One Somebody You-Tithe
November 2nd, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
ONE SOMEBODY YOU – TITHE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
11-2-86 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, one of the great churches of the world; with its 117-year history and still vibrant and alive and viable in the heart of this vast metroplex, still growing. We adopted our associational letter about a week ago, less than a week ago, and, we now have about 27,000 members. And our church gives in all of its many faceted ministries about $17,000,000 a year to the work of our Lord. It is a phenomenal congregation! As I sit here, and now stand here, and look at you poor people, I wonder how in the earth do we give that much money to the work of the Lord. It is a remarkable thing. You are a lot richer than I think you are. You are an amazing people!
Once a year our church asks me to deliver a message on our stewardship partnership with God. They designate the Sunday, and this is it. I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians, the last chapter. We are going to read together the first two verses; 1 Corinthians; about the middle of your New Testament, 1 Corinthians chapter 16, the last chapter in the letter. And we are going to read the first two verses. Now having found it, out loud, together:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
[1 Corinthians 16:1-2]
In my Bible and in yours, there is a big hiatus between chapter 15 and chapter 16. You have a blank space in there, and in that blank space is written, “Chapter 16,” then you have another verse. That is the way all of our Bibles are printed.
But when Paul wrote the letter, there was no space in there. When you write a letter, you just write it continuously. That is what he did. It was a good fifteen hundred years after Paul penned that epistle that they put a chapter in there—they put a space in there.
Now chapter 15 is looked upon and described by many great theologians as the high watermark of all revelation. It speaks of the resurrection, of the rapture, of the return [1 Corinthians 15:1-58]. Then chapter 16 begins, “Now concerning the collection…” [1 Corinthians 16:1]. In the same breath that the apostle will speak of the highest revelation of God, he will also speak of the gathering of the tithe and the offering in the midst of the congregation. Now that’s strange to us, isn’t it? Because we compartmentalize our religion: this is spiritual and this is material, this is of prayer and this is of the world. We do that, but God doesn’t do that. In God’s sight, all that we do is under His purview. And I can be as faithful to God in selling a horse, or a cow, or in doing the work of plumbing, or in digging a ditch, or in making an investment. I can be as godly and as Christian in the materialities and practicalities of life as I can in the spiritualities of worship. In God’s sight, it’s all the same, whether I’m praying or whether I’m telling a man about something I have for sale. That’s the Lord.
Do you notice again he starts it off with: “As I gave order to the churches of Galatia” [1 Corinthians 16:1]. That’s a very strong word, diatassō, translated here “to give order.” God has a plan. He has an order. And why should I be surprised or amazed that He has a plan and an order for us in the church? When God makes a little flower, He always does it according to a plan. If God makes a grain of wheat, He will do it according to a plan, an order [Ephesians 1:11]. If God creates a planet like our Earth [Genesis 1:1, 10], it follows certain order [Isaiah 40:26; Hebrews 11:3]. I find that same order of the Almighty God in the whole universe.
Well, why should I be surprised if God has a plan and an order for His people, for His church? He has a plan for our salvation [Ephesians 1:4]. He has a plan for His ordinances [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-31], one of which we observe tonight. So He has a plan for us, in the church: how we do, how we carry on our work. Then He enunciates it. He spells it out.
First, periodic: the order is periodic, “Upon the first day of the week” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Kata there means every first day of the week, every first day of the week; periodic. Why the first day of the week? That’s the day when God’s people, when the Christian congregation gathers together for prayer, for singing, for praising God, for listening to an exposition of the Word, for all of the things we press upon the hearts of our people. That’s the Lord’s Day: the first day of the week.
