March 28th, 1983 @ 12:00 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-83 12:00 p.m.
The theme this year is God’s Business World: Today: Guaranteed Securities; tomorrow: Frozen Assets; on Wednesday: When the Soul Goes Bankrupt; on Thursday: The Law and the Profits – P-R-O-F-I-T-S, profits; and on the last day, Good Friday: The Legacy Our Lord Leaves Us. Today: Guaranteed Securities. In the Sermon on the Mount, the middle chapter, chapter 6 beginning at verse 19:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal;
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
And beginning at verse 25 in chapter 6 of Matthew:
Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on . . .
Behold the fowls of the air, they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them . . .
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not neither do they spin;
And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field . . . shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "Wherewithal shall we be clothed?"
For after all these things do the heathens seek. Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
You seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
If you listened closely, you noticed a word that is six times used in this brief passage, translated here "thought" – "take no thought" [Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34]. Could that mean that the Lord deprecates our foresight, and our anticipation, and our planning ahead? Not at all. Far be it from Him, as practical as our Lord was, to gainsay our preparation for any exigency and any providence on any tomorrow [Luke 14:25-35, 22:36; James 4:13-15].
For example, in the sixteenth chapter of the third gospel, the Gospel of Luke, He tells the story of a dishonest, unjust steward; and in the eighth verse, He says, "And the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely. For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" [Luke 16:8]. That’s an astonishing thing. This fellow is a scoundrel. He is a crook. He’s a cheat and an embezzler of the first order. Yet the lord in the parable commends him. Why? Because he was smart. He took arrangements and providences on the morrow for his own security and his own advantage [Luke 16:1-8]. So this word "take no thought" cannot refer to our forethought, or our anticipation, or our planning, or our arrangements for the morrow.
Well, then what does He mean when He six times repeats in this brief section "Take no thought for your life" [Matthew 6:25], or "Take no thought for raiment" [Matthew 6:25, 28], or "Take no thought for food" [Matthew 6:25, 31], or "Take no thought for the morrow"? [Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34] What does He mean by that?
Well, our problem lies in the translation of the word merimnao. Merimna is the word for anxiety, for perturbation, for destruction of mind, and in 1611, "thought, take no thought," "thought" referred to that. For example, when this translation, the King James Version, was made in 1611, Shakespeare was at the height of his glory; so was Francis Bacon. Now in the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar, he says, "Take thought and die for Caesar." Then in the Shakespearean play Anthony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra says to Enobarbus, "What shall we do Enobarbus?" And Enobarbus replies, "Take thought and die."
Francis Bacon in History of Henry the VIII speaks of a man who, and I quote, "dying with thought and anguish before his case was heard" ["Henry the VIII," by Francis Bacon, 1623]; and an historian of the period refers in describing Queen Catherine, the first wife of Henry the VIII, "Queen Catherine died of thought" ["Tracts During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth," Somers Tracts, vol. 1, p.172] To us, that’s an unthinkable thing to die of thought, but in 1611, the word "thought" referred to the anxiety and distraction of mind that could take one’s life. So when he says, "Take no thought," He is referring to a cankering care, to a corroding anxiety. We are not thus to distrust our heavenly Father in His guaranteed security for us.
Then our Lord speaks of it – the security by which He takes care of us in this life. First, He speaks of the tragedy of one who gives himself to a corroding anxiety when all of the lessons of nature teach us it is unnecessary. We don’t have to be that way. God will take care of us, and He refers to the birds of the air and to the lilies of the field [Matthew 6:26, 28]. God takes care of them, and we are far more precious in His sight, and we are far more advantageous in our talents and in our gifts.
Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
"I would really like to know
Why these busy, anxious human beings
Run around trusting God not so."
And said the Robin to the Sparrow:
"I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."
["Overheard in an Orchard," by Elizabeth Chaney, 1859]
Busy about our work but without anxiety and care for God will take care of us. He will see us through, and I don’t need to worry. If I give myself to my task, if I work diligently and faithfully, God will reward me and take care of me [Matthew 6:33].
