June 10th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-10-87 7:30 p.m.
Thank you, young people, and thank you, Dr. Doug Wood. As I have said in these Wednesday evening services, on Sunday I prepare a sermon out of God’s Book that will almost always be expositional. This coming Lord’s Day will be an exposition, the first half of it will actually be a homily, of the first half of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. It will be entitled The Bread of Life. But on Wednesday night, in your clemency and graciousness, I love to speak of things that come to my heart, both as I study and as I read and look and live in the Christian world. For the most part, they are not expositions; they are studies, they are responses to the Christian world around us—my heart’s evaluation. Now I say that to describe the kind of a sermon and message this is tonight.
The world is sensitive; the whole creation is sensitive to what has happened in the electronic church. And to show you how people are affected by it, world without end, literally, just day after day after day am I asked if this fiasco of PTL, and all of the other involvements of that electronic ministry, if it has affected our church; and particularly, the response of our people to the support of the message that we preach here in this pulpit. Well, world without end I say churches have been hurt by this tragic deception perpetrated by these who make appeal for money, and use it for themselves, have salaries of $1,500,000 a year, are extravagant in their living, with houses and luxurious automobiles and vast expense accounts, taking money from, for the most part, poor people who give small sums, and using it in a luxurious and lavish way. Well, all of that is known to you as much as it is known to me. So that’s why I am asked, “Has that affected your church,” our dear church, this dear church, “and its giving?” Well, the answer of course is no, absolutely not.
For example, last Sunday, last Sunday, we had, I am told, the largest gift, the largest day, the largest offering that we’ve had in the history of our church, except those Sundays at the end of the year when our people are completing their pledges and completing their giving program for the year. Last Sunday we did. No, it has not affected our people. We don’t have a church like that. We don’t have a stewardship appeal like that. We don’t give like that. We don’t run God’s kingdom’s work like that. We live in an altogether different kind of a world than the electronic church.
Nevertheless, out of that experience—which is indescribably sad and hurtful and catastrophic for the people who depend upon the television program for the support of what they do—aside from that, it brings to my mind a real study in the Christ-given, Christ-blessed motive of making an appeal and supporting the work of God in the church. So that’s why this study today.
Now it is based on Matthew 25:14-30, which is our Lord’s parable of the talents. “The kingdom of heaven,” He says, “is like a man who traveled afar, and he called his servants, and delivered unto them all of his goods” [Matthew 25:14]. We’ll note that. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each man according to his ability [Matthew 25:15]. So he that received the five talents did good with it [Matthew 25:16]. He that received two, gained two [Matthew 25:17]. But he that received one hid it [Matthew 25:18]. Then after a long time, the Lord came back and they had a reckoning [Matthew 25:19]. And the man that had five, brought five; and the Lord commended him, Well done [Matthew 25:20-21]. And he that received two came, and the Lord said the same thing to him [Matthew 25:22-23]. And then, of course, he grievously condemned the man who did nothing with the talent that the Lord had given him [Matthew 25:24-30]. Now that’s the background of the study tonight.
Scripture speaks much to us about our stewardship support of the kingdom of God. It is not an isolated thing that Holy Scripture will speak to us about what it is and how it is that we uphold and further the work of our dear Lord. So we’re going to divide it into these parts: first, what God says to those who give.
Number one: when we support, when we respond, when we are encouraged to give, we are to have a worthy motive and intent. The reason has to be godly in our hearts; we’re supporting a godly cause, we’re answering the call of God in our hearts, and how we respond is to be done with a worthy intent and a worthy motive.
For example, in 1 Chronicles 29, the last chapter of 1 Chronicles, David is speaking there of his plans for building the temple;
- and in verse 5 he speaks, “Who then is willing to give?” he asks [1 Chronicles 29:5].
- Then in verse 6, now look how repeatedly that same word is used: he says, “Who is willing to give?” verse 6. “They offered willingly” [1 Chronicles 29:6].
- Verse 9, “The people rejoiced, for they offered willingly”; verse 9 again: “With Perfect heart they offered willingly” [1 Chronicles 29:9].
- Verse 14, “They offered so willingly” [1 Chronicles 29:14].
- And verse 17, “Thy people offer willingly unto Thee”; repeated again and again and again [1 Chronicles 29:17].
