The Condition of Financial Prosperity
July 20th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE CONDITION OF FINANCIAL PROSPERITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-20-80 8:15 a.m.
And to the uncounted thousands of people who are sharing with us this hour on radio, this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivering a sermon that he has turned over in his heart and mind, I suppose, all the days of my life. Yet I have never preached on it as such. It is just something that I have seen in God’s Word, not only in an isolated passage but throughout the whole story of God’s relationship with His redeemed and chosen people. It concerns the relationship between our material well being and our spiritual commitment to God. In order to give it a subject out there on the marquee, I called it The Condition of Financial Prosperity. It includes the whole spectrum and the whole gamut of life: domestic, individual, spiritual, material, national, political. Every facet of life is conditioned upon what God has written here in His Word for His people to listen to, to hearken to, and to obey.
Now, as a beginning text, Deuteronomy 5:29; the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 29. As all of you know, the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy is like the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 20:1-17]: in it we find the Ten Commandments [Deuteronomy 5:7-21],preceded and followed by the specific Word of the Lord, guiding our lives in peace and prosperity. And this is an exclamation of the Lord; this is what God said after He delivered into our care and keeping and obedience the Ten Words [Deuteronomy 5:7-21]. Deuteronomy 5:29, "O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, reverence Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" This is the heart cry of the Lord God: "O that there were such a heart in them, in God’s people, that they would reverence Me, that they would keep all My commandments always, in order that," nationally, domestically, individually, they might know the well-being of peace and blessing and prosperity. And the two always go together. And in the revelation of God, there is never any exception: always first that obedience, that spiritual commitment, and then the blessing and presence of God in peace and in prosperity.
In a miracle known only to the omnipotence of the Almighty, all of us are dichotomous, all of us. We are the dirt and the soil and the ground of the earth, but we are also angel essence. We are material; we’re also immaterial. We have a body; we also have a soul. There is in us ever present mortality. There is also in us immortality. And those two are inextricably and inevitably and inexorably related. One is always dependent upon the other; they cannot be disassociated. Always there is that obedience and spiritual commitment to God, and always the repercussion, the dependence upon the Lord for His blessing in our life; and when we obey the voice of the Lord and follow Him, it is inevitably found in the individual life, in the national life, in the political life, in all life, there is also found the blessing and the prosperity of God.
These two are always together in the Bible. For example, the Lord will say in His great commandments for Israel, He will say, "All the tithe is holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:30]; and then again, "The tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:32]. Now, a thousand years later, a thousand years later, one of God’s prophets, Malachi, wrote – and you look at the commandment of God and at the blessing that inevitably follows when we obey the Lord; the commandment will be in obedience, the blessing will be material – Malachi writes, "Will a man rob God? But you have robbed Me. You say, How is it that we have robbed Thee? And God replies, In tithes and offerings. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove Me herewith, saith the Lord of hosts" [Malachi 3:8-10]. Now the material blessing:
If you obey My word, I will open you the windows of heaven, pour you out a blessing, there will not be room enough to receive it. I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations, all people, will call you blessed: and ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.
The two always go together: there is a material prosperity that inevitably follows a man’s obedience to the word and will and way of the Lord.
This is true in national life. Always in the background is that overtone of the blessing of God upon a nation that obeys His voice. This is the story of Israel, the people of God. In the days of the judges, when they followed the Lord and listened to the voice of the Lord, they were blessed, they were at peace [Judges 2:18, 8:28, 33-34]. But when they turned aside from God, they were sold into the hands of their enemies [Judges 2:19-23]. It’s the story again and again and again. And finally, Israel was destroyed in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:18], and Judah was destroyed in 586 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:1-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21]. Departing from God, they lost the blessings of heaven upon their land. The same Lord God that judged Israel and judged Judah in the days of the Old Covenant is the same Lord God that weighs America in the fine balances that He holds in His hands. He hasn’t changed; "He is the same yesterday, and today, from forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. And that nation that obeys the voice of the Lord will be blessed and prospered and protected by the omnipotent God. But that nation that departs from the Lord shall find itself in trouble and finally outside of the providential care and protection of the Almighty.
