REJOICE IN GIVING TITHE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 8:2
10-16-88 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Rejoice In Giving, Abounding Joy In Tithing. It is the theme for our tremendous stewardship appeal this year, this fall. And we are humbly asking God’s infinite blessings upon the sharing in the kingdom work of our Savior on the part of all of our people.
We shall begin the message with a summary of God’s teaching in the Bible. And then I have three comments to make upon those passages. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
In process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground a minchah unto the Lord.
And Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock . . . And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his minchah:
But unto Cain and to His minchah He had not respect.
Translated here in the King James Version “offering,” a minchah, the word actually means “a gift.” Abel brought a minchah unto the Lord, and Cain also brought a minchah unto the Lord. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his minchah: But unto Cain and his minchah He had not respect” [Genesis 4:3-5].
I can well imagine the background of a situation of providence like that. I read this week of a missionary in Africa who was watching the tribesmen kill pigs. And they carefully cut off the tails of all of the pigs that they were slaughtering, and they put them over here in a place by themselves. Then they took the pigs whose tails had been cut off and slaughtered them for their eating, consuming.
So the missionary asked, “Why do you so carefully cut off these tails and put them in a place to themselves and the rest of it you prepare for your own eating?” And they said, “Well, these tails are for our gods. This is our part for our gift to our gods, and then the rest of it we keep for ourselves.” When you look at that, you could not find a more poignant or personally pointed parable of human life than that. We give to God the tail of the pig, and the rest of it we consume for ourselves. It is a pattern of life. “And God had respect unto Abel and his minchah: but unto Cain and his minchah He had not respect” [Genesis 4:4-5]. What could that minchah have been when Abel offered it unto God?
We are very explicitly told in the Bible. For example, in Genesis chapter 14, four hundred years before the Law, Abraham worshiped Jehovah God in the presence of Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20]. I am speaking on that Wednesday night. Melchizedek is either the pre-incarnate Christ or he represents the Lord God Himself. And Abraham gave him a tithe of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20]. From the beginning, from the creation, that minchah, that offering unto God was a tithe, a tenth of all that we possess.
I find it confirmed again in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Jacob whose name is Israel was in Bethel [Genesis 28:19]. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him. And Jacob replied, “O God, if You will be with me, out of all the things that You will bestow upon me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22]. Abel, Abraham, Israel, Jacob; then in the Mosaic legislation four-hundred years after in the last chapter of Leviticus, Moses is instructed to teach his people all the tithe is holy unto the Lord [Leviticus 27:30-32]. It does not belong to us. It belongs to God. All of the tithe, all of the tithe is holy unto the Lord.
And the great prophetic ministry of Malachi closed with these words, “Will a man rob God? . . . Yet ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and in offerings . . . Bring ye all the tithes into God’s house and see . . . if I will not open you blessings that your heart will not be able to contain it” [Malachi 3:8-10]. And our Lord Jesus in Matthew 23 spoke of the tithing of the smallest details in life, but that forgetting on the part of the Pharisees of some of the more weightier things, and the Lord added, “These you ought to have done”—to tithe these small particulars—“but not to leave the other undone” [Matthew 23:23].
And one other passage, coming to the end of the book, in Hebrews 7:8: “And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” “Here men that die”—these deacons that are on these front rows—”here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth” [Hebrews 7:8]. When we bring our minchah to the Lord, these men take it up. But actually we place it in the hands, the nail-pierced hands of our blessed Lord. From the beginning of creation till the end of God’s consummation, this is the Lord’s plan and purpose and will for His people. And we can never improve upon it. This is the wisdom of God.
Now I have three comments to make about it: in bringing to God our minchah, our offering, our tithe, one, we do it in the fullness of our hearts; two, we do it in the fullness of our faith; and three, we do it in the fullness of our family.
First, in the fullness of our hearts: out of our deepest love for the Lord Jesus. This is a beautiful thing that we read, “My brethren, I make known unto you the grace of God.” Isn’t that a beautiful way? The minchah of the Old Testament is called a “grace” in the New Testament. “I make known unto you the grace of God bestowed on the churches in Macedonia, How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” [2 Corinthians 8:1-2]—the poorer they were, the more they gave. And he continues, “Every one according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a happy, joyous giver” [2 Corinthians 9:7]. To come before God with a fullness of heart, of gratitude for all that God has done for us; not of coercion, not of necessity, but out of an overflowing heart of thanksgiving and gratitude. What a beautiful way to walk in the presence of the Savior, with an overflowing heart.
