Tithing and the Blessing of God
October 10th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
10-10-82 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering an annual message. It is a stewardship message, one that I need. One that all of us need, and it is based upon, and the message will be an exposition of the Word of God; it is based upon a passage in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis that you just read and the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews to which we now turn; Hebrews, chapter 7. He closes chapter 6 with a quotation from Psalm 110:4, "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" [Hebrews 6:20]. Now he begins the first verse in chapter 7 of the Book of Hebrews:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the victory of the kings, and blessed him:
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation king of righteousness –
melek tsedek, "king of righteousness," Melchizedek –
and after that also king of Salem, that is "king of peace" –
shalom, king of "Shalom," king of Salem –
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest forever.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the victory –
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
"Here men that die receive tithes," he was referring to the Levitical priesthood. When he wrote this Book of Hebrews, the temple was still standing in Jerusalem. "Here men that die receive tithes," the Levitical priesthood, "but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8], speaking of Melchizedek and the priesthood of his order which would abide forever, namely the priesthood of the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.
The passage refers to the Scripture that we read together in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
Melchizedek king of Salem 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. . .
And blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave him tithes of all.
In Psalm 110:4, "Thou art a priest forever," speaking of our Lord Jesus, "after the order of Melchizedek," not after the order of Aaron, or Levi, but after the order of Melchizedek, and as such He "abideth a priest forever." Who is this Melchizedek? He just suddenly appears in the Scriptures. And Abraham, bowing before him, praising God for the great victory that God had given him, gives to this Melchizedek one-tenth of everything that he has [Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2, 4]. Who is this Melchizedek? There are many scholars, many of them, who say that this Melchizedek is a christophany. He is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. You will see those christophanies all through the Old Testament, the appearance of Christ in His pre-incarnate form. One mentioned is here: Melchizedek, that that was Christ in His pre-incarnate form.
Another christophany is in the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua. When Joshua sees a warrior with a drawn sword over against Jericho and he approaches Him, and this warrior says, "As the Captain of the host of the Lord am I come." And He commands Joshua to take off his shoes, for the presence is holy and that is holy ground on which he stands. And Joshua took off his shoes and worshipped that warrior [Joshua 5:13-15]. That was a christophany.
Another christophany is in the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. The twelfth chapter of John says that that was the Lord that Isaiah saw in the king [John 7:41]:
In the year that King Uzziah died I also saw the Lord. . .high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
And above Him stood the seraphim,
And one cried to another: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.
That was a christophany; it is an appearance of Christ before His incarnation.
Another christophany is in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar throws three of those Hebrew children into the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:21-24]. And when the king looks into the burning flames these three are walking around, unhurt by the fire, and there is a fourth one walking with them. And Nebuchadnezzar looks at Him and exclaims, "and the form of the fourth is like unto the Son of God" [Daniel 3:25]; that is a christophany.
So here in this appearance of Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20], there are many scholars who say this is a christophany; it is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. "And Abraham worshipped before him and gave him a tenth of all" [Hebrews 7:4]. There are other scholars who say he is a type of our Lord. That’s fine; either way, Melchizedek is a high priest and our Lord is like him. Melchizedek is a type of Him, and our Lord is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek in the Bible: there is no father, there is no mother, there is no issue, there is no precedence, there is no antecedence, there are no successors; he abides a priest forever [Hebrews 7:3]. So our Lord in heaven.
Now, isn’t this an amazing thing that when Abraham worshipped before him he "gave him a tithe of all"? [Genesis 14:20]. Now where did that come from? Where did that idea come from, that Abraham should give to Melchizedek one-tenth of everything that he possessed? It is because tithing is from forever. All of morality and rightness is from forever. The Bible is a book of absolutes; there is no such thing as "situation ethics" in the Bible or "relative morality." The Bible is a book of absolutes, and they are grounded in the character of Almighty God. Whatever is right has been right forever, from the beginning. The moral law, the Mosaic legislation, came five hundred years after this story of Abraham and Melchizedek. And in that moral law you have the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], but morality did not begin in the Mosaic legislation. Whatever is right has been right forever, grounded in Almighty God. It says in the law of Moses, in the Ten Commandments:
· "Thou shalt not kill" [Exodus 20:13], the sixth commandment. But it has always been wrong to kill.