You look at this. When I was a boy, when I was a lad, I heard a preacher stand up and say – and isn’t it strange that I should remember that sentence? I’m talking about sixty, more, years ago – he stood up and said, and I quote him, "God will not let that nation perish," speaking of our beloved America, "God will not let that nation perish that preaches the gospel and that sends out missionaries to the ends of the earth," speaking of America, church-going America, God-worshipping America, missionary sending out America – that’s what he said when I was a boy. When I look at our nation today, against that background always presented in the Bible, that peace and affluence and prosperity and blessing are dependent upon our obedience to God, when I look upon America today, I tremble and I’m fearful and I can’t hide it. I think God is raising up enemies against America. What makes you think that God does that? Just an example: America spends more money on liquor alone, on liquor, than America gives to all of the churches, and all of the charities, and all of the schools and all of the education of the nation. Do you think that the Lord God that judges people and nations, looking down upon us, seeing that increasingly sodden and drunken, do you think God lets that escape the judgments of the Almighty? Our peace and our prosperity as a nation depends upon our obedience to God.
This is the same Lord God who judges our families; your family. Against that background, that overtone of obedience to the Lord lies our blessing and our prosperity in our homes and in our families.
It’s an unusual thing, this man Lot. As long as Lot was with righteous Abraham, Lot prospered; so much so that he had vast herds and flocks, even competing with the riches that God had bestowed upon Abram [Genesis 13:5-6], and their herdsmen quarreled over water rights, wells of water [Genesis 13:7]. Righteous Abraham, when he appeared before God, there the priest of the Most High, Melchizedek, and Abraham brought before him a tithe, a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20]. And as long as Lot was with Abraham, Lot was prospered. But Lot began to see in his choice the lush, lucrative valley of the plains [Genesis 13:10]. And he sat in the gate of Sodom as its mayor [Genesis 19:1], and in his departure from God, and in his separation from righteous Abraham, he lost everything that he possessed [Genesis 19:15-29].
The same story is true in every family. The same Lord God that judges the nations judges our families. It was the Lord God who sent Nathan the prophet to David, saying, "And the sword shall never leave thy house" [2 Samuel 12:10]. Then how could David be a man after God’s own heart? [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. Because of his ameliorating repentance [Psalm 51:1-19]. In that tragic story of separation from God, David cried, the fifty-first penitential Psalm, "O restore to me the joy of my salvation" [Psalm 51:12].
And this is David when because of his sin in numbering Israel the pestilential sword passed over the land, and thousands and thousands died [2 Samuel 24:2-15], David cried, "Let it be against me and my house, for these poor sheep, what have they done?" [2 Samuel 24:17]. And Gad the prophet was sent to David, saying, "You go up on Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered up Isaac [Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12], and you offer there where Araunah has his threshing floor, a sacrifice, that the wrath of God may be appeased" [2 Samuel 24:18]. And when Araunah saw his king approaching, he bowed to the ground, and David said, "God has sent me to buy the threshing floor and to offer sacrifice unto God that His wrath may be appeased." And Araunah said, "My lord, it is yours. Here are oxen for sacrifice; they are yours, I give them to you. Here are threshing instruments and other pieces of wood for the wood, I give them to you. And the whole threshing floor, I give it to you" [2 Samuel 24:19-23]. And this is David, "Nay, Araunah, but I will buy it from thee at a price; for I will not offer unto the Lord God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. "I will not come here and appear before God and give to Him a tip, something that cost me nothing, out of the overflow of my life. When I come before God, I will offer Him something at a sacrifice that costs me." And God loved David, and God chose David, and said he will have a son to sit upon his throne forever and ever [2 Samuel 7:12-16]. Always, in that heart of love and obedience to God, there follows inevitable blessing and prosperity; and we don’t have it without it.
That is true of all of us not only nationally, and not only domestically, it is true of all of us individually. In our obedience to God, in our following the Lord, always there follows blessing and affluence and prosperity. And when we disobey God, always there follows unhappiness and loss, sadness, judgment from heaven. That’s the Lord God.
