Tithing Measures Our Love
October 18th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
TITHING MEASURES OUR LOVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-18-70 10:50 a.m.
Does the Lord want us to expand to reach more people for Him? Is God pleased with our building program? Is the Lord pleased with our support of the mission enterprise in the earth? And does God want us to do good here in our church? Then Lord, if it is Thy will, if this is of heaven, Lord, there has to be some way that God has given us to achieve it, to attain it, to bring it to fruition and realization. Could it be that God would lay upon us an assignment, point out to us a heavenly task, and then give us no way to do it? So, what you do is what I have done: you pray, and you search the mind of the Lord as He reveals Himself in His Holy Word, and the answer that you find is very clear, it is very definite, it is much emphasized. God has given His people a way to achieve what God has assigned us to do in the earth. It is ancient, it is not new; it is not a smart, clever, shrewd contrivance of man. It is of God’s will in heaven; and it goes back and back and back and back, there is no archeological discovery that goes beyond what God has showed His people how to do. As old as prayer is, as old as the altar is, as old as sacrifice and dedication are, just so old and so blessed is God’s way for us to do His work in the earth. Back and back and back four hundred years before the Law, God placed in the Holy Book: "Now Melchizedek, king of Salem," king of peace, shalom:
Melchizedek king of peace brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed Abram and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, who possesses heaven and earth, and blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave him tithes of all.
As he appeared before the Lord God, the patriarch took one tenth of all that he had and dedicated it to God before Melchizedek; melek, "king," tsedeq, "righteousness," king of shalom, peace, the God of holiness, the God of righteousness, the God of peace, dedicated it before Melchizedek. And I turn the pages, and in the story of Jacob, who later was called "Israel, the prince of God," on his way to Padan Aram, he lay down and his head upon a stone, and that night he saw a vision: a ladder from earth, leaning against God’s heaven in the sky, and the angels ascending and descending. And when Jacob awoke, he called the name of the place Bethel, the house of God. And he placed there, erected there, a monument, "This stone which I have set for a pillar shall be God’s house, Bethel. And of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee." In that hallowed and holy moment, having described for us that glorious angelic vision, and he closes with that vow of Jacob, "And of all that Thou shalt give to me I will surely give the tenth to Thee" [Genesis 28:16-22]
Four hundred years later, God gave the law through the hands of Moses, mediated by the angels. And in the law the word is so oft repeated, "The tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:30]. it doesn’t belong to us, it is not ours, "The tenth shall be holy unto the Lord." And in the days of the New Testament, Paul gave commandment: "As I did to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week," on the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, "on the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him; let every one of you" [1 Corinthians 16:1-2], every member of the family – the baby is a member of the family, that teenager is a member of the family, that little girl, that precious boy is a member of the family, the wife, a member of the family – all of them share, all of them share, "let every one of you." It isn’t just the father, though he himself may be particularly the one who receives a check for labor, for hire, for stipend, for reward, for dividend; they all share in it. God says the mother has a part, the teenager has a part, even the little baby belongs; we all are in the household. "Let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him," a proportion, some of us in God’s grace make that proportion ninety percent for the Lord and ten percent for us, some people do; some of them make that proportion half for God and half for us; and all of us under God and in faith ought to make it a definite proportion, and a part that especially and particularly belongs to God is a tenth, a tenth, a tithe, one part out of ten.
A man on a train, when people rode trains, came into a village. And there was a coach with a driver, and the man chose to sit up there at the front on the seat with the driver. And as he talked to the fellow he was impressed by the sincerity and apparent honesty of that servant who was driving the coach. So the man, being affluent in that far away day, said to him, "I’d love to have you for a porter. Wouldn’t you like to work and be a porter?" And the driver emphatically shook his head, "No Sir, no Sir." And the man continued, "Why, it’s such a fine place, and thus and so, and you’d make a fine porter." And the driver emphatically shook his head again, "No sir, no sir. When I work I want the man to look me eye to eye and pay me my due. I don’t want him to put it in my hand at my back, whatever whim or fancy, or whatever loose change might be left over. I don’t want it. When I work, I want him to look me straight in the eye and pay me for what I’ve done." Now the man who was riding that coach was a good man, a godly man, a churchman. And he said he began to turn over in his heart about God, and whether the Lord is a heavenly porter, and whether the Lord is honored and delighted with the assignment of whatever whim or fancy, or whatever is left over. And the man who was writing this that I read this week said, "It just seems to me that what would be better and honorable would be for a man to come before God, and look Him straight in the eye and give to God a definite proportion of what God had given to him." This honors our Lord. And I suppose it was a sentiment like that that gave our men the theme of our stewardship appeal this year: "Tithing Measures Your Love." For the prophet says to his people, "You say, Behold, what a weariness it is, what a weariness it is; and ye have brought that which was torn and lame and sick; thus ye brought tithes and offerings to Me,offer it now unto thy governor," the satrap of Artaxerxes, "will he be pleased with thee?" [Malachi 1:8,13]. The governor has come to visit, and the man goes out into the flock and he finds there a sheep that is sick, that is maimed, that is torn; and he comes and offers it before the deputy of the Artaxerxes. "Do you honor the king?" Then the Lord says, "But I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and My name is dreadful among the nations" [Malachi 1:14]. Is it right and is it honorable for me to come before God with a leftover, with a whimsical piece of change, with whatever at the moment might commend itself to my greedy and penurious spirit? It seems to me that whatever is brought before God ought to represent some measure of cost and sacrifice to us, "This have I dedicated and set apart for God. It is not mine, it belongs to Him."