· It says in the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" [Exodus 20:14]. But it has always been wrong to commit adultery.
· It says in the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" [Exodus 20:3]. It has always been wrong to worship anyone but the great Lord God.
The second chapter of the Book of Romans avows that the law of God is written in the conscience of all mankind forever [Romans 2:15]. So the things we read in the absolutes of God never change. Like sacrifice: sacrifice did not begin in the Levitical temple or tabernacle worship. Abel brought before God a sacrifice [Genesis 4:4]. Noah: the first thing he did when he came out of the ark, he offered a sacrifice to God [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham sacrificed when he first came into the land of Canaan [Genesis 12:6-8]. And we today plead the sacrifice of the Son of God when we come, when we approach the great, awful, holy majesty of the Lord God in heaven [Hebrews 10:19-22]. We come in the name of Jesus. That is, we approach on the basis of the atoning grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we plead the interposition of His blood between the awful judgment of God upon our sins and upon us.
Sacrifice is forever. In heaven they praise Him, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" [Revelation 5:12]. We approach God in sacrifice, all of us in the name of Jesus, on the basis of the blood of our Lord. It has been forever; so with the tenth, it has been from forever [Malachi 3:8-10]. It is a thing right and forever right. It is a thing in the character of God. There has never been a time when it was anything but right to do these things in the commandments. And one of them is to give a tenth to the Lord. It is found in the character of God.
Now, when we read this passage we see the blessing of God upon Abraham, and the Lord blessed Abraham; "Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God" [Genesis 14:19]. It is a beautiful thing, how God is moved by the obedience of a servant of His.
I read in the life of Abraham in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis; Abraham is commanded the Lord to sacrifice his only son, and he is directed to Mount Moriah [Genesis 22:1-3], where later the temple was built in Jerusalem. And there Abraham lifted up his dagger, his sword, his knife, to plunge it into the heart of his boy. And when he did, an Angel stopped him [Genesis 22:9-12], and the Lord called unto him the second time there on the top of Mount Moriah [Genesis 22:15]. And God said to him – now you look at how God is moved by the obedience of Abraham: "By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord," because you could swear by none greater, the Book of Hebrews says, He swore by Himself [Hebrews 6:13]:
By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing. . .That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed. . .And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed –
And then He repeats it –
because thou hast obeyed My voice.
Anytime God says anything to us and we obey, God gives us a blessing. There is never an exception to it. Anytime God asks us to do something and we obey, God blesses us in it. There is no exception to that in the Word of the Lord. I could spend the whole day reading passages out of the Bible.
· In 1 Samuel, the second chapter, the thirtieth verse: "Them that honor Me I will honor" [1 Samuel 2:30].
· In Proverbs chapter 3, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty" [Proverbs 3:9-10].
· In Luke chapter 6, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall men give into your bosom" [Luke 6:38].
· In the second Corinthian letter, chapter 9, "He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; but he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully" [2 Corinthians 9:6].
There is no exception to that. Wherever in the Bible there is any kind of a promise made to us, I am obedient to the Lord, God always follows it by a blessing; never an exception, never an exception. And when I am obedient to the Lord, God does something good for me, always.
One of the things that is amazing to me in the Lord is that He puts Himself on trial. He does it, I do not do it; He does it Himself. In Malachi 3 He says:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. . .and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord. . .and 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.
Now God moves here into the area of my experience. "Prove Me, saith the Lord, and see if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10]. He moves into the area of my experience. I can test it for myself, and I am competent either to affirm it or to deny it. So in human experience; how do we fare when we put God on trial, when we test the Lord? There is never an exception to it. Isn’t that what the Book says? Whenever I am obedient to the Lord, God always fits a blessing for me. It never fails [Malachi 3:10].
I am thinking now of a man who was in debt and struggling in debt. And the idea of tithing to him was unthinkable and impossible, but in faith he was persuaded to do it. It took him a little while, but when the man committed himself to God, that rearranged his life. And within two years he was out of debt and prospering in the Lord. That’s God.
The pastor said to a man one time,"Tithe three months and then forget it. Just tithe three months, and forget it." And the man testified saying, "I tried it for three months, and I couldn’t forget it! That has been thirty years ago, and I have been tithing ever since."