The Lord loved Saul; sent Samuel to anoint him king over Israel [1 Samuel 9:15-17, 10:1]. No one ever had a finer open door through which to go to serve the Lord God than did tall, tremendously humble and lovable Saul. And the Lord God said, "I remember the Amalekites, and I remember what they did to Israel when I called My people out of Egypt [Exodus 17:8-14], and I judged Amalek. Now, Saul, you take your army and go down there, and as we devoted the Canaanites to extinction, everything of the Amalekites is to be destroyed, all of it. All of it is to be destroyed; all the people, and all that they have is to be given up as a sacrifice unto God" [1 Samuel 15:1-3].
So big Saul, at the head of his army went down there to engage Amalek [1 Samuel 15:4-9]. And after the war was over, and God had delivered the Amalekites into the hands of Israel and into the hands of Saul, he came back, and Samuel, God’s prophet, met him [1 Samuel 15:13]. And Samuel asked Saul, "Saul, did you do what God said? Did you offer unto God all of the Amalekites and all that they had for a sacrifice, for an offering, for an atonement, for an appeasement? Did you?" Saul said, "Yes." And then Samuel said, "What is the bleating of these sheep, and the lowing of these oxen that I hear? What are they?" [1 Samuel 15:14]. And Saul replied, "All of the worthless I devoted completely to the Lord; but the best of the flocks and of the herds have I kept" [1 Samuel 15:15]. And then the Bible says, "And the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and an evil spirit troubled him" [1 Samuel 16:14]. How do we offer unto God the worthless and then keep the best for ourselves and expect God to bless us and to prosper us? He doesn’t. He doesn’t.
I wish I had time to follow the life of Solomon. God said to Solomon, "Because you have asked wisdom to govern this great people, I will give you riches and honor and fame; and if you will obey My voice, I will add length of days to your life" [1 Kings 3:7-14]. And instead of following the voice of the Lord, Solomon gave himself to voluptuous and carnal living [1 Kings 11:1-10]; and God cut him down at the very height of his glory. God cut him down. He did not even live to his threescore and ten; God cut him down. And Solomon left the kingdom in shreds, in division [1 Kings 12:16-19]; and the story thereafter is one of constant warfare and bloodshed between Israel to the north and Judah to the south. In obedience there is always blessing and prosperity. In disobedience there is always tragedy and the judgment of God.
That is true for the church. When the church is obedient to the Lord, the church is blessed and prospered. Isn’t that what the Lord said? "You make disciples of all the peoples, and you baptize them in the name of the triune God, and you teach them to observe all the things that I have commanded you; and I will be with you [Matthew 28:19-20]. I will walk by your side. I will pilgrimage with you every step of the way. I will be your helper and defender; I will be with you."
And God gave us a material way to do that. "Upon the first day of the week," Sunday, "let every one of you, each one of us, put aside for God, as the Lord has prospered you, that there be no gatherings," no ding-dongings, no collections, "when I stand up to preach [1 Corinthians 16:2]. On the first day of the week, let every one of you, for the service and the promotion of the kingdom of God in the earth, bring a proportion," at least one tenth God says, "and lay it at the feet of our Lord, that there be no reason for the preacher to stand up and ding-dong for money when he comes." And the church that does that will be prospered. And the church that doesn’t do that will be stricken, and judged, and powerless, and anemic, and finally will die. That’s a strange thing, how God is about a church: you’d think these are precious in His sight, but God said to the church at Ephesus, "I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. Repent, turn, and do the first works, lest I come and remove thy lampstand out of its place" [Revelation 2:4-5]. Isn’t that strange God would do that to His own church? That’s the Lord God. The two always go together: in our obedience and faithfulness, there lies our blessing and our prosperity, always.
I wonder if any of you remember when J. Howard Williams was executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas? We’re talking about God’s members now, God’s people. He grew up in this church. He was the denominational statesman. He divided Texas into districts, and he put a man over each district. And in that long ago day, years and years ago, thirty years ago, he had a convocation in each one of these districts in the state of Texas. And he had a marvelously gifted and affluent businessman in another capital city in another state to come. And he asked me to go with him. And we went from district to district in those convocations, calling the people to an obedience to God and to a stewardship faithfulness to the Lord. I roomed with him, this businessman. So, being with him week after week for several weeks, I talked to him. I got to know him intimately.