Now in that same seventeenth verse of 1 Chronicles 29: “And David said, I know, my God, that Thou triest the heart. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all of these things” [1 Chronicles 29:17], out of an overflowing and willing and loving heart. Isn’t that the comment that 2 Corinthians 9:7 would make? “Every one as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a hilaron”—that’s the basic Greek word for “hilarity”—”for God loveth a cheerful giver” [2 Corinthians 9:7], the King James Version, “a hilarious giver.” Out of the abounding love and worshipful response of our hearts, we dedicate to God this. That’s the first: out of a worthy motive.
All right, number two: without publicity. In Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount, verses 2 and 4, our Lord teaches us how we are to give: Not before men, for them to see; and not with the sound of the trumpet [Matthew 6:2]—remember what He said about those who blow a trumpet in front of them that it may be seen, the largess of their generosity—but as unto the Lord, believing that He sees and knows [Matthew 6:4], and then to quote, “And the Lord shall reward thee openly.” We give secretly, without fanfare and publicity; but the Lord will reward us openly [Matthew 6:2, 4]. He will commend us someday, as He did those men who did good with the talents [Matthew 25:20-23].
You remember the story of the poor widow in Mark 12:42: she dedicated to God two mites. A mite is about a fourth of a cent; so small a sum, it’s just so inconsequential as to be practically nothing. But the Lord saw it, and the Lord commended her [Mark 12:41-44], and the Lord in heaven has a reward for that wonderful, God-blessed, trusting widow. So when we give, it’s not to be with the sounding of the trumpet that people see; but it’s to be out of our hearts dedicated to Him, believing God will take account [Matthew 6:2, 4].
All right, number three: how are we to give? We are to give just for the love of Jesus, that’s all; not looking for a spacious and generous return. We’re to give not for what we are going to get out of it, but just for the love of God. Luke 6:35, “Hoping for nothing again”; but God will not forget. He says in that same chapter of Luke, verse 38: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall men pour into your bosom. With the same measure you mete it shall be measured to you again” [Luke 6:38]. God will not forget the reward; God will not forget the blessing. If we give just for the love of God, the Lord will aboundingly reward and bless our generous remembrance [Luke 6:38].
Now, number two: what God says to those who ask for support—now that’s all of us who are making these budgets, and all of us who are preparing this program, and all of us who are trying with God’s help to guide the building of His kingdom and of His witness in the earth. Now God says things to us just as He says things to you who give; He says things to us who guide the destiny of the programming of God in His kingdom.
All right, number one: we are to believe God will provide all of our needs. Now you look at that. Not our wants and not our greeds and not our luxuries, but we are to believe God will provide all of our needs, all of our needs. Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Hudson Taylor said it like this: “God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply.”
Now I can stand here and speak to you all night long about that. God will supply all of your need, all of it. Not your luxurious, not your greeds, and not all of the things that you want and think for, you know, to embellish and make outwardly successful the signs of what kind of a program we have; but what we need, God will provide. Now out of my life, may I take one page, just one out of a thousand pages that I could take?
I stood right there where the stairway from our Truett Building goes down to Patterson—that’s Patterson Street—Patterson Street. I stood there. Since we’ve closed that street, I have forgotten even the name of it. I stood there at the entrance of Patterson Street. And right across the street was a big sign: the Central Christian Church was for sale. I just wonder how old I am? How many of you remember the Central Christian Church there? Would you hold up your hands? Well, I’m not alone at least; there’s four or five of you. Well, the Central Christian Church had been there for, oh, years and years, a century, right there. And they decided that they would quit and they’d go out somewhere; and that property was for sale. Well, I went to our fellowship of deacons and I told the men that we ought to buy that Central Christian Church right there, we ought to buy it. Well, at that time we were building what we call the Criswell Building, the chapel building there, and had gone in debt for a large part of it. So when I went to the deacons and told them, “We ought to buy that property there, that Christian church,” they said, “We are already over extended in building this Criswell Building over here, and we don’t have any money to buy that Central Christian Church, period.”
