OUR TITHING TESTIMONY FOR OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-18-87 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are a part of our First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Tithing Testimony for Our Lord. It is an exposition of the first part of the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, afterward called king of Jerusalem, this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham. . .and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; being by interpretation, Melchizedek, Melchizedek king of righteousness, and then king of Salem, that is, shalom, peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
Verse 8: “And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth” [Hebrews 7:8].
The reference of course is to Genesis 14:18-20:
This 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,
Possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave him tithes of all.
Who is this Melchizedek? There are many theologians who avow that he is the pre-incarnate Christ. It is the story of a Christophany, a presentation, an exhibit, a manifestation of the Lord Christ Jehovah before He was born in the flesh.
You have several of those Christophanies, those pre-incarnate presentations of our Lord in the Old Testament. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua, Joshua sees above the camp a great figure with a drawn sword. And Joshua asks who He is, and the figure replies, “I am come as the Captain of the host of the king of Israel.” And that glorious Someone said to him, “Take off your shoes, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground” [Joshua 5:13-15]. That is a Christophany. You have again as an instance of it in the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. He sees in the temple, “The Lord high and lifted up, and His train fills the whole earth. And above Him are the seraphim, crying one to another, Holy, holy, holy” [Isaiah 6:1-3]. The twelfth chapter of the Book of John says that Isaiah saw the Lord Christ Jehovah in that Christophany [John 12:41].
You have it again in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel, when Nebuchadnezzar throws into the fiery furnace the three Hebrew children [Daniel 3:19-21]. He sees walking free in that burning cauldron not only the three young men who are cast into the fire, but as he looks he sees a fourth walking with them, and the fourth is like unto the Son of God—a Christophany, a pre-incarnate revelation of our Lord [Daniel 3:24-25].
Now, I say there are many tremendously gifted theologians who think Melchizedek is a Christophany: He is a view, a presentation, a presence of the pre-incarnate Lord Christ. And in coming before Him, Abraham gave to Him a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:17-20]. Why a tenth? The why is a “from forever” [Hebrews 7:2-3]: there hasn’t been any time when those who adored and loved and honored and worshiped our Lord did not bring before Him a tenth. This is five hundred years before the law, when Abraham bowed before Melchizedek and laid in His hands a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20]. This is four hundred years before the law, when Jacob at Bethel said, “Lord, if You will help me, one-tenth of everything You give me will I return unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22].
I came across a book about two weeks ago, by Henry Lansdale, entitled The Sacred Tenth. And in that book he describes the adoration habits, the worshipful habits of the ancient Egyptians, and Babylonians, and Persians, and Arabians, and Greeks, and Romans who offered unto their gods a tenth of all that they possess. There is an untold, unfathomable blessing in this obedience to the Lord. Any kind of an obedience to God carries with it an infinite blessing.
“The Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By Myself have I sworn” [Genesis 22:15-16]. The New Testament says He could swear by none greater, so He sware 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, in multiplying I will multiply thee . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice” [Genesis 22:15-18]. There’s no such thing as coming before God in an obedient, reverent, devotional, spiritual, worshipful way and God not aboundingly reply. It’s a wonderful thing to do that: to listen to the voice of God and to bow before Him. It’s a marvelous thing.
There was a man in this church who fell into all kinds of financial difficulties and distresses and was in debt. And I encouraged him to begin to tithe. “How can I do that when I am in debt?”
“Trust God and see.” He trusted the Lord; and in his new dedication rearranged his whole life—it’ll do it for you. You will look at yourself like you’ve never looked at yourself before. You will rearrange your whole life when you do that. There’ll be an accounting, there’ll be an accountability. And the man came out of his debt, his indebtedness gloriously.
There was a pastor who said to a member of our church, “Tithe; just try it for three months, then forget it.” And that man said to me, “I tried it for three months, and I couldn’t forget it.” And he said to me, “Pastor, that was thirty years ago.”
My text: “Here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth” [Hebrews 7:8]. When I bring before God my tithe, what do I bring before the Lord? First, what is in this envelope? It is my worship and adoration and love for my dear Savior. This is a part of my adoration of God, my Lord.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God; we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear, reverence Him, all the earth.
When I bring my tithe and my offering before the Lord, what is in this envelope? My adoration and my worship for the great God of heaven who made me.
As such, I want to make it worthy of Him. The last chapter of the Second Book of Samuel closes when Araunah said, “King David, here, the threshing floor is yours,” Mt. Moriah, “the oxen are yours for sacrifice; the implements of farming are yours, threshing, for wood, I give it to you” [2 Samuel 24:22-23]. David said, “I will not offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing; I will buy it of thee at a price” [2 Samuel 24:24]. Any time I come before the Lord, in that envelope ought to be something that cost me—a facet of sacrifice. I could use the gift for a thousand other things, but I dedicate it to God.