I remember one of my first questions to him: I said, "How is it that you do this? You take off from your busy, busy assignments, and here you are speaking at these convocations, urging these people to give their lives, and for their material prosperity, their faithfulness to God in stewardship. How come you do this? Where’d this come from?"
His reply: he said, "In my company and in an office close to mine was one of my employees; and he wasn’t producing." So he said, "I called him in, and I talked to him rough. And I said to him, ‘You’re going to get on the beam and you’re going to get on the ball and you’re going to produce, or you’re going to be fired. Now you just make up your mind what you’re going to do.’" Well, he said, "Right after that I went down to the office" for some reason that he never described, "I went down to the office early in the morning. And there was something in that man’s office that I needed for my work. So I went into the office. And when I opened the door, there he was in a pool of blood with a gun in his hand. And on the desk was a note underneath the keys of his car. And the note read, ‘I’m laying this burden down after sixteen years where I picked it up. Here are the keys to the car. It’s parked by the side of the building."
He said to me, "I couldn’t get that out of my mind. I knew that there was something wrong with him. He’d become moody and discouraged. But I talked to him hard. And I couldn’t get that out of my mind, how I’d talked to him." And he said to me, "As a Christian, and as a man of God, and as a deacon in the church, why didn’t I talk to him about his relationship with God and help him follow the will and way of the Lord? Why didn’t I?"
He said, "It’s too late for me now to retrace my steps with that man. But I made a covenant with the Lord that, from that day on every employee in our company, personally, I was going to talk to them about God, and I was going to outline for them the program of stewardship in which God had blessed me."
And he said, "Starting with my own company, I began to talk to everybody that would listen to me about it, everybody, about giving your heart to the Lord and obeying the voice of God, and then trusting God to bless in the home, in the family, with the children, that it might be well with them and their children forever. I began to talk to them. And that’s how I started out this testimony as you see me now."
On another night, talking to that man, I said, "How did you come out? How does it work?"
"Well," he said, "I’ll give you an instance. In the days of the big Depression, one of the church members of our dear church, one of the church members came up to me, and he said, ‘My family is hungry, and I don’t have a job, and I can’t get a job, and I’m in need. Is there something that you would give me to do? Is there some way you can help me?’"
Well, he said to me, "The man was not trained, he’s not gifted, he wasn’t educated. And there wasn’t any place in the company that I could use him.
But," he said to me, I answered the man, ‘I’ll tell you what: if you’ll give your heart in a new way to God, and will trust the Lord, and will be faithful to the Lord, and out of everything that comes into your hands, if you’ll give one-tenth to the Lord, you can come and take care of our yard and our lawn and our garden; and I’ll pay you to take care of the lawn and the garden and the yard. But first, you must promise me that of everything that you’re given, one-tenth of it goes to the Lord.’ And the man replied, ‘I will.’ And that’s real dedication: when the kids are hungry and the mortgage is to be paid, and you don’t have enough to live on, to take a tenth and give it to God. But he said, ‘I will.’"
"Well, how did it come out?" I said.
"Well," the man said to me, "You wouldn’t believe it; you wouldn’t believe it. Faithfully out of everything I gave him to take care of our yard, he gave one-tenth of it to the Lord, faithfully. Then upon a day, I didn’t see him around the house. And then as the days passed, I’d see him come to church. He and his family were beautifully groomed." And he said, "I went to the treasurer, and I said, ‘How about that man?’ And the treasurer of the church said to me, ‘He’s one of our largest givers; one of our largest’; a man who without education was working menially, manually."
"So" he said to me, "I had a conference with him, and I said, ‘What is happened to you?’"