So I was standing there on the sidewalk, looking across the street at that Central Christian Church, and by my side was Billy Souther, W. H. Souther, our minister of music and education, who you remember, having served here twelve years went to be a professor of education in New Orleans Seminary. Well, I was standing by his side, and I was looking across the street at that Central Christian Church, and I said to Billy Souther, I said, “Billy, this is the saddest thing you could ever see in your life. It is sad beyond any way that I could ever describe it. Just look at that.” Well he said, “What’s so sad about it?” I said, “It’s for sale; and if we don’t buy it, there’ll be a corporation here in the city of Dallas that’ll buy that, and they’ll build a sixty story building on it, and we’ll never possess it. We’ll never be able to buy it. And it’s for sale right now.” Well, he said to me, “Why don’t we buy it?” Well, I said, “I’ve gone to the deacons and they say we are already over extended building this chapel over here, building over here, and we don’t have any money for that.” Well, he turned to me and he said, “Well, why don’t you ask God for it.” Well, I thought and I thought and finally I said to him, “Well, it just never had occurred to me. I thought I was to ask the deacons for it.” That’s the way you do, you ask the deacons for it. Well, he said, “Pastor, why don’t you ask God for it?” Well, I just thought I’d try it. I’d just thought I’d try it. So I began to pray and ask God for that Central Christian Church.
We had in our congregation at that time a very wealthy widow named Minnie Slaughter Veal. Well, I got a telephone call from her, and Mrs. Veal said to me, “Pastor, I hear you’re on your knees praying. What [are] you praying for?” Well, I said, “Mrs. Veal, I’m praying for God to give us that Central Christian Church.” Well, she said, “How much does it cost?” I said, “I have no idea, but I’ll sure find out and I’ll tell you.” So I called; and they wanted $155,000 for that Central Christian Church. So I called her back and I said, “They want $155,000 for it.” Well, she said, “Pastor, you buy it, and I’ll give you the $155,000.” So she gave me the $155,000 and I bought that Central Christian Church.
Well, bless the Lord! It wasn’t but a few days until I got another telephone call from her, and she said, “By the way, pastor, what do you want to do with it?” Well, I said, “I want to build a parking building on it.” I said, “The day is coming when we’re going to be crowded to death down here in the heart of this city.” Now remember, this is when the Cotton Exchange was the biggest skyscraper this side of heaven. She said, “What [do] you want to do with it?” I said, “I want to build a parking building on it. And on top of the parking building, I want to build a recreational building for all of our kids down here.” Well, she says, “How much does it cost?” I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you real soon.” So I got me an architect, and he drew the plans, and he brought it to me, and he said, “It’ll cost $1,555,000.” So I called Mrs. Veal and I said, “It’s going to cost $1,555,000.” She said, “I’ll give you the $1,555,000 and you build it. Just remember you’re not to tell anybody what you’re doing.” So she gave me $1,555,000 and I built that building there; and nobody knew what I was a’doing. They just saw that building going up. There’s a mistake in the building, but it was due to the times. You see, when we built that building you could hire a man to park your car for you. And see it’s not built for us to park the cars, so it’s very difficult now. But at that time, why, we didn’t have any trouble getting attendants to park your car; you just drove in and he parked the car for you and brought it back down for you.
Anyway, that whole thing, that whole thing, God saw that we needed that down here; God foresaw the tremendous parking problem that we would have downtown. And God saw our need, and He gave that to us, the whole thing. “My God shall supply all your need according to His glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19]. He doesn’t fail us. God does that. And when we depend upon Him, He just comes through. He never lets us down.
Now we’ve got to continue, or we’ll be here all night. What God says to those who ask—now that’s our—first, we’re to believe God will provide for our needs, what we need. Second, we are not to show favoritism to the rich. James 2:1-5, he says to those people there in that church at Jerusalem, “Ye have respect unto him who is rich, and say, Sit thou here in a good place. Then you say to the poor, Stand thou here, or sit here under my footstool.” And of course he goes on, saying how tragically wrong that is. Now I want to point you out an irony in this. I have never been associated with wealthy people until I came to the city of Dallas, but being pastor of this church, I have been intimately associated with, and in many instances still am, with some of the richest people in the world. Now the irony of all of that is this: in my experience, the rich do not want to be shown favoritism; they do not desire publicity. You have some of the richest people in the world here in this church, and you’re not conscious of it. When you come to church and sit down, and when we make out our programs, we don’t think of them at all. You know, the people who are guilty of the favoritism and the fawning, it’s the pastors and the leaders and the officers who lavish praise on these who so generously support the work of the Lord; doesn’t come from them. It’s a rare person of great means who expects to be lavishly lauded because they’re generous in the church.
