My Tithing Testimony to God
October 18th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
OUR TITHING TESTIMONY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-18-87 10:30 a.m.
And we welcome the thousands uncounted of you who share the hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Tithing Testimony to our Lord. Reading from the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, verses 18 through 20; Genesis 14:18-20: "And Melchizedek king of Salem," later called Jerusalem,
This Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God, el elyon.
And Melchizedek blessed Abram, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
That is the basis for the unusual text in Hebrews 7:
This Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of el elyon, who met Abraham. . . and blessed him;
To whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation melek tzedek, king of righteousness, and after that king of shalom, king of 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.
Consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of all,
Here men that die receive tithes –
all the priesthood of Levi –
but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives," our Lord.
[Hebrews 7:1-4, 8]
Who is this priest called Melchizedek, the king of Salem? Who is he? Without mother, or father, or descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, who is he? There are learned theologians without end who would avow that this Melchizedek is Christ Himself; and His appearance before Abraham was a christophany, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Christ Jehovah. All through the Old Testament you will find those christophanies, those appearances of our Lord before His incarnation. An example is in the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua: standing over there against Jericho, as they entered the land of promise, stood a Warrior with His sword drawn. And Joshua asked Him, "Who You are?" and He replied, "As the Captain of the hosts of Israel am I come. Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy ground" [Joshua 5:13-15]. That is a christophany: an appearance of our Lord before His birth from the womb of the virgin Mary.
Again typical, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet sees the Lord high and lifted up, and His train fills the earth. And above Him are the seraphim. . . "Holy, holy, holy; the whole earth is full of His glory" [Isaiah 6:1-3]. The twelfth chapter of the Book of John says, "Isaiah saw the Lord Jehovah Christ" [John 12:41]. It is a christophany; an appearance of the Lord before He was incarnate in the flesh.
Just one other: when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon cast into the fiery furnace those three Hebrew children, as he looked into the flaming cauldron, he said, "Did we not cast in three? But I see four walking free in the midst of the flame; and the sight and countenance of the fourth is like unto the Son of God" [Daniel 3:24-25]. That is a christophany; an appearance of the Lord before His incarnation.
Now there are many, many theologians, learned, scholarly men, who will avow that this Melchizedek is a christophany: He is an appearance of our Lord Jehovah Christ before the days of His flesh. In an unusual thing on which this author of Hebrews elaborates in this seventh chapter, "Abraham gave to him a tenth part of all he possessed" [Hebrews 7:2]. Why a tenth? Because it is from forever. This is five hundred years before the law. This is in the day of grace. The grandson of Abraham, Israel, Jacob, said to the same Lord God, "If You will be with me, and bring me back home, of all that You bestow into my hands, I will sacredly dedicate the tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:20-22]. Apparently there has been no age and no time when there has not been in the heart of the man that response to God: the dedication of a tenth to the Lord.
There is a scholar named Henry Lansdale who has written a book, The Sacred Tithe. And he says in that book that as far back in human story as you can go, among the ancient Egyptians, and Babylonians, and Persians, and Arabians, and Greeks, and Romans, there has never been a time when there has not been offered unto the great God or gods a tithe of all that the man possesses.
There is a marvelous thing in the heart of God, a remembrance, a blessing in an obedient response. "And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven, and said, By Myself have I sworn" – the Book of Hebrews expatiates on that, "because he could sware by no greater, 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, in multiplying I will multiply thee. . .thy seed shall possess the gates of the nations; and in thy seed shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice" [Genesis 22:15-18]. Always, as God lives, and as He swears by Himself, there is a blessing always accompanying a human obedience.
It is a remarkable thing to me how that in this God invites your testing, He invites your proving. He is not insulted when you say, "Lord, I’d like to try You, I’d like to test You, I’d like to prove You." He invites it. In Malachi 3:10, He says, "Prove Me now, saith the Lord of hosts, and see if I will not pour you out a blessing there is not room to receive it." What is He talking there? He is talking about the dedication of a man’s possessions unto God.
