The Lost Beatitude
January 7th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE LOST BEATITUDE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-7-79 7:30 p.m.
It is a gladness and a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to share this hour with the uncounted multitudes of you, more numerous tonight than at any other time, who are listening on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the station of our Center of Biblical Studies, KCBI. This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. The Lost Beatitude. Now when we read the passage you will see why it is so named, The Lost Beatitude.
Turn to the Book of Acts chapter 20, and this will be our last sermon from this magnificent address of the apostle Paul to the pastors of the church at Ephesus. We shall begin reading at verse 32. This concludes his address to those elders in the church at Ephesus. Acts 20, verse 32; now all of us reading it out loud together:
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 them which are sanctified.
I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
Yea, ye 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 ye 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 such 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.
So you see why the title of the message, The Lost Beatitude? “To remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35] But you can read the four Gospels that present the life of our Lord Jesus, and you’ll never see that beatitude recorded in the stories of the life of our Lord. So it was lost; that is, it was not written down by the evangelists, and it is only the apostle Paul in this address to the Ephesian elders who brings it to remembrance “to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
Now I cannot but confess that you read this with mixed emotions. Piosity would say that’s right, that’s great, but actual pragmatic, empirical experience say, “I don’t know about that.” You have mixed emotions concerning it. Man! It is wonderful to receive. Ah, dear! Anybody has anything nice you want to give, man! I’m always a candidate; it’s so nice to receive. But to take what you have and give it away, now that’s something else. That’s in another category; mixed emotions.
Long time ago I saw a painting of Norman Rockwell on the front of the Saturday Evening Post. And since Norman Rockwell has recently died and much has been spoken and written concerning the genius of that man, I thought of this presentation that he had made on the front of that Saturday Evening Post. It’s a picture of a palatial home; beautiful, beautiful carpets, wall-to-wall at the door in the home. And just beyond the door is a beautiful staircase curving up to the second floor. And on that staircase stands a queenly mother. She is manifestly affluent and belongs to that home very appropriately. And she is standing there in a pose and in a conflict of emotions that Norman Rockwell captured as he painted her face. As she stands on that beautiful curved staircase looking down on that beautiful carpet, there stands a little boy, evidently, most evidently, her son; just a little shaver. And right by his side is a dog. The front door is open and you can see the rain pouring down. And that little boy, evidently coming from school or some such place, has walked through all the mud that he can find, and he tracks into that house and on that beautiful carpet the ugliest looking globs of mud you ever saw, and the dog also by his side. And the little fellow has in his hand, evidently, a valentine he has made for his mother. And he is holding it up to her, and his face is so full of life and anticipation as he thinks how his mother will be happy to see the valentine he’s made for her. And she looks down at the mud, and at the dog, and at the boy, and at the valentine he holds in his hands. How typical of Norman Rockwell; mixed emotions.
That’s what you feel here when you read this text “It is more blessed,” makarios, happy. It is happier, it is more blessed, more felicitous, more overflowing in joy and gladness to give than it is to receive [Acts 20:35]. Now as you look at that word of our Lord, you can immediately sense this is typical of Jesus. He was like that. You see, John concluded his Gospel with the word that there are so many things that Jesus said, so many things that Jesus did, that if they were all written down, “I suppose,” John wrote, “that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” [John 21:25].
In the Gospels we have just a very few of the sayings and the teachings of our Lord and of the deeds, miraculous and wondrous, that He did. And one of the things that the Christian community remembered was this beatitude unrecorded in the Gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” because the apostle begins the word with “Remember” [Acts 20:35]. The whole Christian community knew it, and he calls it to their attention, “Remember the words of our blessed Jesus” [Acts 20:35]. And then what the beatitude was “It is happier to give than to receive.” When you think through the life of our Lord and when you read through these blessed pages in the Bible, it becomes very apparent in the Holy Scriptures, the poignant truth of that saying of Jesus, “more blessed”—happier—”to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
Now you look at it: on the other side of the Sea of Galilee there are five thousand people who are waiting on the words of the Master. They’re not even thinking about dinner, or supper, or food. They are enthralled and enraptured with the words of our Lord. And the Lord, remembering that they were sheep who might faint in the way, said, “Let us feed them” [Matthew 14:15-16; Mark 6:36-37]. And the disciples say, “Why, uncounted amounts of money could hardly buy the food for so vast a multitude.” And the Lord insists, “Let us feed them” [John 6:5-6].