Why that day? It’s named for Him. It’s in honor of our wonderful Savior that we gather in this holy place. It was on that day, the first day of the week, He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-6]. It was on that day that He appeared to Mary [John 20:11-18], to the women [Matthew 28:9-10] and to the two of Emmaus [Luke 24:13-32] and to the apostles [John 20:19-25]. It was on that day, one week later, the first day of the week that He appeared to the eleven in the upper room [John 20:26-29]. It was on that day that the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven to earth, Pentecost was on the Lord’s Day [Acts 2:1-4]. It was on that day in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts that the apostles and the people gathered together in Troas to observe the breaking of bread, the memorial Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]. And it was on that day—the Lord’s Day—that the sainted apostle John, in Revelation 1:10—he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And turning to see the voice that spake unto him, he saw the exalted and glorified Lord Jesus” [Revelation 1:12-13].
The Lord’s Day, “on the first day of the week” [1 Corinthians 16:2]; and that’s the recurring day to remind us of a wonderful open door God hath set before us, sharing in the kingdom of our Savior. We’re not to give sporadically or spasmodically or adventitiously or occasionally, but regularly, periodically, on the first day of the week. Such as breathing; if I am healthy, I breathe regularly. Such as my heart; if I am strong, my heart beats regularly. So if I am strong in the Lord, I am here on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, with my stewardship responsibility offered unto God. Periodic, “as I gave order to the churches,” periodic,“on the first day of the week” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].
It is personal: “let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2], that’s all of us: every member of the church and every member of the family. That means the poor—little is much if God is in it—the poor. That means the affluent—all of us coming before the Lord with our stewardship offering.
It means every member of the family: the husband recognizes his wife, and the parents recognize the children, and that includes the baby. The baby is one. “Let every one of you.” Isn’t the baby one? Why, you can say, “Precious little darling child, our home would not be complete without you.” This baby is one.
Last Friday, I dictated a letter that is to be placed in a little brochure and sent to all the parents who have children in our nursery division. And in that letter I say to the parents, “The baby is to have a part. He’s one. She’s one.”
Well, if the child is old enough to bring an offering to the Lord, fine. Put the offering in the hand of the nursery child and let the youngster come to the house of God with his offering in his hand. And if the child is too little, pin it to his diaper. Just let the child come here with an offering on his diaper. I think that might exalt the baby’s life: to have an offering pinned to the diaper.
You see, I’m a literalist, as you know, in reading this Book—a literalist. I think God says what He means and means what He says. “Let every one of you!” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. That baby is one. That youngster is one. That teenager is one. The wife is one. And once a week the whole family shares in what God has bestowed upon them.
May I point out to you something? Say, the family goes to the state fair that closed last Sunday. And on Saturday, they have the best time in the world. And that youngster—nothing like it—ride the merry-go-round, ride the Ferris wheel, eat popcorn and hotdogs and hamburgers. And when the day is done, the father has spent on that youngster $25, $35, $45—had a wonderful time. Then the next day is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, and they place a 25-cent quarter in the hands of that youngster to bring to the house of God. You don’t need to say anything, popcorn and peanuts, hamburgers and hotdogs, the merry go round, and the Ferris wheel; that’s big business! That’s $45. But God’s business is little business, that’s a quarter. That’s 25 cents. You don’t need to say anything. That youngster has learned it well!
Oh, how infinitely better to listen to the voice of God: “as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye.” Periodically, “On the first day of the week”; personally, “let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. And when the father sits down with the family; sweet wife, this is your part, and son, this is your part, and wonderful, darling daughter, this is your part, and even the baby, this is your part. That’s God. Not only is it periodic, “upon the first day of the week”; not only is it personal, “let every one of you”; but it is—it is provident, “lay by him in store” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Provident; with aforethought, setting aside, “This part is God’s part.” This is God’s: setting aside, laying aside; provident.
Do you think a four-year-old boy could have a moral conflict in his soul, a civil war raging in his heart? Do you think that’s possible? I would not have thought so had I not experienced it myself. I was born in Eldorado, Oklahoma in 1909. And when I was barely five years of age, we moved to a farm near Texline; so this had to happen when I was about four years old.
Every Sunday, my father gave me a nickel to take to Sunday school. And, my best friend in that Sunday school class said to me, “You know what I do with my nickel? I buy an ice cream cone with it.”