Another man said, "I just thought I would try it, so I began giving a tenth to the Lord. I didn’t miss the money and I was happy in my heart. So I thought I would try the second time around, and the second time around it was better than the first." And he is giving now two-tenths to the Lord.
We are promised of God that if I am obedient to the Lord, God will fit for me a blessing. It never fails, not if God lives. And He asks us to prove Him, to see It, to try it. That is what he says. "Prove Me," saith the Lord, "try Me and see if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there is not room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10].
Now, we must hasten. How did this come about in the life of Abraham? How did he do that? There are three things about what Abraham did that are very apparent. Number one is this: he gave him tithes of all [Genesis 14:20]. Well then, if Abraham did that, it was a systematic thing that he did. He had to figure it up. He had to reckon it. Isn’t that right? If he gave him one-tenth of everything that he possessed [Hebrews 7:4], Abraham had to sit down and reckon it. He had to add it up. He had to do it systematically; well, that’s right. Well, somebody says, "But that’s legalistic!" I remember something the infidel Voltaire said, he said, "Anytime that a fellow says, ‘It’s not the money, it is the principle of the thing,’" put it down, "it’s the money" [E.W. Howe; "When it is a question of the money, everyone is of the same religion" Voltaire].
Whenever anybody says, "That’s legalism!" what he is doing, he’s denying God; that’s what he’s doing. I don’t care who he is. He is frustrating the will of God; that’s legalism. Man, that’s the most hypocritical thing that I know of! When you work for an employer, do you object to his giving you what is owed you? Well, that is legalism! But as for me, when the office pays my salary, I want them to do it down to the last cent. And if it comes out one-half a cent, I want them to do it down to the one-half a cent. And if I were working out there for a bank or a business I’d want them to be legalistic. I want to put it down: just whatever my salary is, you pay me that. Systematically, that is the way we ought to be with God; systematically, whatever it is, one-tenth of this belongs to God.
Now I want you to look at another thing that he did. He did it voluntarily, voluntarily [Genesis 14:20]. See how much better it is to do this that God has commanded? From the beginning, from forever, see how it is that we get an infinite blessing when we do it voluntarily. For God collects His tenth whether you give it or not; He just does. One-tenth of everything we have belongs to God, and God collects it. Now you may rob a bank, and you may rob a store, but you can’t cheat God, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked" [Galatians 6:7].
A feller was asked, "How many members do you have in your church?" And the pastor said, "I have a hundred-fifty."
"Well, how many are tithers?"
"I have a hundred-fifty tithers."
And the questioner was amazed! "You have a hundred fifty members and you have a hundred-fifty tithers?"
"Yes!" said the pastor. "Fifty of them bring it to the Lord. A hundred God collects it from them!"
Don’t you ever persuade yourself but that God will collect it; He does. I have never been introduced to big wealth, great wealth, until I came to Dallas. And since I have been here in Dallas, I have intimately known some of the richest people in the world. And I can tell you something I have found: there is no man in this earth but that God collects from him a tithe. Now it may be a bad business judgment on his part, but God collects it. I can tell you instances where the richest men in the world have made impossible and unthinkable business mis-judgments and lost millions of dollars. That’s collecting! Or it will be a family crisis, or it will be a business crisis, or it will be some other kind of a crisis; it will be an illness, it will be a death. God only knows how many ways God collects.
And I tell you another thing that I think, reading the Word of God: the reason the world faces the tragic economic crises into which it is daily plunged is because God is collecting His tithe. He does it from the nations, He does it from the corporations, He does it from individuals, He does it from you! My brother, how infinitely better is it to come before the Lord and gladly and voluntarily give God the tenth that belongs to Him. There is a word here in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, out of which I read:
Every man according to his purpose in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a hilaros – hilaros – giver.
[2 Corinthians 9:7]
"For God loveth a hilaros giver." Hilaros: hilaros is the Greek word for joy. It is translated here "cheerful, joyous, hilarious," hilaros. "Hilarious" comes from that. For God loves a hilarious giver. "Lord, Lord it is a joy to me to let You have this, to give this to You, to set this apart for You. Now Lord, don’t let me be sick. Now Lord, keep me well. Now Lord, bless my business, bless my house, bless my home, bless my children, bless the work of my hands. Now Lord, bless me." And if God is God, He will bless you. If there is not any God, it doesn’t make any difference at all; do as you please.