I heard the most unusual story. An Internal Revenue man going through these tax returns saw a fellow that had a rather small salary but an enormous contribution to the church. Well, he went to call on him. And the revenue man, in testifying of his own conversion, said, “When I appear before a fellow, he always squirms; he’s always fearful. Not this fellow. I showed him his income tax return and the large contribution he’d made to the church. And I said, ‘Where are the receipts for such a thing?’ He wasn’t fearful or timid. He went to the drawer and said, ‘I put all the receipts of the church that I give to, I put them in here,’” and he laid them before the Internal Revenue man. And the man seeing all those receipts, says, “I see, and I apologize for bothering you.” And as he went to the door, the man who had such a humble salary and gave so much to the church, the man said to him, “I’d like to invite you to attend our church services.” And the Internal Revenue man said, “No sir, I, I go to my own church.” And the young fellow replied, “Well, that possibility had not occurred to me.”
The Internal Revenue man walked out of the house thinking, “What did he mean, ‘That possibility had not occurred to me’?” And he said, “I never understood what he was saying until I went to church the following Sunday, and when the collection plate passed I put in my usual quarter.”
This represents my adoration for God, my love for the Lord, my worship in His name. “Here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He lives” [Hebrews 7:8].
What is in that envelope? A part of me. If I work for you, and you give me fifty dollars, and I place fifty dollars in that envelope, that is a day of my life; that’s me. If I work for ten dollars or a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars, when I place that in that envelope before God, that is a part of me.
What is in that envelope when I place it in the treasury of my dear church? It is also a training for our little children. That’s why I insist on a literal translation, and belief, and implementation, and incarnation of the Word of God, literally; 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you bring to the Lord, as God hath prospered.” Literally, “every one of you, every one of you”: dad is one, mother is one, daughter is one, the little child is also one. “Let every one of you.” And that child, from the beginning, ought to have an offering before the Lord. All in the family are a part of that substance and that blessing of heaven; and the children also are a part of the family; “Let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 15:2].
I so well remember listening to a conversation between Cris, our little fellow who grew up in our home, and his grandmother whom he calls Mummy. And that little boy, he was a little bitty thing, that little boy said to his Mummy, “Mummy, Tommy has invited me to go to be with him at a party, and I want to go.”
“Well, why do you want to go?”
“Well,” said Cris to his Mummy, Cris says, “They read numbers there, and you get a prize if you win.” And his Mummy said, “What kind of a party is this?”
“Oh,” Cris says, “it’s church; it’s a church party. And if you win the prize, I get to bring it home.”
“No, you can’t go.” And Cris said, “But Mummy, Mummy, they sell chances there at the church party. They sell chances. And if you win, you get a prize and you get to bring it home. I can bring it home.” And his Mummy said, “Cris, that’s the way they finance their church: they play bingo and they sell prizes and put out chances for raffles, and that’s the way they finance the church.”
Why, I’ve seen it from one side of this nation to the other. Every time I see it, I say it’s a travesty! It’s an insult to God! The Lord says, “The tithe is holy unto Me” [Leviticus 27:30, 32], and for us to finance God’s kingdom in such a dishonoring and worldly and secular social is unbecoming to the child of the faith. I say, repeat: this is the training for our children, that envelope.
What is this envelope? It is the existence of our dear church. How to operate a church without money: a church sent the following announcement to its membership: “We have found a way to operate our church without money. Will you cooperate? Each member will come to church dressed warm enough to eliminate the necessity of heating the building in summertime, and they’ll bring a fan with them for the”—now that’s, wait a minute, they’ve got a comma here. “Each member will come to church dressed warm enough to eliminate the necessity of heating the building,” and let me add, “in the wintertime.” Then,
In the summertime they’ll bring a fan with them, and that way there will be no fuel bill. Each member will bring a candle or flashlight to the night services; this will eliminate the light bill. Each member will bring a dust pan and broom to clean his part of the building. If he desires his pew to be extra clean he must bring a mop and a bucket of water; this will dispose of a janitor. Each member desiring water to drink will bring his own water bottle; this will save the water bill. Each member desiring a church bulletin will bring his own supplies and printing press; and this will save the expense of the office help. Each member will take his turn playing the piano and directing the choir—
God help us—
this will eliminate the cost of a music director. Each member will take his turn preaching, leading the services, visiting the sick, conducting funerals, performing marriages, calling on prospects, guiding the ministry of the church; this will save the expense of the pastor.
Man, this is the worst thing I ever read in my life!
Thus we will be known as the church that needs no money. We will have eliminated that awful part of the service, the offering. What a spectacle it will make as men, women, boys and girls bundle up head to foot and head to church, carrying water bottles, mops, brooms, candles, hammers, saws…Isn’t this a great idea?
Yes, the new day is dawning for the church that needs no money. Would you really like it to be that way? If not, then give God the tenth that belongs to Him, and the church can function as a spiritual church should: with the tithes of its members. Actually, our church needs no money: we are the ones that use the water, the lights, the heat, the music; we are the ones that want the church clean; we are the ones that want the church repaired and painted; we are the ones that use the services of the pastor when someone is sick or one in the family passes away.