So Andrew comes and says, “Master, there is nothing here but this lunch of this little boy. He has five little biscuits that his mother made for him and two little fishes. That’s all. But what are they among such a vast multitude?” [John 6:8-9] And the Lord asked that little boy for his lunch. And the little boy gave into the hands of Jesus his lunch, prepared evidently by his mother, the five little biscuits and the two little fishes [John 6:11].
Now I want you to look at both of those groups. I want you to look at that vast multitude who received. As the Lord broke the loaves, He gave to the hungry. And as He broke the little fishes, He gave that they might eat. And they received from the hands of the Lord the food that they ate that day. They received [John 6:10-13]. But I think, as I read the story, I think that their reception and marvel at what was happening was nothing compared to the marvel, and wide-eyed wonder, and astonishment of that little boy who gave to Jesus his lunch, and in amazement, watched the Lord as He broke, and as He broke, and as He broke, and as his little biscuits multiplied into the feeding of the five thousand, and the two little fishes multiplied into the meat for that vast host of people [John 6:8-11]. Of the two, whom do you think was blessed the most; those who received from the hands of the Lord or that wide-eyed astonished little boy as he saw what Jesus had done with his gift? [John 6:9-11]. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
Reading through the Book, look again at the rich young ruler. The Lord invited him to get the world out of his heart. It separates between you and God, and the gate is so strait, it is so narrow that you can’t enter into the kingdom with the world in your heart. Get rid of it. Give it away; anything. And come and follow Me, and you will have riches in heaven. And the Book says that the rich young ruler was cast down at that saying, and went away sad, for he had great possessions, keeping everything that he possessed [Luke 18:18-23].
Now you compare that with Zaccheus, a rich publican, tax-gatherer. And when he was saved, when he was converted, he dedicated everything that he had to the Lord. And he said, “Lord, in honesty, as I ply my assignment under the government, if I find that I wrong any man, I will restore him fourfold” [Luke 19:8]. Which do you think is the more blessed, the rich young ruler who kept everything that he possessed and turned away from the Lord, or Zaccheus who in his riches dedicated everything he had to Jesus, living a beautiful and exemplary and an upright life? “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
Look again, reading through the Scriptures: there are rich people who out of their superfluity and abundance cast into the temple treasury, and there comes a poor widow who takes two little coins, the smallest in the realm, called mites, she has two of them, both of them together would hardly be worth half a cent, and she casts into the treasury of the Lord all of her possessions, everything that she had, just depending upon God’s ravens to feed her [Luke 21:1-4]. And the Lord noticed it, and He said, “Look at her. Look at her.” Tell me which of the two is makarios, more blessed; these who keep for themselves most of what they possess and give a part, a tip to God, or that blessed poor widow who gave to the Lord everything that she had? “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
May I speak of one other, final, out of a multitude that you could read in this Holy Bible? Lucifer the son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12], the cherub to whom God committed all of the creation, he as an archangel was the steward of everything that God had created. And because of his infinite beauty, as he walked in jewels and in glory and in light, and as all of the hosts of heaven were accountable to him, his heart was lifted up in pride. He said, “I will possess it all. It shall be mine, and I will be God Himself”; Lucifer, Satan [Isaiah 14:12-14]. And in heaven is the Prince of Glory, the Son of God Himself, who made Himself of no reputation. And descending from the throne of glory, gave up all of the prerogatives of God and became a man made of the dust of the earth, and as a man subjected Himself to the death on the cross [Philippians 2:5-8].