And He says a second thing here. Cankering care and corroding anxiety deny the Word of God, the Revelation, the Book of the Lord, because it makes us out to be heathen who are filled with fear, and superstition, and dread, and foreboding [Matthew 6:31-32]; and we’re not to be like the heathen.
One time in the heart of Africa, I was the guest of a petty African king. He was the king of Oyo. There was a large, very large, compound – a large square with the building on all four sides – and the front part of it was where he received his guests and then the other three sides of that long, large compound was where his many wives lived. I think he had something like forty, and the wives and the children lived in those large quarters back of the front of the square, the compound.
Well, when I went in and was presented to him and was seated, I looked around. It was the first time I’d ever been in a place like that; and to my astonishment and amazement, the room – that front room there where he received his guests of state – was filled with every kind of a fetish that you could imagine. Some of them were hanging from the ceiling. The walls were covered with them, and the doorframes were framed by them – a superstition and a fear beyond anything that I had ever imagined; and I noticed in front of the compound there was a shrine, and I asked about that. It was called the devil’s house.
I asked, "Why don’t you worship the true God?"
And he replied, "God will be good to me, but the devil could hurt me and so I worship the devil because I placate him lest he harm me: "
Such heathenism is unthinkable and unspeakable in our lives. Every kind of a superstition is an abomination to God [Deuteronomy 7:25-26]. We’re not to live in any kind of dread, or fear, or foreboding [Psalm 27:13-14, 55:22, 56:3-4; Isaiah 26:3; Matthew 10:18-19; Mark 4:36-40; Luke 12:4-7, 22-34; Romans 8:15; Philippians 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 13:5-6; 1 Peter 5:6-7; 1 John 4:18]. We are to live in the confidence that God will take care of us – a guaranteed security in this life.
There’s one other thing that He speaks here and that is we’re not to have an anxious care, and a perturbation of mind, and a distraction of life because of the possibility of providences that may happen tomorrow [Isaiah 26:3-4; Philippians 4:6-7]. "Therefore take no thought, be not anxious and disturbed for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" [Matthew 6:34]. Trouble will come into every life. It will into your life. Darkness and some disaster is a common denominator of all mankind. You will not escape it. There will be trouble, and sorrow, and heartache, and death that enters your life; but we are taught by the Lord that our anxiety and cankering care before such providences is futile. "It is coming," says the Lord. "Sufficient unto any day is the evil thereof" [Matthew 6:34]. No life escapes it.
Do you remember in Greek literature the story of Thetis the nymph who gave birth to a child by Jove and called him Achilles? And Thetis the nymph took the little child and held it by its heels and dipped it in the River Styx in order that Achilles might be invulnerable and invincible; and in the Trojan War, Achilles, the great warrior, slew Hector, the champion of the Trojans, and was unconquerable and unassailable; but Paris the Trojan took an arrow, a poisoned arrow, and shot him in the heel where Thetis had held him by her hands and dipped him, and he was invulnerable in every part of his body except the heels where Thetis held him. And Achilles, the great champion of the Greeks, died by a poisoned arrow from Paris which is another way of telling the story in the Book of Kings. Ahab puts on his armor to go into battle – invulnerable, unassailable, invincible; and the Scriptures say that a warrior drew back his bow in a venture. That is, he didn’t aim and let fly the arrow without aim; and it entered a joint in the harness, in the armor of Ahab – pierced his heart – and he fell into the bottom of the chariot and there died [1 Kings 22:29-40].
We will not escape, the Lord says, the providences of trouble and disaster in our lives, but we are not to be anxiously disturbed by the providences that inevitably come. God is with us, and God will stand by us, and God will take care of us [Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Samuel 12:22; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 37:25, 28; Isaiah 41:10, 17; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5]. We are His children [John 1:12] far more precious in His sight than all of the creatures over which He takes care by day and by night [Matthew 6:26, 10:30; Luke 12:7].
