future with security; to do that—it seems to me, I’d feel that way—to do that would bring joy and sense of achievement and blessing to my heart. A big man in a big business manufacturing machinery goes out here and with those tremendous machines build roads, or build buildings, or help our men defend our country.
There’s a greatness and a God-given blessedness in big business. But there is a pragmatic endeavor that is bigger than big business, and that is God’s business. God’s business is good business, and God’s business is big business! While we’re not just surveying, making shoes, or making machinery, or making security, or merchandising the needs of the house, but in God’s business, we are making men, recreating them in the image of God. The Lord one time said, “Let Us make man” [Genesis 1:26], and when the man God made fell into disorder, and disunion, and depravity, and sin, and damnation in hell, God said, “Let’s recreate him, let’s remake him,” and that’s our business. God’s business is great business, making men, winning souls, regeneration, a creation new, glorious, in the likeness of God.
There was an old farmer who had six boys, and he worked them hard. A neighbor came over to him and said to him, “Zeke, why do you work those boys so hard? You don’t need to do that to raise crops!” And old Zeke replied, “Neighbor, I’m not raising crops, I’m raising boys.” That’s big business. I’m not discounting the wheat that he grew, or the corn that he raised, or the milo maize that he sold, or the hogs, or the cattle. I’m not minimizing it; that’s great. And for a man to have a fine farm and make it successful is a contribution without which your nation wouldn’t exist, but however fine and big it may be to produce, the biggest business is to produce men, winning souls, recreating humanity in the likeness of God. God’s business, is big business: “Pragmateuomai, do business, trade until I come” [Luke 19:13].
Now I have three things here that I want to mention, why it is that I’m persuaded that God’s business is the biggest business. First: because of our partnership; in the sixth chapter of the second Corinthian letter and verse 1, you have a word there, sunergontes, sunergontes. Sun is with, ergo is energy, work. In physics you have a ergo, a unit. Sunergontes. Now in the Bible out of which I preach—the King James Version—they translate that, “We then, as workers together with God” [2 Corinthians 6:1]. Well, that’s all right; nothing wrong with that, but I’ll tell you a more pointed translation, “We then, God’s fellowworkers, God’s fellowworkers, God’s partners.” Ah, there’s a chapter division there, and that sort of comes in between what Paul is saying, so let me read the whole thing here:
All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us this ministry of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; be ye reconciled to God
[2 Corinthians 5:18-20].
For we are God’s fellowworkers, we are God’s partners [2 Corinthians 6:1]; that’s one of the most magnificent passages in the Bible. He says that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, forgiving their trespasses and their sins [2 Corinthians 5:18-19]. God came down from heaven, assumed the body of a man, and died on the cross for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14; Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. That’s the atonement objective, pragmatic, two thousand years ago [Romans 5:10-11; Hebrews 2:17]. Now when the Lord finished that work of atonement [John 19:16-29], He bowed His head and said, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And when He had finished it, He arose from the dead [John 20:1-16], and ascended back up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And where the Lord left off, we pick up and begin. That’s what Paul says here. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, washing our sins away [2 Corinthians 5:19] so that we can live in the presence of God, for no man shall see God and live in unforgiven sin [Hebrews 12:14]. God did that in Christ, and now that He has ascended back up to heaven, where the Lord left off, we are to begin, and this is our task and our assignment: Christ dying for us and we, as ambassadors for Christ, proclaiming, pleading, preaching, teaching this ministry of reconciliation. “As though God did beseech you by us,” as though God was standing here saying it, “We pray you in Christ’s stead.” As though the Lord were here, “be ye reconciled to God” [2 Corinthians 5:20]. That’s my first reason. God’s business is big business because of the partnership in it. God who died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and we who are proclaiming the message to the world, we are God’s sunergontes, God’s fellow workers, God’s partners [2 Corinthians 6:1].
All right, I have a second reason why God’s business is big business. The second reason lies in the extensiveness, the world coverage of our efforts. Any business in the world seeks to expand, to cover as much territory as possible. If you work in one state and can, you work in two. If you have five states and can, you work in ten. If you have all fifty states and can, you’ll expand into Canada; that’s business, that’s business. Now, there is no world coverage like God’s business. “The field is the world,” Jesus said [Matthew 13:38]. And in the Great Commission, our mandate from heaven [Matthew 28:19-20], it says we are to make disciples, we are to make Christians of all the nations of the world, and as such, we have branches, we have business houses in every nation under the sun. I’ve been around this world like that, and I’ve been around it up and down like that two or three times.