Paul described it like this, “For we know the grace of Him who, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor” [2 Corinthians 8:9], gave us everything that He had that we, through His riches, through His grace—poverty—might be rich. Which is the greater: Satan or the blessed Jesus who said “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give My life a ransom for many”? [Matthew 20:28]. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
Now, may we take that word of our Lord and poignantly see it in our lives in the world in which we live? In Ecclesiastes 5:13 there is an unusual verse. It reads, “There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely,” wealth, possessions, “riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.” That you have what you have, and it destroys you, it hurts you. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, he describes Mammon, one of the gods in hades, Mammon:
Even in heaven his look and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine . . . the vision beatific.
I can just see that; walking around with his head always down admiring the golden pavement of glory, not even looking at “the vision beatific,” the glory of God and the presence of Christ. So let us look at that in human life and experience.
Several times have I read and it must have been true because I have seen it in so many different areas in my reading. In 1923, at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, there were nine men who met in conference, and these nine were the richest men in the world. Then the author who follows their lives writes of these nine richest men in the world, twenty-five years later, and here is his report. One Charles Schwab— president of the world’s largest steel company—died in bankruptcy, living his last five years on borrowed money. Samuel Insull, and I remember the headlines about Samuel Insull from one side of this nation to the other. Samuel Insull, president of the world’s largest utility empire, died penniless on a foreign land; he died in Greece, a fugitive from the law. The third man, Howard Hopson, president of the world’s largest gas company went insane. The fourth one, Arthur Cutten—world’s greatest wheat speculator—died abroad in bankruptcy. Number five, Richard Whitney, and I remember the headlines about him. Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange, ruined by the years; he was sentenced to Sing Sing Penitentiary in the state of New York. The sixth one, Albert Fall and I remember the headlines about him, member of the president’s cabinet, was pardoned from prison to allow him to go home to die. The seventh one, Jesse Livermore, greatest trader on Wall Street, died of suicide. Ivar Kreuger, head of the world’s greatest monopoly, died of suicide. And the ninth one, Leon Fraser, president of the Bank of International Settlements, died of suicide.
There must be something about the keeping of riches that inevitably canker like a cancer.
That man may last, but never lives.
Who much receives but nothing gives.
Whom none can love, whom none can thank.
Creation’s blot; creation’s blank.
[from, “When Jesus Dwelt,” Thomas Gibbons]
When you look at life even casually, summarily, there must be a truth in what Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20: 35]. And now may I speak of it as I have looked at people? When I was at Baylor, Baylor campus was at that time just a quadrangle. The library was here. Burleson Hall was there, Old Main was there, and George Carroll Science Hall was here. In the center was Rufus Burleson’s statue, and that was Baylor when I attended the school. We had nine hundred students at that time.
In those days George Carroll, who gave that science hall, came to visit us. He was from Beaumont, Texas. He had made a fortune in oil and had lost it all; bankrupt. And as he stood on Baylor campus, he looked across the Quadrangle to that hall named for him. He had given the money for the building of that George Carroll Science Hall. And as he stood there in bankruptcy, penniless, lost everything that he had, he made a gesture toward that building, and he said, “That is all that I have left. That is all.”
Carve your name high o’er the shifting sand
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay.
All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
[from “Carve Your Name High,” E. M. Poteat]
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. You know, a man was asked, in imagination, a man was asked who goes to this church. He was asked, “What did you do last week? What’d you do last week?”
“Oh” he said “I had a wonderful week last week, a wonderful week.” He said, “Monday morning, I taught a class at the Criswell Center of Biblical Studies. Monday afternoon, I watched football at our First Baptist Academy. Tuesday, I was down in the Rio Grande Valley helping in that ministry in the Rio Grande. And on Wednesday, I was in Nigeria operating on a man in our Baptist hospital in Ogbomosho. And on Thursday, I was in the Amazon jungle preaching the gospel to Stone Age Indians in Northern Brazil. And on Friday I was in the Philippines, helping build a church. And on Saturday, I was in Japan helping preach the gospel in one of our churches. And on Sunday, I was distributing Bibles in South Korea.” And the man who’d asked him the question looked at him in amazement and said, “Sir, you must be joking! You must be jesting! No man in the earth could do all that in one week.” And our man replied, “Oh, sir! That’s just a little bit of what I did last week, for you see last week I gave some money to the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I’m working for Jesus through the gift all over the world.”