Well anyway, one other: we are to be aware of the pitfalls of success. The avarice and the greed and the fame that can accompany such adulation and prosperity and achievement is so dramatically seen in these electronic churches. What a tragedy! Let me give you a word that I read this week from Bernard Clairvaux. He was born in 1090, was one of the great, tremendously gifted churchmen of all time. Let me read it to you:
Men in high places are driven by insatiable ambition to get their hands on still greater prizes. And nowhere is there any final satisfaction, because nothing can be defined as absolutely the most. No matter how many such things a man has, he is always lusting after what he has not; never at peace, he sighs for new possessions. Discontented he spends himself in fruitless toil, and finds only weariness in the evanescent and unreal pleasures of the world. The perverted will struggles by devious ways, yearning after satisfaction, yet being led astray by vanity.
No matter how much they’ve got, they want more. No matter how big their salary, they want a bigger salary. No matter how many cars they have, they want another car. No matter how many houses they have, they want another house. No matter how much fame they achieve, they want still greater acclaim and accolades. What a tragedy!
Remember what Jesus said? “Where you treasure is, there will your heart be also” [Matthew 6:21]. Your heart follows treasure. In 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
Let’s think of Israel in the wilderness: how poor and how destitute. Then consider Israel in her prosperity: in Hosea 13, the prophet, in verses 5 and 6 he says, God says, “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. But when you were filled, prosperous, your heart was exalted; and you have forgotten Me” [Hosea 13:5-6]. Isn’t that a tragedy? As long as they were poor, destitute, had nothing in the wilderness, they knew the Lord and the Lord knew them. But when they became prosperous they forgot Him, didn’t know Him.
Now quickly to sum up: the Christian principles of stewardship here in this parable of the talents—by the way, a “talent” is a weight, a “talent”—a talent is the weight that an ordinary man could carry. So a talent of gold, or a talent of silver, or a talent of anything would be that much of whatever a man could carry. Now a talent is a measure of money. All right, let’s begin, quickly. Number one: we are owners of nothing, absolutely nothing. All, everything we have, belongs to God. When a man died, somebody asked somebody else, “What did he leave?” And the answer was, “Everything he had.” You don’t take it with you. Everything belongs to God; we are owners of nothing.
All right, number two, which is an astonishing avowal: we are entrusted with everything. The whole creation is at our disposal. The talent of the money is used as a symbol of our stewardship. Our time, our talent, our treasure, the gospel, the response of God’s people, all is the Lord’s, everything.
All right, number three: we are called and chosen to a love-servant relationship with our dear Lord; serving, giving, worshiping, not out of fear but out of love and the dedication of our souls to Jesus.
All right, number four: we are called and chosen to a work relationship with our Lord. Not only to a love relationship with Him but to a work relationship. We are expected to use what God has given us: not as that one talent man who buried it in the earth [Matthew 25:24-25], but whatever God has given us we are expected to use it for Him. We are responsible for the household of God. We are accountable.
I don’t have time to read the parable, but in Luke 16:1-12 he has the parable of the stewards. And I want to look at that word “steward” just for a minute. The word in the Greek for “a house” is an oikos, an oikos; and the word for a “household manager” is the oikonomonos, and the word for “household management” is an oikonomia. Now we are stewards—by the way the word “economics,” our English word “economics” comes from this word “steward”—and there are three great sections of it. Number one: I’m responsible for the family, my family. You are responsible for your family; that’s your first responsibility. Number two: we’re responsible for God’s oikonomia, responsible for God’s family. We’re responsible for this church. And number three: we are ultimately responsible for the whole human family in the earth. Are they saved? Do they know God? That’s our responsibility, how they fare in the great Day of the Lord.
Now, we are accountable for all. Not only do we have this relationship with our Lord in love and in work, but we are accountable for everything that God has given us. God is our landlord, and He places His full trust in us. I one time heard of a conversation just, you know, imagine; when the Lord went back to heaven, Gabriel met Him, and he said, “Lord, so You died for the sins of the world?”
“Yes” [John 3:16; 1 John 2:2].