Going tomorrow, Lee Roy and I are going to be guests of the Israeli government, and we’re going to Israel tomorrow. And as I go, everywhere I go, I see branches of God’s business, everywhere. When I get to Jerusalem, I’m going to preach in the First Baptist Church in Jerusalem, maybe on Tuesday night, or Wednesday night, but I’ll be preaching there. And if nobody’s there to hear me, Lee Roy will be the congregation, and I’ll preach to him. Wherever I go, I preach the gospel, telling them about the Lord. When I preach at the First Baptist Church in Jerusalem, one visit there, they had their first convert; a blond Jewish boy twenty-four years of age gave his heart to the Lord and was baptized and made a glorious Christian. Everywhere in this earth, you’ll find branches of God’s business, everywhere. And they’re the most marvelous little lighthouses for Jesus that mind could imagine, and how they bless humanity!
I can remember in the Second World War some of those boys coming back home and testifying, and saying, “We bailed out in the South Pacific, and in a life raft that just drifted with the ocean and the tides, were washed on a South Pacific island, heavily jungle! We just supposed it was infested with cannibals and what.” And I’ve heard some of those boys say, “As we were swept up on the shore, and as we walked inland seeking food and water and dreading what we might find, hearing singing, hearing singing and parting the leaves in the jungle, looking, and there a little house with a star, a cupola, a steeple pointing to heaven, and the Lord’s anointed, God’s redeemed, singing songs of Zion. Cannibals, cannibals who had been won to Jesus by godly missionaries doing business for God in a grass house out there in the Pacific. I’ve had some of those boys tell me that they weren’t saved, they weren’t Christian, they hadn’t gone to church, they had passed God by in their lives, but there they had been won to Jesus. I’ve heard them testify those things. Isn’t that great? God’s business is big business.
Why, going through Africa in the heart of that dark continent with a godly physician—one of God’s beloved doctors—we visited his clan settlements, his leper colonies. Not knowing what to do with that dread disease, if one is found leprous, they push him out. They push him out in the bush or in the jungle to die. And it isn’t just men and women who have leprosy; children have leprosy, little kids have leprosy, and they put them out for the animals to eat them and to die of exposure and starvation. And our godly missionary gathered them up into what he called clan settlements; they’re leper colonies. Oh, I went around with him for several days, making a big arc through the heart of that country, visiting his lepers. And in one of them—one that was very large—they had built a very large village. They said, “We want you to preach to us.” So I preached to them. I had never seen a church like that, not in my life. It was made out of mud, all of it was made out of mud, all of it. The pulpit was made out of mud. The pulpit desk was made out of mud. The little choir and the seats in the choir were made out of mud. All of the pews were made out of mud. The whole house was made out of mud.
So when I had done preaching to those lepers the best I knew how, telling them about the hope we have in Jesus our Lord, why, I started to come down out of the pulpit. And the missionary said to me, the doctor said to me, “Now they want you to go back and stand back of that desk in the pulpit because they have a song they want to sing for you.” So I mounted the pulpit and stood back of the desk where I had preached the sermon, and all those lepers stood up and under the leader of one of their number, they sang this song, “The Great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.” Well, I just watched the doctor, and looked at the people and all that they were doing, and I thought, who sent out that doctor? We did it. We did it; we sent him out. Our Baptist people sent him out. He’s still there. And who bought that medicine? Who bought that medicine? We bought it; we bought it. And who ministers to these people? Some of them are little kids, little children. Like a little girl that I so well remember running up to the doctor and say, “Doctor, look at me. Look at me. Am I well?” And he’d look at the little girl carefully, and he would call me over there, and he would say, “See these lesions? She still has leprosy; she still has leprosy.”
He was leaving, and I said, “Doctor, I want you to come and look at this man.” There was a man there that, when he put his weight on his right foot, blood spurted way higher than his head. When he put his weight on his foot, a big stream of blood higher than his head; I said, “I think you ought to come look at him.” The leprosy had eaten down, decayed down, wasted down, until it had touched an artery, and when he put pressure on his foot, the blood spurted over his head. And the doctor said to me, “I’m glad, glad you called my attention to him. I did not know that.” So he ministered to him. Isn’t that great? Why, that is repeated a thousand times in a thousand places all around this earth. Why, we could stand here by the days and recount what we’re doing in these branch houses of God, doing business for the Lord, teaching them the way of life, gathering the orphans together, molding their souls in the hope and grace of Jesus. It’s a great business! God’s business is big business.
