God’s Business is Big Business
October 20th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S BUSINESS IS BIG BUSINESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-20-68 8:15 a.m.
Now the sermon this morning, and you who are listening on the radio are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled God’s Business is Big Business. And it is from a text, it is a textual sermon. The text is Luke 19:13. It is from a story told by our Lord. Luke 19:13: “And Jesus called His ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”
And this text is the text of our Lord, “Occupy till I come.” We are going to break it up into two parts: “Occupy,” then the second part, “till I come.” That word occupy is a very interesting word. There is a word in the language in which this Bible is written, which is pronounced pragma. Pragma means business. Sometimes it is translated “things.” We have an English word pragmatic, pragmatism. The English word pragmatic, pragmatism, refers to practical consequences and values; pragmatic, practical, earthly, down here, having to do with things.
You will find the word used many times in the New Testament. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, in the [first] verse, Paul writes to the church at Rome, and he says, “I commend to you Phoebe, who is a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea: that you help her in whatever business that may employ her attention and need your help” [Romans 16:1-2]. There is that word pragma, translated there “business”—that you help this deaconess from Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, as she comes to Rome, that you help her in that pragma, in that business.
You have another angle of that word in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the first verse: “Now faith is the substance of things, pragma, of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1], practicalities, materialities, pragma. Now the verbal form of that word pragma is pragmateuomai, pragmateuomai; that means do business, trade. And that is the word that is used here: pragmateuomai, do business, trade, trade in these practicalities, these materialities, business; pragmateuomai, “Do business until I come” [Luke 19:13].
Now America is a nation of great business enterprises. Our free system has given birth to one of the most unusual economic systems in the history of the world. Our people are not enslaved, and our resources are not owned by the state, but our people are free. You can go out here and start any legitimate business that you would like, and you could further it and pursue it. You are free to do it. Now that system has given rise to some tremendous business enterprises, big business.
In the last few years we have seen a development in business that is phenomenal. They call it the creation of these conglomerates. There will be a vast holding company, and a part of that holding company will be many, many facets; facets of American business life, some of them as unrelated as a packing house, and a sports good department, and an insurance company, and a manufacturing company––conglomerates, tremendous business enterprises. Beside the conglomerates you have some tremendous corporations that have been built in America; General Motors, American Telephone and Telegraph, Sears Roebuck, these great insurance companies, big business!
Now it took a genius to write Hamlet. And it was another kind of a genius, dedicated to the winning of the Battle of Waterloo. But there is as much genius required in building a great business as there is in writing a Hamlet or in winning the Battle of Waterloo. It is only genius in another world and in another bracket. But business requires the astute acumen of our finest and ablest men. And its creation, and its care, and its furtherance, and its growth is one of the phenomenal miracles of modern life.
But as we think of big business, corporate business, manufacturing business, insurance business, there is a business that is bigger than any one of them or all of them put together. It is a glorious thing to build an enterprise that can make shoes for people; that can make steel for all of these great building programs. It must give personal satisfaction to men who build these tremendous insurance companies. Think of the widows and the orphans that they help and bless. It must be a wonderful thing to look out over a great plant that is manufacturing machinery. Some of it is to be used for plowing the ground, some of it for drilling oil, some of it for cleaning the streets, some of it for the manufacture of food. It must be a great thing for a man as he looks over an empire of manufacturing and says, “This is the creation and dedication of our genius. This is our commitment.”
But the big business of all big businesses is God’s business! There could be no business comparable to the business of remaking and recreating man. God said, “Let Us make man” [Genesis 1:26], and as noble and as wonderful as was that first creation, made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], so alike wonderful and so alike glorious is this business of remaking the man in God’s image. And that’s God’s business now. God’s business is big business, the business of remaking men.
There was a farmer who had six boys. And upon a day his neighbor came to him and said, “Why do you work those boys so hard? You don’t need to do that to raise crops.” And the old farmer replied, “Neighbor, I am not raising crops, I am raising boys.” Don’t you wish that philosophy were inculcated in our modern home life? You wouldn’t have any delinquency if these boys were busy and if these girls were busy. You wouldn’t have all of these things that are going on that destroy their character and ruin their lives.
I’ve just come back from visiting my old pastor, the pastor I had when I was a boy. He and his wife, retired now, have a large place, a home next to the campus of the great university. And they were describing to me the life of the young people in that university. I am so far removed from it until I have forgotten about it. I don’t touch it anymore. But the way of libertine, of orgy, of modern youth is unbelievable and in some instances unimaginable and unspeakable. That old farmer who said, “I am not raising crops, I am raising boys,” and they were out there working.