And I said to the little boy, my friend, “Well, what does your father say about that?”
“Well,” he said, “My daddy doesn’t know it. He doesn’t know it. You see I take my nickel and I buy an ice cream cone with it, and he thinks that I give it to the Sunday school class, and he doesn’t know it.” Then he said to me, “You do that. Instead of taking this nickel your daddy gave you for Sunday school, you buy you an ice cream cone with it. And you don’t need to worry about your daddy. He’ll never know it. He won’t find it out.”
That was the first civil conflict I ever had in my heart. I looked at that nickel. Think of the luscious ice cream cone that would buy seventy-seven years ago; think of that, think of that—be worth about a dollar now. Think of that. Now I’m not talking egotistically or self-righteously. But I won that battle! I won it! “That’s not right,” I said in my little heart. “That’s not right. My daddy gives me this nickel for Sunday school, and to spend it on myself is not right.”
My sweet people, there’s a proportion of what you have that belongs to God: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. This belongs to God, and I’m not to take it or to spend it on myself. It belongs to God.
I was never introduced to great wealth until I came to Dallas. I grew up in the poorest of the poorest of homes. And when I began my ministry, they said to me, “If you’ll work hard, we’ll try to pay you $20 a month.” And I lived on $20 a month. I was never introduced to great wealth until I came to Dallas. But here in the city of Dallas, I have become intimately acquainted with some of the richest people in the world—not just Dallas, or Texas, or America, but the world—some of the richest families in the world. And one of the amazing things I have observed in these forty-three years—an astonishing thing: there is a part of what every man has that belongs to God, and when he uses it for himself or he spends it upon himself, God collects it. That’s the strangest thing. If he owns $500,000,000, he’ll make a mistake in judgment. He’ll make a false and wrong investment, and he’ll lose $50,000,000. If he is a billionaire and he has $1,000,000,000, he’ll make an unwise investment; he’ll make a misjudgment, and he’ll lose $100,000,000. He’ll not keep it, and you won’t either. If its $100 and $10 belong to God, something will happen, and you’ll lose that $10. You’ll get sick or you’ll have an accident or you’ll have a providence; you won’t keep it.
How infinitely better to do as God says to set this aside, “This belongs to the Lord.” If God gets His and I gets mine, then everything will be just fine. But if I get mine and keep His too, what do you think God will do? I think He will collect, don’t you? How infinitely better, I say, to set aside, “This belongs to God, and give it to the Lord,” and just see what God does with the remaining.
“As I gave order to the churches, so do you,” periodically, “on the first day of the week”; personally, “each one of you”; providently, “lay by him in store”; proportionately, “as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].
We’re not all alike in our ability to make money. We’re not all alike in looks. We’re not all alike in gifts, in the talents: “God gave to this man five talents, to this man two, to this man one” [Matthew 25:15]. God did that. In the story of the pounds, this pound; one made increase ten pounds [Luke 19:16], this pound increased five pounds [Luke 19:18], that’s in the wisdom of God. We’re not all alike.
But proportionately, we can all come before the Lord just the same, just alike. And that affluent man, that rich man—in God’s sight so much more able than this poor man here—but in God’s sight, he and he, they are acceptable alike; the proportion is just the same.
What is that proportion? From the beginning to the end, it has never varied. I owe to God a beginning. I owe to the Lord one part out of every ten that God gives me. And it has been that way from the beginning.
When Abraham came before the Great High God, he stood in the presence of Melchizedek, the high priest of El Elyon. There are many wonderful theologians who think that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate apparition of our Lord Jesus Christ. Melchizedek, the high priest of the great God of heaven, and Abraham standing before him—and the Book says, “Abraham gave him a tithe of all that he possessed” [Genesis 14:20]—five hundred years before the Law. As the story continues, Jacob, who is named Israel [Genesis 32:27-28], now, sees a ladder leaning against the balustrades of heaven [Genesis 28:11-12], and in that vision, it closes with an avowal. Israel says: “O God, of all that You give me, one tenth I will devote to Thee” [Genesis 28:22]. When the Law was given, the last chapter in the Book of Leviticus: “The tithe is holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30]. And the Prophets close in Malachi, with a beautiful promise that Allen Dodgen quoted:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse… and prove Me… saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out blessings, that there is not room enough to receive them.