Oh, the time runs away. Third, why God’s business is big business: one, because of our partnership; two, because of the vast extensiveness of our operation; three: because of the investment—our return. James was the Lord’s half-brother, and he was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and he wrote a letter, and the last verse of that letter, he said, “Let him know, that he which converted the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” [James 5:20]. “Shall save a soul from death”; think of that. Falling into the abyss, lost and forever falling, falling, falling, falling; a bottomless pit, an endless abyss, falling from life, and falling from love, and falling from God, and falling from the fellowship of God’s people; falling, forever falling into the night, into darkness, into grief and despair, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, lost, shut out from God! And saved, numbered with God’s redeemed in glory, going, growing upward, heavenward, Christ-ward, life-ward, God-ward—ah! what it means to save a soul from death compared to a soul that treasures the world or nothing! “What would a man give in exchange for his soul, what would it profit if he gained the whole world?” [Mark 8:36-37]. To save a soul from death [James 5:20], that’s God’s business, saving souls.
“And shall hide a multitude of sins” [James 5:20]. That’s the most astonishing thing, if you’ll think of it. The man who is in God’s business saves souls from death and hides a multitude of sins. Sin has a tendency to proliferate, to multiply; it always does. Like lying; when you tell a lie, you got to tell a lie to cover that lie, and one to cover that, and it just ad infinitum. All sin is hydra-headed, and it multiplies a multitude of sins. Think what happens, James says, when we get somebody to Jesus—saving a soul from death and hiding a multitude of sins [James 5:20].
I copied this from the studies of a Bonn professor; he has given his life to the study of the posterity of habitual drunkards. So, among many, many of the other reports of his studies, why, he followed the life of a woman. She died in 1799, the last year of the eighteenth century. She was forty years a thief, a drunkard, and a tramp, and she had eight hundred forty-four descendents. And he traced the lives of seven hundred and nine of the descendents of that tramp—of that thief and drunkard, that prostitute—from youth to old age. And here’s what he found: one hundred forty-two of them were beggers, sixty-four others of them lived on charity, one hundred eighty-one of the women were prostitutes, seventy-six of them were convicted criminals, and seven of them were murderers. And he figured out the economic cost of the progeny of that one woman, and he came to the conclusion that the cost to the German government in alms houses, in law courts, in prisons, in penitentiaries and institutions was two and one half million dollars! Now, when you read that—and this is no Christian, he is just a professor, just studying, it had nothing of the Christian in it—but what I say and what I see when I read that is this: think of what, if a godly Sunday school teacher had won that girl to Jesus when she was a child. Think of it. Think of it. God’s business is good business! Anyway you look at it: economically, politically, socially, culturally, physically, morally, spiritually, earthly, heavenly, anyway you name it. God’s business is good business.
Well, preacher, let’s go to the other half of this sermon. One of the joys when He comes is that we’re not going to have any clock to watch, and we’re not going to have any benedictions. We’re going to preach all day and all night and all eternity, and those who want to come can come, and those who want to leave, why, they’re going to the bad place, I tell you. You know what heaven is like? Heaven is a great church service. You read the Book and see if that’s not right. We’re going to sing, and we’re going to testify, and we’re going to praise the Lord; that’s what heaven is, and if you don’t like that, you better not plan to go to glory. Down there in the other place they don’t do that, but that’s what we’re going to do in heaven. Now, I better get to preaching because the time’s over.
“Till I come, till I come” [Luke 19:13]. Haven’t you heard that phrase before? “As oft as you break this break and eat it, and share this cup and drink it, you show the Lord’s death achri hou elthe, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. “Pragmateuomai, do business till He come, till He come” [Luke 19:13]. Doing business for God till He come. Ah, in this pulpit some time ago, there was told a story. And I don’t have to expatiate, so we’ll just tell the story. It’ll say it better than any sentence or syllable that I could frame or pronounce. In South Carolina was a town, and it was one of those towns that lived off of one industry. There was a mill in the town. Now the church was made up of those mill workers, those weavers, those textile laborers, and the man who owned the mill, who was the rich man, the only rich man, the one rich man in the town and in the church. The mill owner—this rich man—gave two dollars and a half a Sunday to God’s work. Upon a day, they called a young preacher—and this is why God blesses us all and brings in a new generation—we get old, and stiff, and unbendable, and unmalleable, and un- everything else. And these youngsters come along, and they are like the fools that tread in where angels refuse to go. So this young fellow came, and he found out about that: all those poor folks there supporting the church and that rich man giving two dollars and a half a Sunday and that’s all. So he preached, and he pled, and he hinted, and he did all the other things to get that man to do more for God, without any result. So upon a day, in his youthful enthusiasm, upon a day he pointed him out, pointed him out and called him by name and said, “Not a thing you have is yours. You don’t own anything!” And went ahead with his sermon.