Big business; there is no business—manufacturing, corporate, incorporate—there is no business like the business of winning men, remaking mankind in the image of God. God’s business is big business.
Now I have several reasons for it. Pragmateuomai, trade, do business, until I come [Luke 19:13]. The biggest business is God’s business. Why? First, because of our partnership. In the sixth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, you have these words: “We then, as workers together with God.” Sunergountes, ergō, you’ve got physics in that, ergō, work. Sunergountes, sun, with; sunergountes. You know, a good translation of that would be “fellow workers.” “We, being fellow workers with God” [2 Corinthians 6:1]. Now you have a chapter division there, and that is unfortunate. When Paul wrote that, it was just all one big tremendous paragraph, thought. Now let me read it together and not put that chapter division there:
God hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath committed to us the ministry of reconciliation;
Namely, to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us—
there it is again—
and hath committed unto us this word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us—
and there it is again—
We pray you in Christ stead, be ye reconciled to God.
[2 Corinthians 5:18-20]
And that is why he refers to us: “We then, as sunergountes; we then, as God’s fellow workers” [2 Corinthians 6:1].
What Paul says is that on Calvary Christ made the atonement for our sins, made possible our salvation [2 Corinthians 5:19]; then having finished it, He returned to glory [Ephesians 1:20] and left to us the continuation of that ministry [2 Corinthians 5:18-19]. Where the Lord left off and returned to God in heaven, He asked us to take up and to carry forward. We are partners, we are fellow workers [2 Corinthians 6:1]. What Jesus did, we are to continue. It is a big business.
God’s business is big business because we have a fellowship with God in it [2 Corinthians 6:1]. Now I think a man can have God as a partner in anything that he does. If you are a shoeshine boy, you can ask God to bless you shining shoes. If you run a pancake house, you can ask God to bless you as you make pancakes. If you are out here in a merchandising store, anywhere, you can ask God to be your partner.
But the biggest partnership would not be in running a pancake house or in shining shoes or in opening a store. But the biggest partnership would be in the business of winning men to Christ. “We then, as though Christ Himself spoke, plead with you, be ye reconciled to God” [2 Corinthians 5:20]. God’s business is big business because of our direct partnership with God in it.
Again, God’s business is big business because of the extensiveness of our operation. Any growing enterprise in this earth seeks to cover as much territory as possible, and some of these great enterprises like Standard Oil of New Jersey and like Singer Sewing Machine and like Coca-Cola you will find around the earth.
But there is no extension of a business enterprise like that that we know in the name of Christ our Savior. You will find branches of it anywhere you go in the earth. Even behind the Iron Curtain and behind the Bamboo Curtain, there will you find representatives of God’s business. Some of it is astonishing and some of it most moving.
In the heart of Africa, in a clan settlement, I was invited to preach to the lepers, a clan settlement, a leper colony. All through that district they had gathered together the lepers; for in those villages and towns if one is found leprous they exclude him from society, even a child. They will lay a child in a ditch to die. And the Christian missionary had gathered up all of the lepers in that part of Africa, and they had built a rather large village. And inside the village they had constructed one of God’s business branches; a little church. It was made out of mud; every part of it was made out of mud. The pulpit was made out of mud. The pulpit desk was made out of mud. Where a choir would sit was made out of mud. All of the pews were made out of mud. Everything in the church was made out of mud.
And when I preached to them, and had done, and began to descend from the pulpit, the missionary came and said, “They want you to go back up into the pulpit, and they have a song to sing for you.” I went back up into the pulpit and stood there, and those lepers had someone lead them in the song: “The Great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.”
God’s business is big business. I followed that missionary doctor in a great arc through that part of Africa as he went from place to place. And as I watched him minister in those dispensaries, and in those places out under a tree, in a mud hut, under a thatch roof, I thought in my heart, Who sent out that missionary? We did. Who bought that medicine? We did. Who put that Bible in the hands of his converts? We did. Who built that clan settlement? We did. God’s business is big business. It reaches around the earth.
Now I have another reason why it is big business. Pragmateuomai, “Do business, trade until I come” [Luke 19:13]. God’s business is big business. I have a third reason why it is the biggest of big businesses: because of the return we receive from our investment. The pastor of the church in Jerusalem was named James; he was the Lord’s half-brother [Matthew 13:55]. He was the son of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus was born before Mary was married. She and Joseph had not lived together and she was found with child. And when Joseph thought to put her away, being a good man he refused to make a public example of her but thought privately, clandestinely, furtively, secretly, quietly, without announcement just to put her away [Matthew 1:18-19].