I see that all through my pilgrim journey. And in the sixty years I have been a pastor, oh! how many times do I witness it. There’s a man in this church, in debt, insolubly, insufferably in debt. And we talked together, and I asked him to try. "You take one-tenth of everything that does come into your hand, and dedicate it to God; and see." Hopelessly in debt, "How could he?" he said. "I don’t know. It’s just God." He started out. And in that dedication to the Lord, he rearranged his life, rearranged his accountability and accounting, and came out gloriously. It’s a miracle! It’s God. We live in a world of miracle. Don’t explain anything, can’t understand anything, we just look at God’s omnipotence all around us – including our souls and our hearts and our very lives. O God, how wonderfully good You are to us!
Now that wonderful, wonderful text: "Here men that die receive tithes; but there You receive them, up there in heaven they are presented to You, You who live forever" [Hebrews 7:8]. When I bring before the Lord my envelope, on the inside of it is what? I bring it before God, and we kneel here and dedicate it to the Lord. What’s on the inside of that envelope? First and above all, this is a part of my love and adoration and worship of the Lord God in heaven.
In these two Psalms, 95 and 96:
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and honor are in His sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds, 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: reverence Him, all the earth.
That’s in that envelope: a part of my adoration and love for the Lord. "Bring an offering, and come into His presence."
Nor would I seek to bring before Him that which doth cost me nothing. When King David came to Araunah to make sacrifice unto God for the land and the people, Araunah said, "Here, O king, take it. I give it to you, the threshing floor," Mount Moriah, "the oxen for sacrifice, and the implements of threshing for wood. I give them to you." And David replied, "Nay, not so; for I will buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:22-24]. It represents my love, and devotion, and sacrifice, and worship of the great God in heaven; and I will not offer unto God that which doth cost me nothing.
I heard the craziest story. An Internal Revenue man – just to name them does something to your soul, and we’ve got a bunch of them in this church, did you know that? They’re just everywhere. There’s a scalawag right there, one of them. We got a bunch of them in the church. Internal Revenue man, you know, looking over our tax returns, came across a fellow, didn’t make a big salary but gave a whole gob to the church, you know a contribution. So he went to see him, and said, "Now you look here at this what you make, and you look at this contribution you have down here to the church"; an enormous part of his salary. Well, "Usually," the Internal Revenue man says, "when I accost a fellow like that, man does he squirm. This fellow didn’t at all."
He says, "I have receipts from the church for all I’ve given."
"Well, let me look at them." So he went to the place and he says, "In the drawer I keep all the receipts of the things I give to the church," and he laid them before the Internal Revenue man. And the Internal Revenue man looked at them, and said, "That’s right, that’s right. I beg your pardon for bothering you." And as he went to the door, the man said to the Internal Revenue officer, he said to him, "By the way, by the way, I’d like to invite you to come to our church. We’d love to have you visit our church."
"Oh," said the Internal Revenue man, "I have a church of my own. I go to my own church." And the guy said to him, "You know, the possibility of that never occurred to me." Well, as the Internal Revenue man left, walked away, he thought, "What in the earth did that guy mean when he said the possibility of my going to church never occurred to him?" And the Internal Revenue man, he said, "You know, it just struck me when I was in church the following Sunday and the collection plate passed, and I put in my usual quarter."
O Lord! What is in that envelope? It is a part of my love and devotion and worship to God.
What is in that envelope? "Here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that He liveth" [Hebrews 7:8]. What is in that envelope? A part of me: I mean actually me, a part of me. If you hire me for a day and give me a hundred dollars, and I take that hundred dollars and give it to God, I am giving to the Lord a day of my life. If you give me twenty dollars or fifty dollars, what I bring before God represents me. It’s a part of my very life.
What is in this envelope when I bring it before the Lord? It is a part of our teaching, in example, our little children. That’s why because I am a literalist, 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of the week, let every one of you, every one of you, bring to God according as the Lord has prospered him." And in that family, dad is one, "every one of you"; mother is one, "every one of you"; that little boy is one too, and that precious little girl is one too. "Let every one of you,"
I so well and poignantly remember when our little fellow Cris, our grandson whom we adopted and reared since he was a little baby, I remember one time overhearing him and his grandmother talking together. And Cris, our little fellow, said to his mummy, he said, "Mummy, Tommy, my friend Tommy, my friend has invited me to go to a party. And I want to go because it is a party where they read out numbers and you get prizes. And you can buy a chance and get a prize. And I can bring it home with me; I can bring it home." And his mummy said, "Now, no, no, I don’t know about that." And he said, "But Mummy, it is a church party. It is a church party. It’s a church social. And Tommy goes there, and he wants me to go with him. And they read out numbers, and if I win the prize, I get to take it home. And we can buy chances, and if I get it, I can bring it home."