Then the Lord says one other: Our guaranteed security is not only in this life and in this world but in the world to come. "Lay not up for yourself treasures in earth . . . but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" [Matthew 6:19-21]: guaranteed securities not only in this world and life but in the world and in the life to come [Luke 12:33-34]. It is a beautiful verse in Colossians 3:2: "Set your affections upon things above, not upon the things of the earth." There is no security in any of our possessions down here. Our guaranteed security is up there where God is.
You know, when I came to Dallas in my early thirties, when I came to Dallas, there were tremendous men here in this city. Nathan Adams was the president of the First National Bank. Bob Thornton was the president of the Mercantile National Bank. Fred Florence was the president of the Republic Bank. Woodall Rodgers, my neighbor right across the street, was the mayor of the city. In those days the [Fortune Magazine] published an article entitled, "The Dydamic Men of Dallas." "Dydamic" – a word that Uncle Bob Thornton used mispronouncing the word "dynamic" on purpose. "The Dydamic Men of Dallas" [Holland McCombs, "The Dydamic Men of Dallas," Fortune Magazine, February 19].
When I came here in my early thirties, it seemed to me that those men were so great and so giant that they were invincible and eternal. They were great men of business, of corporate life. They built this tremendous, queenly city of Dallas. Today, there is somebody else who owns that bank. There is somebody else who is seated in that office. There is somebody else who is living in that house.
I am amazed when I talk to this younger generation. They never heard of Nathan Adams, or Bob Thornton, or Fred Florence; and the only reason they recognize Woodall Rodgers is because of a freeway named for him close by the church.
Earthly treasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls on the river,
A moment white – then gone for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Vanishing amid the storm.
[From "Tam O’Shanter," by Robert Burns, 1791]
How temporary and transient and ephemeral are earthly treasures. Our eternal securities lie up yonder with God in heaven. Our home is not here; it’s there [Hebrews 11:10]. Our inheritance is not here; it’s there [1 Peter 1:3-4]; and our eternal reward is not here; it is there [Matthew 5:11-12, 16:27; Luke 6:23; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 22:12].
Well how do I get my treasures there? Through somebody who is going there. That’s why when I speak of the Lord to friend and neighbor and family, it’s laying up treasures in heaven. That’s where, if I can win them to Christ, they’re going. How do I send treasures up there? By filling God’s Book of Life with works and deeds of service to my wonderful Lord [Matthew 10:42] and listening to His welcoming voice: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" [Matthew 25:21, 23].
In my first pastorate out of school, there was right down the street from me, one block away, a sainted old Baptist preacher, country preacher – all of his life pastor of little churches in the country. I was with him when he died. He raised his arms to heaven and said, "Is this death? This? The angels singing, the beautiful city, and the throne of God – oh glory, glory, glory" and died.
Dear people, sweet friends, here we have no abiding place. Our treasures here are evanescent, ephemeral, for the moment, but our eternal securities that can never fade are in heaven [1 Peter 1:3-4]. That’s why our Lord says, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" [Matthew 6:20]: eternal securities.
And, our Lord, wise and taught from the very mouth and heart and mind of Jesus Himself, may we give ourselves to the true great, mighty, wonderful things of God to be rich toward Thee. In Thy wonderful Name, Amen.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 6:19-21, 25-34
A. What is meant by "take no thought"?
1. Does the Lord deprecate our foresight and planning ahead?
2. Unjust steward commended for his smart foresight (Luke 16:8-9)
B. Merimna – "anxiety, perturbation, destruction of mind"
II. Our heavenly security in this life
A. Cankering care, corroding anxiety is contrary to all the lessons of nature (Matthew 6:25, 28)
B. Worry is contrary to the lessons of revelation in God’s Word (Matthew 6:32)
C. Worry, anxiety is contrary to the whole order of providence (Matthew 6:34)
III. Our heavenly securities in the life to come (Matthew 6:19-21)
A. Our treasures are there, not here (Colossians 3:2)
B. Earthly treasures are temporary