Isn’t that great? “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. And the reward is forever and forever. You know you can’t sum it up. You can’t add it up, how you can turn possessions into spiritual everlastings. It’s a miracle of God.
Somebody asked, “How do you lay up treasure in heaven? Man, we are down here, and heaven is over there; how do you lay up treasure in heaven?” And the fellow replied, “Sir, by investing it in people who are going there who will take it there for you.”
Ah, I can just see that! When finally we stand at the gates of glory and these welcome us, maybe we don’t even know their names, but they say, “I’m here because of what you did, what you supported.” It was here, and it was there, and it was yonder, and you made it possible. “More blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. I suppose, finally, that’s all we will have when the day is done, and the task is finished, and God writes finis to the story of our lives. It’s worth it; more blessed to give than to receive.
One thing I stumbled into—this is so typical—the deacons were having a meeting, and they happened to be talking about the large offering that was given the evangelist. And one of the men, expressing the sentiment of all of them said, “Why, this is ridiculous! Look at this large offering that we have given that evangelist, and there was just one little boy saved, just one! What a waste! Look at this.” And when the observation was voiced, the sentiment of all the members of the board, one of the deacons stood up, and he said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, if you think it’s too much, I personally will return every man’s gift, everyone’s gift. For, you see gentlemen, that one little boy who was saved was my son.”
How do you write it down in dollars and in cents, what God does with our gifts when He turns them into souls, and into the preaching of the gospel, and into the distribution of the Word of the Lord, and into the ministry of the saints, and to the winning of the lost?
Ah! Lord, just as always, You are; You never fail. And You were right this time. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. And dear people, I had something else, but I must close. I had something else, the other half of this sermon. I had something else; the dedication of our lives, and our hearts, and our homes, and our children to the blessed Jesus. God sees it, and the Lord sanctifies and hallows it; the gift, not only of what we possess but what we are. More blessed, God counts it, He sees it. He writes it in His book in heaven. He bows down His face to see it, and the Lord receives us in the gift that we make to Him—our hearts and our lives.
But I must close. In a moment we stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, the pastor will be right there, right by the side of our table of remembrance and memorial. To give your heart to Jesus—what did He say? “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]—to give your heart to Jesus, come and give your hand to me, “Pastor, I’m taking the Lord as my Savior. I’m giving my heart and life to Him, here I am.” Do it now. A family you, to come into the church; or a couple, or just you, make the decision in your heart, what a beautiful and a precious time to do it, this first Sunday of the new year. “Pastor, I’m on the way. Here I am.” Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am preacher. This year, and all the years to come, and the eternity that is to follow, I’m walking down that road with Jesus.” It’ll be the sweetest, dearest, most blessed, God-honored thing you could ever do. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”; and when you give your life to Jesus, all the blessings that follow after are yours now and forever. Do it. Let the Spirit’s appeal to your heart woo you to the Lord, guide you to respond, and angels attend you in the way as you come. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. It is more blessed to give than to
A. Only Paul brings
this saying of our Lord to remembrance
B. We have mixed
emotions – it is nice to receive
C. Makarios –
“Remember” – it was something well known to the Christian community
II. Seen so poignantly in Scripture
A. Feeding the five
B. The rich young ruler
vs. Zaccheus(Luke 18:18-23, 19:5)
giving out of abundancevs. poor widow giving two mites(Luke 21:1-4)
son of the morning vs. Jesus, Lamb of God(Philippians
2:7, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Matthew 20:28)
III. Seen no less poignantly in our lives
A. Keeping all for self
1. Milton’s “Paradise
Lost” – the god Mammon
2. 1923 meeting
of nine richest men in the world
a. Report 25 years
later, all in ruin or committed suicide
3. Poem, “When Jesus
B. The blessing of
1. George Carroll
a. Poem, “Carve Your
2. A man was
asked, “What did you do last week?”
a. Working for Jesus
through his gift all over the world
reward of it all