Now, I know by experience that that’s a dangerous thing to do. Yes sir. Don’t point at that guy over there and say, “You big sinner, I’m talking about you here in this passage.” You don’t do that. Well, he was young and inexperienced, and he pointed him out and said, “You don’t own anything; not a thing you have is yours.” Well, it made that man furious—and I can understand why—made him furious. So after the service, he came up to the young fellow and said, “You young whippersnapper! You listen to me. I’ll meet you here at two o’clock this afternoon at the church, two o’clock.”
“Yes sir,” said the young pastor, “I’ll be right here to meet you at two o’clock.” So he came up in his long, sleek black limousine and put the young preacher in his car and drove out to his palatial house and said, “Look at that! That’s my house! Paid for and it belongs to me, it’s mine, and yet you say I don’t own anything, that nothing is mine. Look at that house.” Then they drove to a vast acreage of plantation, spacious, and said, “Look at these broad, fertile acres; they are mine! Yet you say I don’t own anything. These are mine, paid for!” Drove him back to town and took him to the mill, “See that big mill there with those spindles singing, making textiles; that’s my mill, this is mine, I own it. Yet you say I don’t have anything.”
“Well,” said the boy, “we need another appointment, we need another appointment.” Well, the mill owner thought he’d done good. “Fine, when shall we meet?
“When do you say?” And the mill owner replied, “I’ll meet you next Sunday afternoon at two o’clock, the same time in the same place.”
“Fine,” said the young preacher, “Fine, I’ll meet you at two o’clock Sunday afternoon in the church, only, only we’ll make it a hundred years hence, a hundred years hence.”
Why man, the body you live in is God’s! You use it for a while. The breath you breath is God’s. It belongs to Him. The sunshine is God’s sunshine. The world is God’s world, we just use it for a while; pragmateuomai, use it; achri hou elthe, “till He come” [Luke 19:13].
O Lord, make us good traders, good businessmen, good stewards, faithful, Lord, do it because I don’t have long to stay here, just for awhile Lord, just for awhile; and may I use it for Thee. We don’t have time to look at the story Jesus told, but I close it in a sentence. And at the end of the way, the stewards came before the Lord to give an accounting for what they had done, and the Lord said to them, “Well done. Well done. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” [Matthew 25:20-23]. All that we’ll have forever and ever, and ever is how we have done, how we have traded, how we’ve done business for God in the day that He loaned us our breath, and loaned us our bodies, and loaned us what we possess in this life. O Master, to be good stewards; God’s business is good business.
Well, let’s sing our song of appeal. And while we sing, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, in the aisle and down here to the front, come now, make it now. “My wife and our children, all of us are coming,” or a couple, or just one somebody you, while we sing this song, while we make the appeal, come. Do it now. In a moment, when you stand up, stand up coming, and the Lord be good to you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
BUSINESS IS BIG BUSINESS
A. Translated here
English it refers to practical things
Greek a word used for a thing that’s done, “business” (Romans 16:2, Hebrews 11:1)
B. Verbal form used
here prgamateuomai – “Do business, trade, till I come.”
II. Do business
A. This is a day of
great business enterprise
B. There is a business
enterprise greater than “big business”
1. Making men, winning
III. The world’s greatest business is God’s
A. The partnership in which
we work (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, 6:1)
1. Christ has
made full atonement, finishing the work
2. Now we take up
where Christ left off, beseeching men
B. The wide field of
1. Cover as wide
a territory as possible
2. The field is
the world (Matthew 28:18-20)
3. Everywhere in
this earth you will find branches of God’s business
C. Return on our
investment (James 5:20)
1. Save a soul
2. Shall cover a
multitude of sins
IV. “Till I come.”
A. Also used this
phrase at Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26)
B. South Carolina mill