The Lord had need of a stable in which to be born [Luke 2:7]; I wish I could have given it to Him. The Lord had a need of a manger in which to lay [Luke 2:16]; I wish I could have provided it for Him. The Lord had need of hay, soft hay, upon which to lay His head; I wish I could have brought it to Him. The Lord had need of a cup of water, asked of it from a Samaritan woman [John 4:6-7]; if I were a woman, I would love to have given it to Him. The Lord had need of a boat in which to stand to preach the gospel [Luke 5:1-3]; if I were a fisherman, I would love to have given it to Him. The Lord had need of a little boy’s lunch with which He fed the five thousand [John 6:5-13]; as a boy, I wish I could have given it to Him. The Lord had need of a house in which to stay when He said to Zaccheus, “This day, here in Jericho, I’ve come to spend the day with you in your house” [Luke 19:1-6]; I wish I could have been Zaccheus and opened my home to the Lord. The Lord had need of a colt to ride into Jerusalem on the day of His triumphal entry [Luke 19:30-38]; I wish I could have given Him that colt. And the Lord had need of a tomb in which to be buried when He was crucified [John 19:38-42]; I wish I could have provided that tomb. Out of a fullness of heart, a minchah, a gift dedicated to our wonderful Savior; I wish I could do it.
In these days of the past, thirty-five consecutive years Pat Zondervan, of the famous Zondervan Publishing House, stood in this very place and made appeal for the Gideons, buying Bibles for the men of the world, the people of the world. One of those years, in the days of the Vietnam War, Pat Zondervan stood here and held up a little New Testament with a bullet hole through the middle of it, held it up there, and he said that a chaplain had taken it off of the body of a Georgia boy who had been killed in that Vietnam War. When he gave it to me, I turned and read that page, “This day I, Carl Stewart, take Jesus as my Savior.” He held that up, and as we looked at it, Pat Zondervan said, “I wish that it had been my thirty-five cents that bought that New Testament,” out of the fullness of our hearts, not out of coercion or necessity, but out of an overflowing thanksgiving of the deepest soul, Lord, to bring a minchah unto Thee, fullness of heart, fullness of faith.
Jesus here in the close of the [twelfth] chapter of Mark, Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how people gave into the treasury. And there came a certain poor widow, and she gave two mites. That is one-eighth of a cent, so two mites, which make a farthing, that makes one-fourth of a cent. And He called His disciples and said, “Look, this poor widow hath cast more in than they all . . . for she of her want and of her necessity did cast in all that she had, even all her living” [Mark 12:41-44]. Just trusting God that the Lord would take care of her, and she gave all that she had to the Lord. Do I have that kind of faith? Do we? Fullness of faith, to trust God, that He will take care of us.
You know, I ran into something this week I never had noticed before. Wherever in God’s Word the Lord makes appeal to us, He always follows it with a promise. Every time without exception, any time God makes an appeal for us, He will add to it a wonderful promise. Such as here in Proverbs 3, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with the fruit of the vine” [Proverbs 3:9-10]. Turn again to that famous passage in Malachi:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove Me, try Me—God invites your testing Him—prove Me . . . saith the Lord [of hosts], if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out blessings, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
The promises of God; always, always if we do a work of commitment to the Savior, the Lord will honor it with a marvelous and wonderful and glorious promise. He says over here in the [sixth] chapter of the Book of Luke. He says in this Book of Luke: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over . . . For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured withal to you again” [Luke 6:38]. Just try God and see whether God will keep His word or not, by faith, trusting Him.
There was a young fellow who wanted to succeed. He wanted to do well. He wanted God to bless the work of his hands. So he went to the pastor, and he said, “Pastor, would you kneel down here with me and tell God I’ll make a covenant with Him? If He will bless me and help me and I succeed and prosper in this business in which I’m engaged, I will faithfully give one-tenth of everything God blesses me with. I will give it to Him.” And the pastor knelt down with the young fellow and prayed that prayer. And they made that covenant in their hearts with God. And the young fellow prospered enormously, marvelously. And the day finally came when his tithe amounted to thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. And he went back to the pastor. And he said, “Pastor, this is too much, too much. All of these thousands of dollars that I am giving into the Lord’s work is too much. Now I want you to liberate me from that covenant. I want you to kneel down here with me and tell God that this is too much!”
And the pastor said, “Why, I will be happy to. I will kneel down here, and we’ll tell God all about it. And we will tell God that you want Him to cut back your income to the days when it was so small you could easily tithe.”
“Oh,” said the boy. “Not that. Don’t tell God that. Don’t tell God that.”
Ah, God blesses. He says, “Try Me and see if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out remembrances from God that you cannot receive them. You cannot contain them” [Malachi 3:10]. I ran into a man in my reading named Thomas Kane—K-a-n-e, in this last generation. He began to tithe his income, and after five years of trying it, he noticed that his business had undergone a decided change for the better. Thereupon, he began making personal inquiries regarding the experiences of others and found complete agreement. God not only had blessed him in those five years, but He blessed others, blessed others. So he wrote a little tract, and he sent it to all of the preachers in the United States. And with the tract, he sent this circular saying, I quote, “My belief is that God blesses in temporal, as well as spiritual things, the man who honors Him by setting apart a stated portion of his income. I have never known an exception. Have you?”