And as he was preparing to do that, the Holy Spirit and an angel came to Joseph and said, “Don’t you do that. Don’t you do that. This Child is conceived of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 1:20]. This is the wonder Child of the world. This is the Child of promise. This is the Child of whom Isaac is the type [Genesis 22:1-14]. This is the wonderful Savior of the world, and you are to call Him that: Jesus, Savior, for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1: 21]. So Joseph did not live with Mary until Jesus was born [Matthew 1:25], then after Jesus was born, took unto himself, his heart, his wife Mary. And in that union James was born [Matthew 13:55]. And James, the half-brother of the Lord, James is the pastor of the church in Jerusalem [Acts 12:17, 21:18; Galatians 2:9].
Now he wrote an epistle, and the last verse in that epistle is this: “Let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” [James 5:20]. God’s business is big business. Look at the investment we receive, look at the return we get from our commitment—save a soul from death.
I read this week of a man, a saintly man, who had a dream. And an angel took him to the bottomless pit and let him look down into that bottomless pit. And there he saw souls that were falling, and falling, and falling, and falling, forever falling. It is a bottomless abyss. Forever falling; falling away from God, falling away from love, falling away from mercy, falling away from light, falling away from goodness. And all sin is like that. It has a tendency to pull us away from God and pull us away from grace and mercy and love; falling, falling, falling, falling!
Then in the story that I read, the man said in his dream the angel conducted him to the throne of grace, and there he saw souls, saints, God’s redeemed growing heavenward in light, and mercy, and goodness, and glory, and felicity, and happiness, and joy, and gladness. Think of being in the business of saving souls from death and to eternal life in Christ Jesus! Why, there is none to compare with it in the earth!
“What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” [Mark 8:36]. Christ says there that the worth of a soul compared to all the treasures of this earth, the comparison is not to be thought of. One soul is worth more than all the treasures of all the earth. And that is our business; winning souls. “He that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” [James 5:20]. Sin is an unusual hydra-headed monster. It proliferates. It is a very difficult thing that you will ever find a sin by itself. Just like telling a lie; it is very difficult to tell a lie just by itself, for one lie leads to another one, and you have to hide that one with another one. And it isn’t long before you find yourself inexplicably confused in the labyrinth of trying to cover up and hide things out of sight. Sin is like that. It multiplies. It proliferates. And he that saves a sinner hides a multitude of sins [James 5:20].
In my reading this week I came across an unusual and dramatic and emphatic illustration of that. There is a professor in the University of Bonn, Germany, who gave himself to the study of the posterity of habitual drunkards. What happens to their children and their children’s children? Well, he gave himself to a study of that. Now, I am thinking one case. There was a woman who for forty years was a thief and a drunkard and a tramp, and she died in 1799, the last year of the eighteenth century. Now this Bonn University professor followed her descendants, this one woman. She had 834 descendants in those generations that followed after. Now he traced the lives of 709 of them; 709 of those descendants, from their youth to old age, and this is what he found. In the descendants of that one woman there were 142 beggars; there were 64 others who lived on charity. There were 181 of them who were prostitutes. There were 76 of them who were convicts. There were seven of them who were murderers. And in the seventy-five years that this one family was traced, the professor at Bonn estimated that the cost to the German government in almshouses, in law courts, in penitentiaries and prisons, and in institutions was two and one half million dollars!
God’s business is big business any way you look at it! Look at that report of that professor, of this one woman who gave herself to thievery and drunkenness and prostitution. Look at that report, and then think what if some godly Sunday school teacher had won that girl to Jesus and had loved her and taught her in the admonition and goodness of the Lord? [Ephesians 6:4].
Any way you count it up, add it up financially, add it up socially, add it up materially; added up anyway you add it up, God’s business is big business. The biggest business in which we can be engaged is to win men to Christ, to remake mankind in the image of God. Children, teenagers, young people, young marrieds, men and women, that’s our business. God’s business is big business.
I don’t know where the time goes. We come to the second part of my text. Pragmateuomai, do business, do business till I come [Luke 19:13]. Till I come: have you heard that phrase before? Till I come. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death” achri hou elthe, “till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. So repeated was that phrase by the Christians until it came to be a goodbye, a farewell, “Until I see you again.” That’s the way we say it, an auf wiedersehen, an au revoir, goodbye, farewell. But the Christians in those first centuries would use that, achri hou elthe, till He come, till He come, till He come; pragmateuomai, “Do business, do business, till I come, till I come,” till He comes; doing business for God till He comes [Luke 19:13].