And his mummy said to him, "Cris, that’s the way they finance their church. That’s the way they make up the money for the support of the church. But son, we don’t do that. We don’t play bingo, which is a gambling game; we don’t play bingo in order to support our church. And we don’t buy chances on a raffle in order to support our church. We dedicate to God a tithe and an offering."
I do not know, in my humble and feeble human judgment, a greater insult to God than to support His church with gambling, bingo, raffles and all of the rest that some of these churches do. It’s an affront! It’s an insult. God has plainly said, "On the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. The tithe is holy unto the Lord [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. And when I bring that gift to Jesus, it’s the finest example of which I am capable for the rearing, and the guiding, and the training of those darling children.
When I bring that tithe and offering into that envelope and dedicate it to God, what is it? It is the very existence of our church. I cut out of a paper, "How to Operate a Church Without Money"; caught my attention, [it] would anybody’s. "How to Operate a Church Without Money." A church sent the following announcement to its membership, now I quote:
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 summer they will bring a fan; then there will be no fuel bill. Each member will bring a candle or flashlight to the night services; this will eliminate the light bills. Each member will bring a dust pan and broom to clean his part of the building, and if he desires his pew to be extra clean he must bring a mop and a bucket of water. This will dispose of the 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 print the same in the church office. This will save the expense of the printing office. Each member will take his turn playing the piano and directing the choir. This will eliminate the cost of a music director and pianist.
I think he’s got an idea there, don’t you, doctor? Yeah. "Each member will" – brother this is an insult – "Each member will take his turn preaching and leading the services." Oh, man! This is heresy of the first order!
Then we can be known as the church that needs no money. We’ll have eliminated that part of the service called "receiving the offering." What a spectacle it will make as men, women, boys and girls bundle up heel to foot, head to the church carrying water bottles, mops, brooms, kettles, 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 that way? If not, then give God the tenth that belongs to Him, and the church can function as a scriptural church: 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 of the family dies. Honestly, I think God’s plan is still the best, don’t you?
I do! I do! I do. God’s way is best.
When I bring my tithe and offering to the Lord it is a part of my support of the sweetest ministries in the world. Not only here in this great complex, teaching our children and our young people, and ministering to our families, but I think of the outreach ministries of our church: goes around the world.
Sunday a week ago, I asked our people here for $461,000 for a mission here downtown, just up the street, to minister to our homeless and helpless people who are on these streets. As the city gets bigger, they multiply; and we’ll never get away from it. They’ll always be there, those street people, helpless, poor, hungry, homeless. Great God, if we were out somewhere we wouldn’t have the problem; but because we’re downtown they are always knocking at our door. And I don’t like to send them away. Let’s help them. Let’s pray for them. Let’s win them to Jesus. Some of them are over there in our preacher’s school that we’ve won from those streets.
Well anyway, when I asked you for $461,000, you gave Sunday a week ago $465,000 and the gifts are still coming in. You know, I’m so proud of that. I’m so glad! Lord, that pleases You. That’s for You.
But we’ve got twenty-eight of those chapels, not just one. We have twenty-eight of them. And when I bring this tithe and offering, it’s food for the hungry, it’s clothing for the naked, it’s medicine for the sick, it’s a home for the orphan, it’s salvation for the lost, it’s assurance for the hopeless, it’s heaven for the dying. I love doing it. It’s no burden to me; I praise God for the privilege.
I must close. One last: when I bring this envelope and dedicate it to God, it is a part of the debt I owe to God. As many of you know, I was a country preacher for ten years; lived out there with those people, I was single, and lived with them. So many of them were tenant farmers: a landlord somewhere owned the land, and they were tenants. All of us are tenants. We’re here just for the while. We are stewards; He owns it. He possesses it.
In this last century was a brilliant, able Protestant preacher in France named Adolph Monod. Reading him:
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, God’s.
It’s all His. And when I bring in that envelope a tithe and an offering, it’s kind of like interest that I owe God on what He places in my hands.