Do you notice one other thing? Not only systematically he reckoned it, he gave a tenth part of all that he had. Like Paul writes to us in 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him," systematically, as God has prospered him. Those of us who are more prosperous, we can give more; those who are less prosperous give less; but each one systematically. And he gave it voluntarily; God didn’t have to collect it from him, he gave it voluntarily.
Will you notice one other thing? He gave it gratefully. He gave it gratefully. He came before the Lord and said, "Blessed be the Most High God [Genesis 14:20]. Blessed be the Most High God. O Lord! How grateful I am," because this was an unusual thing, for Abraham with three hundred eighteen men to go to war against the combine of kings; but God gave him the victory [Genesis 14:14-16].
The issue of life and death is with Him. The issue of national security is with Him. "The watchman waketh in vain except the Lord keep the house, except the Lord keep the nation" [Psalm 127:1]. The imponderables are in God not in us. And Abraham after that victory came before God in gratitude [Genesis 14:14-20]. Now my corollary: gratitude moves the heart of God, it just does. It moves the heart of God. When the Lord healed ten lepers, one of them came back, a despised Samaritan, and thanked Him, and Jesus noticed it and was moved by it [Luke 17:11-19]. Gratitude moves the heart of God.
When that dear Mary of Bethany anointed His feet with ointment and wiped them with the hair of her head, out of the abounding love and gratitude for the Savior, who had raised her brother from the dead, who had raised Lazarus from the dead, why Judas – isn’t that typical? Judas, who had the bag and stole from God, Judas said, "What a waste, what a waste. What a waste. Man, you could have taken this money and done a thousand other things with it; what a waste" [John 12:1-6].
Jesus said, "Wherever this gospel is preached this will be said" – and I’m fulfilling that prophecy today – "Wherever this gospel is preached, what this dear woman Mary has done will be said in memory of her" [John 12:7; Matthew 26:13]. Gratitude moves the heart of God. And when I bring my faithful tenth to the Lord in gratitude for what He has done for me, oh, oh, oh! What He has done for me. When I bring that in gratitude to God, it moves the heart of the Lord. He does not forget that I have done it.
It is like this, at a mid-week prayer meeting a woman stood up, an older woman stood up, and she said, "God has let me down. God has forgotten me and forsaken me. God has let me down. For all the years that I have been a Christian and in this dear church, I have faithfully tithed, faithfully tithed, depending on God. I have faithfully tithed, depending on God, looking to Him for the blessing. And yesterday," she said, "my services were terminated. I was permanently laid off, and I am too old now to find other work. God has let me down. God has forsaken me." There is not anything you could say to a testimony like that. That dear, saintly woman, trusting God, faithfully giving God the tenth that belongs to Him and now in her age, terminated permanently without a job, "God has let me down. "
The next day, the next day a big businessman was eating lunch with that pastor, that preacher. And as they conversed over the lunch, the big business man said to the preacher, he said, "Preacher, our company has done something that I think you would be proud of us for." The big businessman said, "We have installed now in our company a pension plan to take care of our people when they grow old; and by the way, pastor, the first one whose name was placed on that pension plan is a member of your church." And he named that woman, who the night before had complained that God had let her down.
Men may fail me, the world may fail me, but God never will. My brother, if you are obedient to the Lord, God will do a wonderful thing for you. He just will. When a man rearranges his life, and rearranges all of the substance of his life, and is thus faithful and obedient to the Lord, there is never an exception. God fits for that somebody you a marvelous blessing. He is going to collect it anyway. How much better if in obedience to the dear blessed Lord I come before Him, as Abraham did before Melchizedek, with a tithe of all that I have [Genesis 14:20]. "For here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8]. The presiding Judge of the universe, our risen, resurrected, glorified Lord Jesus Christ; and to come before Him with a tenth, and then believe Him for the infinite grace and love that blesses us forever.
We are going to sing our invitation hymn of appeal. And as we sing the song, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for God and I am coming." A family, a couple, just you; "Going to walk with the Lord, going to live in His love and grace, going to make Him my partner, going to count on Him to see me through, to bless me." Do it. Come, a thousand times welcome here, and a million blessings await you, while we stand and while we sing.