And he replied, ‘Why, Mr. Charles, I started out with your yard and keeping your place. And I faithfully gave a tenth to the Lord. And then somebody saw my faithfulness, and they asked me to keep their yard. And then somebody saw those two yards, and a third asked me to keep his yard. And now, Mr. Charles,’ he says, ‘I have contracts all over this city, keeping their yards and their gardens, and their lawns.’ And he says, ‘I have crews who work for me, and I send some of them here and some of them there and some of them yonder. And, Mr. Charles, I’ve been blessed beyond what my heart is able to receive.’"
Do you believe this Word of God or not? Do you? God says those two always go together: "You bless My name and be faithful to My commandments, and I will not forget you; I will take care of you, I will bless you, I will prosper you." Do you believe that?
One of the most magnificent words that Paul uses is in  Corinthians 6:1, "We then," and it’s translated, "as workers together with Him," sunergos, sunergos, "workers together with God, partners with God." There’s a theological word, "synergism," that refers to God and a man working together. "Synergy" is an English word; it’s that word exactly. It refers to two working together.
Man, I don’t know of a finer thing in this world than to say, "God, You and I are going to be partners, synergous, partners, co-workers. Lord, I’m going to build me a home; I’m marrying a girl, and I’m going to build a home. And Lord, You and I are going to be partners. We’re going to have a Christian home, and Your name is to be honored and glorified.
You wouldn’t ever hear about divorce. "Lord, we’re having children. God help me, be my partner, Lord, in rearing my children." You’d hardly hear of delinquency and drug abuse. "Lord, here is my business. Here’s my business, Lord, this is Your business and mine. We’re going to be partners, God." And before you make a decision, ask your partner about it.
I was sent a book – because he is my friend – I was sent a book by Richard Nixon. He inscribed it and sent it to me. I was never more hurt in my life than I was over the disaster that happened to Richard Nixon. And I have thought a thousand times, "What if President Nixon had said, ‘God is my partner’? And before any decision was made the president had said, ‘First I must talk to my partner. I must see what He says.’" You’d have never heard of Watergate. You’d have never heard of the cover up. You’d have never heard of a thousand other things that have destroyed the great ability and dedication of that president of the United States. We’re all like that; not just President Nixon. Make God your partner and talk to your partner about it. And if you will follow the will and the way of our Lord, you will be blessed and prospered all the days of your life.
My text: "O that there was such a heart in them, that they would reverence Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and their children forever!" [Deuteronomy 5:29]. Our well-being lies in the hands of Almighty God. And when I give my heart and life and obedience to Him, God blesses me, and stands by me, and walks with me; and He will do that until that ultimate day when He walks with you through the gates of glory into heaven. "I will never leave you, nor forsake you" [Hebrews 13:5]. "I am with you alway, even to the end of the age" [Matthew 28:20].
Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, forgive us in those many, many times in our lives when we haven’t trusted Thee, and haven’t counseled with Thee, when we’ve made decisions on our own and haven’t asked Thee, when we’ve tried to solve our problems by ourselves, when we’ve been self-willed and selfish, Lord forgive us. And may this day be a day of great inward commitment in our souls: "From this day on, God is my partner, my fellow worker. And I will listen to His voice and obey His commandments; and then have a right to expect that the Lord will bless me in my work, bless my family and my children, bless my household. And maybe, Lord, if enough of us turn to Thee, God would bless and deliver our nation. But Lord, the nation can’t repent if I don’t repent. The nation can’t be baptized if I’m not baptized. The nation can’t trust God if I don’t trust God. And the nation can’t be blessed if I’m not blessed. It must start with me. So, Lord, here I am. Use me and bless me."
And in this moment that we stand here before God, just for this moment, as we pray, and in a moment as our choir sings an appeal, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, coming out of that balcony, down one of those stairways, walking down one of these aisles, "Lord, Lord, this day is a day of decision and commitment for me; I’m coming." Take your wife by the hand, and say, Dear, let’s both of us go. Gather your children by your side, and all of you come, or just one somebody you.
And our Lord, in this precious moment of prayer and appeal, may God give us souls, may many turn unto Thee. And we’ll love Thee for the answers of life, in Thy precious and saving and keeping name, amen.
While we sing, down a stairway, down an aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way." Do it now. Come now. Make it now.