God says that.
Jesus, in the New Testament, said to the Pharisees: “This you ought to have done,” tithing, “and not leave this other undone, love and mercy and justice” [Matthew 23:23]. Paul is an apostle of authority, and he speaks in the second Corinthian letter of the churches of Macedonia, who out of their poverty and out of their need and necessity, brought richly to the house of God [2 Corinthians 8:2-5]. And in the Book of Hebrews chapter 7, verse 8: “Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth” [Hebrews 7:8].
Jesus presides over His churches, He presides over this congregation. He looks down upon each one of us in divine presence. And when we bring our tithe, it is He who accepts it; He receives it up there in heaven.
May I make an aside here? You would think it would be easy for a rich man to tithe, easy for a rich man, but hard for a poor man. That’s what you would think. Poor man doesn’t have very much and he needs every penny he has, and it’s difficult for him to tithe, but it would be easy for a rich man to tithe because he has so much money; he is affluent.
In actual life, that is just the opposite: it is harder for a rich man to tithe than it is for a poor man to tithe. A young fellow came to his pastor and said to him, “Pastor, I want you to kneel down here by my side, and we’re going to make a covenant with God. You tell God for me that I’ll give Him a tenth of everything that He places in my hands. And I’ll make a sacred covenant. I’ll be a faithful tither, for Him to bless me. Ask God to bless me, and I will faithfully give a tenth of everything God gives to me. I’ll give it to Him.”
So they knelt down and prayed. And that sacred covenant was made before God. The Lord blessed that young fellow. It astonished the lad himself. He became most successful and most affluent. And his tithe became great, and greater, and greatest. Then he came back to the pastor, and he said, “Pastor, I want you to kneel down here once again, and I want to be free of this covenant. My tithe is an enormous amount of money, and it’s too much! And I want to break that covenant that I made with God; the tithe has grown to be too great.”
And the wise pastor said to that young fellow, “Son, we made a sacred covenant with God: if God would bless you, out of everything that He gives, you would faithfully give a tenth to Him. Now son, since the tithe is too big for you to give, we’re going to kneel down here, and I’m going to pray that the Lord will take away your affluence and your blessing until you get back to the place where you were to start with, and you can tithe then.”
“Oh, no,” said the young fellow, “don’t tell God that! Don’t tell God that! Ah!”
I’m just illustrating that when you have a little amount of money, it may be easy, no matter what the necessity, to take a tenth of it, a dime out of a dollar.
But when you become affluent and it amounts to thousands and thousands of dollars, you’re going to have the worst battle you ever had in your life, in your heart, to be faithful in that tenth to the Lord.
Remember, God owns it. It’s not yours, it is His. And you can give it to Him in a marvelous stewardship commitment, or He will take it away in some inadvertence, in some traumatic providence. How infinitely better: if I have a little, this belongs to God, or, if I have much, this belongs to the Lord.
Now may I close? “As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, upon the first day of the week,” periodic; “let every one of you,” personal; “lay by him in store,” provident: a forethought, this belongs to God, I’ll not touch it. “As God has prospered him,” proportionate, “that there be no gatherings when I come,” preventive [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].
What a difference in the church! Instead of a nagging, pestering, continuing nuisance, “Every time we come together, the preacher is ding-donging for money!” How much better when we come together, what we bring and dedicate to God is an act of worship. “Here Lord, this is Yours!” And how much better for each one of us, instead of being worldly and miserly materialistic, to enter into a stewardship partnership with God; “Lord this is Yours, and You are my partner and my friend and my Lord, and I ask You to bless my hands, and my heart, and my house, and my home, and my life, and my days, and my hope of heaven.” How infinitely richer and better!