When David came to Araunah to offer expiation before the great God for his sin in numbering Israel, Araunah said, "O lord, my king, I give you the threshing floor," Mount Moriah, "I give you the oxen for sacrifice, I give you the instruments of agriculture for wood. Take them, they are given to you." And David replied, "Not so, not so. I will not offer unto God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:22-24]. I will not appear before the Lord with a tip, with a whim, with a leftover change; it shall be a dedication of a part of my very life unto Thee. That’s why the Lord, sitting over against the treasury beholding how the people gave, saw a poor widow who gave all of her living. And He called His disciples and said, "Look at her, look at her, what faith, what dedication, what commitment, for these out of the abundance of their possessions have given, but she hath dedicated all that she has" [Mark 12:44]. Does the Lord forget that? Does God see it, really? When the Master sat over against the treasury and beheld how the people gave, is He the same Lord God today as He was then? Does God change? As He sat over against the treasury and beheld how the people gave then, does the Lord know today? Does He look today? Does He? Does He see today? We believe He does. He is the same Lord God yesterday, and this day, and tomorrow’s day, forever [Hebrews 13:8]. And if He doesn’t change, God has in His hands a gift for us, a blessing for us. He says by the mouth of the holy prophet:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove Me now herewith,
try Me, see if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Try Me, see.
Like the psalmist says, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good" [Psalm 34:8]. Try Him, put Him to the test; He invites the trial. "Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts." It’s like eating: it has its own reward. It’s like breathing, it’s like seeing, it’s like hearing, it’s like feeling; it carries with it its own reward. So our dedication to God: it has in it an infinite blessing. "Try it," God says, "and see for yourself."
In these days of the years gone by, when I was a student in the seminary in Kentucky, they organized a team, they took the executive secretary of our Southern Baptist Convention who lived in Nashville, Tennessee, the executive secretary of our state of Kentucky who lived in Louisville, and two or three other men, and they made a team and sent us into those out of the way places, those mountainous places in Kentucky, and gathered all the brethren, and especially the preachers of the associations, together, and there had stewardship convocations. And to my great surprise – I was then about twenty-two years old – to my great surprise they invited me, a student and the pastor of a little rural church, they invited me to be a member of the team. Oh, you can imagine how I felt then with those men who led our denomination, whose names were so familiar to us, to go around with them and share in those stewardship convocations. At one place, I don’t know where it was, didn’t know then – oh, that was so far back, way up there in those rugged, rugged country sides in a country church – we were having our associational stewardship convocation, and on an afternoon the program was so blessed, it was so fine, just carried us up to heaven. And after the program was done, the moderator of the association said, "Now, is there anyone who has something else to say, or a question to ask?" And when the moderator did that, in front of me, seated directly in front of me, was a big giant of a mountain man. And when the moderator said, "Is there someone who would have something to say or a question to ask?" he stood up. "Oh dear," I thought, "Oh, oh," because I had been acquainted with those mountain people and those mountain preachers, and every last one of them, to the last number of them, preached against tithing, every last one of them. I never saw one in my life but that preached against tithing. So when he stood up, after that glorious service in the afternoon in which this stewardship program of committing up a portion to God faithfully had been presented, when he stood up I thought, "Oh dear, everything’s gone out the window; he will decimate it. It’ll be awful for your ears to hear. Oh, oh." But he stood up just the same. I looked at him from top to bottom, because he was right there in front of me. I thought, "He’s worn that blue surge suit for a good twenty years, it’s the only one he has I’d think. Shiny," I literally mirrored my face in the seat of his pants; so he started to speak.