“Now,” said Gabriel to the Lord, “how is the world going to know about what You have done in dying for them.” And Jesus replies, “I have left it as an oikonomia; I’ve left it as a responsibility, as a stewardship to eleven men” [Acts 1:2, 8]. And Gabriel asked the Lord, “And Lord, what if they fail You?” And the Lord replies, “I have no other plan.”
Dear people, that’s so true. God has no other plan but our faithfulness in that stewardship [1 Corinthians 4:2]. We have it all.
Now last: we are rewarded by God; He does it. His return may be a secret [Matthew 24:36], and it is, and a surprise; and the Bible always presents the Lord’s return as a surprise to those who welcome Him; but His standards of judgment are no secret. We are told how He will judge us. If we are faithful in little, what we have, we are judged as faithful in much. In Matthew 25:21, to the five talent man, the word of God is beautiful: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful commendation.
Now, in verse 23, the man with two talents comes and he lays what he has gained in using what God has given him for the Lord. And the Lord says the identical word to him; syllable by syllable, the identical commendation [Matthew 25:22-23]. It was only the man that didn’t do anything that the Lord was disappointed in [Matthew 25:24-30].
Could I take just a minute to give you some far out thinking on my part about that? When the Lord says, “You have been faithful over this little that I gave you, I am going to make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” [Matthew 25:21], when He says God is going to make us “ruler over many things” [Matthew 25:21], what in the world could it be? Well, this is just my thinking, you know, I think, God says He is going to re-create and rejuvenate and remake this entire fallen universe, all of it; all of those planets out there, all of those suns and universes out there, all of those sidereal spheres out there, the whole firmament that overarches us, God’s going to re-create it and remake it [Revelation 21:1-5]. And when God does that, when He says we are going to be rulers over all of God’s creation [Revelation 20:6], faithful in a little, but ruler over much, I think that God’s going to assign us the whole creation. All of it is going to be ours to guide and to address and to enjoy. What a marvelous thing! And I think we can go from place to place, as rapidly in our spiritual bodies as I can go from place to place in my mind. In my mind I am now in Israel. In my mind I am now in Hong Kong. In my mind I am now in London. I think we can go that rapidly from place to place in God’s universe. And all of these vast creative wonders of the genius and omnipotent hands of God, all of it is going to be given to us; all of it, we’re going to rule over all of it [Revelation 20:6]. And you know, I have facetiously said—and haven’t you heard me say this forty dozen times?—in that rejuvenation and in that regeneration, God’s going to give me a planet, I’m going to have my own planet; and I’m going to get me a soapbox and put it on that planet, and I’m going to stand on that soapbox and I’m going to preach forever and ever and ever and ever, and there’s not going to be a clock there, and there’s not going to be a calendar there, and there’s not going to be anybody saying, “Will the guy ever stop?” We’re just going on and on and on and on. Just never have a conclusion, just praising God forever and ever and ever—the wonder of God’s goodness to us.
Isn’t that what it says in the Book? “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and it has not entered into the imagination of a man those wonderful, marvelous, good things God has prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. It’s going to be great, going to be great!
Oh, dear people, just loving Jesus is like a breath of heaven. He is so precious!
Now, Denny, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing that song, somebody you give your heart to Jesus our blessed Lord [Romans 10:9-10]; a family you to come into the fellowship of our precious church; or to answer a call of God in your heart, when we sing the appeal, welcome. Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
I. What God says to those who give
are to have a worthy motive and intent (1
Chronicles 29, 2 Corinthians 9:7)
are to give without publicity (Matthew 6:2-4,
are to give for the love of God (Luke 6:35, 38)
II. What God says to those who ask for
A. We are to believe
God will provide for our needs (Philippians
1. Hudson Taylor
2. Billy Souther
B. We are not to show
favoritism to the rich (James 2:1-5)
We are to be aware of the pitfalls of success (Matthew
6:20-21, 1 Timothy 6:10, Hosea 13:5-6)
III. The Christian principles of
A. We are owners of
B. We are entrusted
C. We are called and
chosen to a love-servant relationship with God
D. We are called and
chosen to a work relationship with God
1. We are
expected to use what God has given us
2. We are
responsible for the household of God (Luke
a. My family
b. God’s family, the
body of Christ
c. The whole human
family of the earth
3. We are accountable