When you open that Bible, you’ll read there of Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, right here in the beginning [Genesis 4:1-2]. Abel: there’s not a word in the Bible about his song, not a word that he ever spoke. There’s not a word of his praying, of his prayers, not a word. All it says is that Abel brought a minchah, a minchah, translated offering, in other places translated sacrifice. Abel brought a minchah to the Lord, that’s all, brought an offering to the Lord [Genesis 4:4].
When I turn to the New Testament, I read there about the Lord Jesus standing over against the treasury, watching the people as they gave. And He speaks of a poor widow who brought to the Lord two mites [Mark 12:41-44]. Sweet people, that’s less than one-half of a cent, but it was all that she had. And that’s all that’s said about her, just that. Nothing is said more about Abel, he just brought a minchah to the Lord [Genesis 4:4]. Nothing is said about that poor widow, she brought two mites to the Lord [Mark 12:42]. I guess in God’s sight nothing more needed to be said.
My great and illustrious predecessor, George W. Truett, who was pastor in this pulpit for forty-seven years, I heard Dr. Truett at a convocation one time say, “If a man is right in his stewardship before God, you can count on it, he’ll be right in every other relationship in life.” I believe that. That’s all God said about Abel, his minchah. That’s all Jesus said about that poor widow, her two mites. And that’s all that needs to be said, “When a man is right with God in his stewardship, he’ll be right in every other relationship in life.”
Sweet, dear people, the Lord is in it! God is in it! And He is not offended if you try Him and prove Him. He says, “Do it” and see if there will not be blessings in your home, in your heart, that you are not able to contain them [Malachi 3:10].
Now may we have our prayer together?
Our Lord what a preciousness that God has opened for us, a partnership in the kingdom of heaven. O, wonderful, wonderful Savior, had You given the responsibility of the gospel to the angels and left us out, how impoverished we would have been! Had the seraphim and cherubim and the archangels been charged with the responsibility of the kingdom of Christ, how left out would we have been! But You didn’t give it to them, You gave it to us, and we are fellow heirs and yokefellows with Christ and God in the building up of the kingdom in the earth [Ephesians 3:6]. And our Lord, we are glad! Thank You for being a partner with us and thank You for offering to be our best friend and advisor and helper. O God, how good You are to us! Now Lord, in this moment, give us a gracious harvest. We’ll love You for it, in the Savior’s dear name, amen.
In just a moment we’ll stand and sing our hymn of appeal. To give your heart to Jesus, welcome, the greatest decision you could ever make. To put your life with us and your family in the comfort, in the fellowship of this wonderful church, oh, how precious an open door! Or to answer some call of God in your heart, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me, and here I stand.” From the balcony around, down a stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, make it now and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
ONE SOMEBODY YOU – TITHE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
A. Chapter 15 the greatest, highest revelation
B. Chapter 16 is in the same breath – no break in the original
C. Begins with a strong word diatasso – “to give order”(1 Corinthians 16:1)
A. “Upon the first day of the week”(1 Corinthians 16:2)
B. Why that day?
1. The Christian day of gathering
2. It’s named for Him(Matthew 28:1-6, 9-10, John 20:11-20, 26-29, Luke 24:13-32, Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10, 12-13)
3. A recurring Christian reminderIII. Personal
A. Every member of the church – the affluent and the poor
B. Every member of the familyIV. Provident
A. Planned, aforethought, providing
B. If we try to keep the proportion that is God’s, He will collectV. Proportionate
A. “As God hath prospered him”(Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-26)
B. The proportion has been the same from the beginning
1. In the Old Testament(Genesis 14:20, 28:22, Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:10)
2. In the New Testament(Matthew 23:23, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, Hebrews 7:8)
3. It is easier for the poor than for the richVI. Preventive
A. Preacher doesn’t have to ding-dong for money
B. Abel brought a minchah, “offering” to the Lord(Genesis 44:4)
C. The widow gave all she had – the two mites (Mark 12:41-44)
D. George W. Truett