Possibly a story that was told here in this pulpit some time ago could say it better than my many multiplying of words. In the years gone by, in South Carolina was a little town. It was built around a textile mill. And in the church, which was composed of the people in the little town, all of them were poor weavers; they were poor workers in that mill except one very rich man. And he was the man who owned the mill. Now he gave $2.50 a Sunday to the Lord’s work. And that’s all that he would give. That wonderfully rich, God-blessed man, whom the Lord had bountifully rewarded, he gave $2.50 a Sunday to God’s work in the earth. Upon a day they called a young pastor and the young pastor did every way that he knew to encourage that very wealthy man to give to God’s work in the earth. But he failed. The man continued to give just $2.50 a Sunday. That’s all. So the young fellow made the indiscreet, because youth will do things that elders won’t do. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s why we need youth a lot of times to break us out of these old encrusted barriers into which we ensconce ourselves. Well, he was a young pastor, and in his sermon he called the man by name and pointed his finger at him and said, “You think you are rich and you own all these things? You don’t own anything and nothing you have is yours!”
Then he went on preaching his sermon. Well, it made the man furious. And I can understand why. What if I were preaching and turned over here to one of you men and called you by name and said, “I’m talking about you, you sinner sitting over there.” I better turn over here. That’s what that young fellow did. Just pointed him out, said, “You don’t own anything. You have nothing. Nothing that you have is yours!”
Well, it made that man furious. So after the service he came up to him and he said “I want to see you this afternoon. I’ll meet you here at the church at two o’clock, and you be here.” And the young neophyte said, “Yes sir, I’ll be here.”
So the man drove up in his black limousine and picked up the young preacher and put him in the car. And he drove to a beautiful palatial mansion and said, “Look at that. I own that! It’s mine. I have the deed and it’s paid for. That’s my home and I own it, and yet you say I have nothing and nothing is mine.”
Then he drove to a vast, beautiful plantation, acres and acres of rich land, and turned to the young minister, his pastor, and said, “Young fellow, look at that. That’s mine. I own that. That’s mine, paid for.” Then drove back into town and took him to the mill, the only thing in town by which the people could live and have sustenance, and he said, “Look at that mill. Look at that mill. That’s mine. I own it! There’s no indebtedness against it; that’s mine.”
And the young fellow said, “Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.” Then the young fellow added, “But I need another appointment. I need to make another appointment with you.” And the rich mill owner thinking he really had got over his point said, “Fine, I’ll meet you next Sunday at two o’clock in the same place at the same time. Next Sunday.” And the young preacher said, “Yes, sir. I’ll meet you at the same place, only I want to make the appointment a hundred years from now.” “A hundred years from now, a hundred years from now.” Pragmateuomai, do business, achri hou elthe.
My soul, Lord, Lord! Why, this body is not even mine. I just use it for a while. Anything that I have is just loaned for a while. I just use it for a while. It’s God’s sunshine. It is God’s earth. It is God’s world. I just use it for a while. Pragmateuomai, do business till I come. We are just keepers of what He possesses. We are just stewards of what God has. Pragmateuomai, “Use it, trade with it, do business with it, till I come, till I come” [Luke 19:13].
O Lord, help me to learn. Help me Lord to learn it real good. Just for a while am I loaned it. God’s breath; the breath I breathe is God’s breath. The air that I breathe is God’s air. The eyes with which I see, they are loaned me from heaven. The heart that beats, it was God that started that pulse. All of it is His.
Lord, help me to learn it good. Help me to be a good trader, Lord, for Thee, a good steward for thee. And someday when the Lord calls us in to give an account for what we have done, may we hear the same benediction that these faithful servants heard. “Well done. You did good. You did well. You did fine. Well done. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” [Luke 19:17; Matthew 25:21].
God bless us, as being good traders, good businessmen, good stewards, we use what the Lord hath given us for His glory. For God’s business is good business. God’s business is big business [Luke 19:13].
Now we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or one somebody you coming to Jesus, giving your life to the Lord, or putting your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, while we sing our song, while we make this appeal, come. In the balcony round that throng that packs this auditorium, the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. We are going to come. Here is my family, all of us,” or just you. On the first note of the first stanza, do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.