Bless your soul, never have I felt anymore poignantly or deeply as I sat there and listened to that big giant of a mountain man talk. I wish I could imitate his language – you know they live next to God in nature, and they talk in those terms – he said, "My brethren," and looked around, "My brethren," said it in a way, he’d known them all his life, grown up with them there in those mountains, "My brethren," he said, "For years I preached against tithing, didn’t believe in it, preached against it. But," he said, "upon a day, when I was between the plow handles out in the fields," and all those preachers work, they work on farms and preach in their little churches, "I was out in the field between the plow handles. While I was out there, I began to think about what I was doing. Then it came into my heart, ‘Why you’re preaching against something you’ve never tried. Why don’t you try it, just to see what God says, ‘Prove me, saith the Lord of hosts, and see if I will not.’" He said, "That came to my heart, I’d never tried it. So, I went and said to my wife, ‘Wife, let’s try it. Let’s just see, let’s try it.’" The big mountain man said, "We did; one tenth of everything God gave us, we gave a tenth to our little church." He said, "A miracle thing happened. God blessed," and then how eloquent he could talk, "God blessed my fields, and God blessed my flocks, and God blessed my herds, and God blessed my family." I remember those words: his fields and his flocks and his family, God blessed them.
Then he said, "I went to my neighbor, and I told him what I’d done and how God had blessed me. And I said to my neighbor, ‘Let’s both of us try it, you try it with me.’ And my neighbor said, ‘Pastor, I’ll try it.’ And he took one tenth of everything God gave him on the farm and gave it to the little church." And the big mountain man said, "And God blessed my neighbor’s family, and his flocks, and his fields, and his herds."
Then he said, "I stood in the pulpit of my little church, and I told my people what God had done for me and what He had done for my neighbor." And he said, "Dear people, you try it too, just try it too, and see if God blesses." He said, "My little church tried it, and God blessed their fields, and their flocks, and their herds, and their families." And he said, "My brethren, may I commend it to you today, and let God bless your fields, and your flocks, and your herds, and your families, and your churches. My brethren, see if God will not keep His word." And he sat down. Oh, I’ll never forget that; it was one of the most hallowed and sacred moments that I ever lived through, when that big mountain man got through that testimony. Why don’t you try it? He invites you, "Prove Me, saith the Lord, and see for yourself." Try it.
"Pastor, listen, outside that door are a thousand businessmen, and they’re prospered beyond me, and they don’t tithe." Had you told me that twenty-five years ago when I came to Dallas I would have been nonplused. I’ve learned a lot in a quarter of a century. Don’t you think otherwise, my brother – God collects. And He does it in ways that bring fault and failure, sometimes in ways that bring sorrow and disintegration. How much better to take what belongs to God and give it to the Lord with a prayer, in love, in commitment, in dedication, and let God bless you? He said He would, and I believe He will keep His word. I don’t believe God would let us down. I believe He will faithfully perform every promise that He has made. Try it.
Then, coming to our church; let me tell you what’ll happen to your preacher: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, a definite proportion, that there be no gatherings when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. When the preacher stands up to preach, he doesn’t have the assignment to try to squeeze blood out of a turnip, or to get a miserly penurious people to honor God with their substance; he doesn’t even think about it. He stands up behind the sacred desk, he opens God’s Book, and with a free overflowing spirit, having prayed and looked to heaven, he delivers God’s message unhindered, unimpeded because these men, these men, our brethren, the heads of our families, and these mothers and fathers and daughters in Israel, and these young people, and even the children have been faithful to God in that dedication. God blesses everything. The whole gamut of the church – the inside, the outside, the far-reaching – everything, God blesses. "Not by might," not by clever manipulation, "nor by power," not by human ingenuity, "but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6]. I’m not trying to contrive away to get begrudging people to love God – no, no scheme, no clever manipulation – but a dedication "by My Spirit, saith the Lord."
"I’ve prayed, I’ve trusted Thee, Lord. I believe Your promise and I am coming with a dedicated life," as much an act of worship as my bowing in prayer. I have to close.
As the ninety-sixth Psalm so eloquently says, "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name," and Lord, it’s a privilege. "Give unto the Lord the glory due His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts" [Psalm 96:8]. It’s a privilege Lord, "Here, somewhat of me I dedicate to Thee."
"Worship the Lord in the spirit of holiness" [Psalm 96:9]. This is our sacred hour; God in heaven, when we come before Thee with our wives, our little ones, our families, our friends and neighbors, all of us appearing before the great God and our Savior, to give glory to Your name, to dedicate a part of our very lives to Thee, and to worship Thee in the spirit of holiness; God will honor and bless a people like that, and God will honor and bless us. I love this place. I love this church. I love this holy, hallowed pulpit. O God, may this be but the harbinger, the earnest of the more glorious blessings the Lord shall pour out upon us through the windows opened in heaven, in the years that are yet to come.
Now in a moment we sing our hymn of appeal, and a family you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing this song and while we press this invitation to your heart, would you respond with your life, would you? "Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I’m coming. I’m trusting Him as my Savior, I’m giving Him my heart and life, and here I am." If the Lord speaks, answer today. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And as the angels attended Israel in the way, God’s angels will accompany you. On the first note of that first stanza, come, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, I make it today." Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.