Honestly, I think that God’s plan is the best. Don’t you?
I do. I do. Oh dear! How do I conclude? I am halfway through.
When I come before the Lord, what’s in that envelope? The whole kingdom ministries of Christ: everything you see in the multitudinous activities of our dear church, these children, these young people, these families. Last Sunday a week ago, I took up a collection for our inner city chapel. How gracious you are! I asked for four hundred sixty one thousand dollars; got over four hundred sixty-five thousand dollars for the ministry to the poor and the homeless in our city, our street people. We have twenty-eight of those chapels, twenty-eight of them. That’s one of them; twenty-eight of them.
In that envelope is food for the hungry and clothing for the naked and medicine for the sick; it’s a home for the orphan; it’s salvation for the lost; it’s heaven for the dying. “Here men that die receive tithes; there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth” [Hebrews 7:8].
What’s in that envelope? That is what I owe to God. The tenth is not mine, it is God’s [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. In fact, everything is God’s [Psalm 24:1].
There was a brilliant, gloriously gifted French preacher named Monod, Adolphe Monod:
There is no portion of our time that is our time and the rest God’s; there is no portion of money that is our money and the rest God’s; it is all His. He made it all, gives it all, and He has simply trusted it to us for His service. A servant has two purses: the master’s and his own. But we have only one: God’s.
Everything is His; and I am a steward, that’s all, for a while.
For about ten years, as you know, I was a country pastor. And so many of my members were tenant farmers; somebody else owned the land, and they lived on the property, working and tilling the soil for a landowner. We’re all tenants, we’re all stewards: it belongs to God; it’s His. And an unusual thing: I’ve been a pastor long, long time, and I’ve never seen an exception to it.
[Malachi 3:8] says, “Will a man rob God?” Or could I translate another way: “Can a man rob God?” You can rob the bank and you can rob the store, but you can’t rob God. He collects. No matter how astute or how gifted or how apparently successful you are, you can’t rob God. He will collect that tithe.
In 1923, a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Present were the president of the largest independent steel company, the president of the biggest utility company, the greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the president’s cabinet, the greatest bear on Wall Street, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, the head of the world’s greatest monopoly, those ten. Now, these tycoons met there, and their wealth was more than was in the United States Treasury. For years newspapers and magazines printed their success stories, urging the youth of the nation to follow their example. Now, twenty-five years later, the president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab—all these men I’ve read about all my young life—Charles Schwab lived on borrowed money and the last five years of his life died broke. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad insolvent. The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was recently released from Sing Sing prison. The member of the president’s cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could go home to die. The greatest bear on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger, made matches, committed suicide.
You don’t cheat God. You don’t rob God. He will collect it: that tenth is a debt I owe to Him. It’s the interest I pay Him for what He has given me: my hands, my head, my feet, my breath; whatever in this life, it’s His, and it goes back to Him. And I’m a steward. And in that envelope is my interest payment, my indebtedness to the Lord God.
In concluding, tell me, rather than that God collects it—I don’t care how astute you are, if you try to rob God you’re going to make a wrong investment [Malachi 3:8], you’re going to fall into some kind of an error, you’re going to lose it, I don’t care who you are; or there’ll be an illness or a tragedy that will overtake you. You will not keep it—how much better, infinitely better, to come before the Lord and say, “Lord, out of the deep love of my heart this belongs to You.”
I was reading in the life of a marvelous preacher of two generations ago. His name is J. Wilbur Chapman. For a while he was the pastor of a congregation. They used to have testimony meetings, you remember? No, you’re not old enough. Used to have testimony meetings on Wednesday night; man, I can remember those so poignantly. Well, on a Wednesday night testimony there was a woman who stood up, and she said, “God has let me down. All the years of my life I have been faithful to Him, coming to church, praying, reading my Bible, and giving a tenth of everything that God gave to me I have returned to Him. And this week, I have been dismissed. I’ve lost my job. And I’m too old to find another. God has let me down.” And the preacher said, “You know, the next day, the next day, I was with a big executive in our city, and that executive said to me, he said, ‘Pastor, you know our company has inaugurated, initiated a program of compensation for our employees. These of the days past and now for the future.’ And he said, ‘Preacher, did you know, the first name on our list is a member of your church?’” And the pastor said, “What’s the name?” And he named the name of that woman.
Remember the psalmist: “I was young, and now am old; and yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread” [Psalm 37:25]. If I am faithful to the Lord, the Lord will be faithful to me. I stand by Him, He will stand by me. This I owe to God [Malachi 3:10].
In this moment of appeal, when we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, come. “Pastor, I believe in God, and I give Him my life” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “I’m putting my life in the fellowship of this wonderful church.” Or, “I’m bringing my family into the fellowship.” Make the decision now in your heart, and in this moment that we sing our appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.