And I cannot keep it: God will collect it. In Malachi 3:8, again, it begins, "Will a man rob God?" I may be able to rob a bank, and I may be able to rob a store, and I might be able to rob you, but I can’t rob God. He collects it. I don’t care how astute you are or how brilliant, or capable, that one-tenth belonging to God, He will collect. No matter how able you are, you will make a wrong investment; there will be an illness overwhelm your life; there will be a providence come out of the blue of the sky. You will not keep it. God collects it. No man or woman robs God. You can’t do it.
I’m sure that through the years you have heard this. The men that are named here I read about all the time when I was a youth. 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 largest 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, and the head of the world’s greatest monopoly. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury. And for years newspapers and magazines printed their success stories, and urging the young people to follow their examples.
Now, twenty-five years later, the president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life, and died penniless. 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, under Warren G. Harding, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. The greatest bear on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Frazier, committed suicide. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivor Kruger, match company, committed suicide. None of those men honored God. Great financiers, geniuses – you don’t keep it.
How infinitely better for any man, any woman, any family, "Lord, this is Yours," and name the whole world around you, "This is Yours. The breath I breathe, the sun that shines, the feet and the hands and the heart that I have, this house, the strength of life, all of it, God, is Yours. And as a tenant, and as a steward, Lord, this is my gratitude, my love, and my debt to You. And precious Savior, it’s a privilege to come before You up there in heaven, and lay it at Your precious feet."
May I close with one observation? God does not forget you when you do that. "I have been young, and now am old," says the psalmist, "and I have not seen His people begging bread" [Psalm 37:25]. God will take care of you.
In reading Jay Wilbur Chapman, a marvelous preacher of two generations ago, for a while pastor of a church, used to have testimonies on Wednesday night – did that when I was a boy growing up – a woman stood up and she said, "God has let me down. I’ve come to church all my life. I have faithfully tithed everything that He has given me. And this week my company has let me go. And I’m too old to find another job. God has let me down." And you know the preacher said, "The next day, the next day, I was with the head of a great company in our city, and that executive said to me, he said, ‘Preacher, you know, our company, our company has inaugurated and initiated a retirement program, a pension program. And we’re going to compensate all of these employees who have worked for us. And preacher, when I looked at the list, the first name on that list is a member of your church.’" And Chapman said, "What is the name?" And he called the name of that woman. God doesn’t let us down. Friends may let us down, people may let us down, not God. He stands by us, and He sees us through, and He blesses us when we bless Him. If I’m true to Him, God will be true to me. If I am faithful to Him, God will be faithful to me. He invites you, "Try me. Prove me, saith the Lord, and see" [Malachi 3:10]. Now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, forgive us when we haven’t trusted Thee, when we’ve been faithless, when we’ve been hesitant. O God, that we might be bold in the faith. And our Lord, as we grow in grace, may we grow in that commitment also. What I have is God’s, and I’ll be a faithful steward, a faithful tenant. And when He comes, when He comes, I’ll give a good accounting for what the Lord has entrusted to me. And above all, Lord, that we might give to Thee our souls and our lives, trusting Thee. And our Master, in the pilgrim journey, stand by us, walk with us close. And then, Lord, in the day and hour of our death, be there. And may those precious nail-pierced hands of grace that opened for us the doors of salvation, open for us the doors of heaven. O Jesus, we love Thee; give Thee our lives and all that we have. Bless us, Lord. In Thy saving name, amen. Amen.
Zig, where are you? Zig? Zig I want you to come up here and stand right there. Stand right there. There’s a great group of you who are here for that Born Free seminar. In a minute, in our church, this is our closing of every service, in a minute we’ll stand and sing an invitation hymn.
And you who are here for that seminar, the greatest thing that could happen to your life, would be today, if you’d reconsecrate and recommit your days, life, strength, love, devotion, give it to God. Maybe one of you accepting the Lord as your Savior, "I’m opening my heart to Him today." Would you come and tell that to Zig? Give him your hand and say, "Zig, today I have given my heart anew to the Lord," or, "Today I take Him for the first time in my life as my Savior." Do it. Zig will pray with you. It’ll be the sweetest experience you’ll ever, ever, ever enjoy. It’ll be something you’ll treasure forever. Coming to Zig, reconsecrating your life to our Savior, or accepting Jesus into your heart and life, do it. Do it.
And in the great throng and press of people in this great sanctuary, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming." Trusting Jesus as Savior, dedicating your heart and home and life to Him, or answering the call of the Spirit of God in your soul, make the decision now, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. God bless you, angels attend the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.