Now that is what he sent to all of the preachers in America: “I have never known an exception. Have you?” So, the years passed, and he mailed out through those years not only to the preachers now, he mailed out millions and millions of tracts, millions and millions of tracts and pamphlets. And at the end of about fifty years, he wrote The Biography of a Tither. And in The Biography of a Tither, he says that he had received thousands of replies to that question: “I have never known an exception where God didn’t bless a tither. Have you?” He says, “I have received thousands of replies to the question, and the negatives are nonexistent.” It is amazing! God says, “Try it. Test Me. Prove Me and see” [Malachi 3:10].
Did you know, a few years ago the Convention office, which is right across the street here, the executive secretary here in Texas asked me—as a preacher, and a rich man from Arkansas, a layman—he asked the two of us to go around over Texas and conduct stewardship convocations; you know, from association to association. So I went around with that rich man from the Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, he the layman, and I the preacher. Well, we stayed together, and, of course, talked endlessly about the work of the Lord. And one time in one of those evenings when he was talking to me, he said, “There in our church was a poor bedeviled man in the deepest of the Depression.” And I know all about that. I began my ministry in the Depression. He said, “There came a man to me, and he said, ‘I do not have enough to feed my family. I am desperate. Would you let me cut your lawn? Let me mow your grass?’” And this rich man who was talking to me, he said, “I replied to the poor guy. I said to him, ‘Yes. Yeah, you can cut my lawn, and I will pay you, but you have to promise me that you will give one-tenth of what I give you to the Lord.’”
“Oh!” he said. “My children and my family! How could I do that?”
And the rich man said, “I will not let you cut my lawn or pay you unless you promise me you will give one-tenth of it to the Lord.” Well, the guy never had any choice.
So he said, “I will do it.” And he started cutting the rich man’s lawn. And the rich man paid him for cutting his lawn. And the man was true to his bargain. One-tenth of what he was paid he gave to the Lord. And do you know what that rich man told me happened to that poor devil?
He said, “Did you know it was not long until he was cutting lawns all over the city of Little Rock? And did you know he organized a company? And he hired I don’t know how many employees, taking care of the lawns, and the gardens, and the yards, and the parks of the city of Little Rock.” It doesn’t fail. God doesn’t fail. God is true to His word.
I want to tell you another thing. As you know, I have been a pastor now for sixty-two years, and this is what I have learned. I have watched it with the richest people in this world and with the poorest, and here is what I have learned. You will not keep that tenth. You won’t do it. God will collect it. You will make a misjudgment in business. You will make a wrong investment in your business. You will have an illness in your family. You will have a tragic providence that overwhelms you. You won’t keep it. God will collect it. You don’t steal from God. You don’t rob God.
And dear people, if you have not found that in your own personal experience, why don’t you read the paper? Think of what some of the richest men in this world could have done here in the city of Dallas had they taken the tenth of their income and dedicated it to God. Instead, they have lost it. They have forever lost it. You don’t steal from God. You don’t rob God. He collects it. You’ll not keep it. How infinitely better, infinitely better the increase of the work of your hands; “This belongs to the Lord. This is sacred for Him.” And when you do that, there will be illnesses that will never overtake you. There will be providences that will never overwhelm you. And there will be blessings from God in your heart and in your life. God invites you to try Him, test Him and see. I must hurry.
We have spoken of doing this work of God, a minchah brought before the Lord in fullness of heart, “Lord, out of the joy and gladness of my love for You.” We have spoken of the fullness of faith, trusting God for it; like that poor widow who gave Him everything she had, all of her living [Mark 12:41-44].
A third: out of the fullness of the family. “Well, what do you mean by that, pastor?” In the sixteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, concerning the collection for the saints: “As I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store for God the minchah as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. “Upon the first day of the week,” on Sunday, this day setting aside for God the work, the prosperity, the gift, the reward of the hands.
Now sweet people, you have to remember when you listen to me in a thing like this, I am a literalist. I believe this Bible word for word, syllable by syllable. I am a “funny-damn-mentalist” as they call me. Now when I read the Word of God, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you, let every one of you”; so being a literalist as I am, I think of that in terms of our families. “Let every one of you, every one of you.”
When I was a country preacher, when I would get through preaching on that Sunday night, the men would gather behind that stove. And they’d make up twenty-five dollars, which was my monthly salary. And that was the program in that church and in those families. And world without end, are there men who give for the whole family to the church.
God says, “Let every one of you, every one of you.” And a man can say to me, “Well, I make the salary. It is my name that is on this check.” I don’t deny that. It is your name on that check. But my brother, the husband, the father in the family, doesn’t your wife make a contribution? Doesn’t she? And don’t these children, don’t they bring something in of meaning and purpose in life in the home? Don’t they? Aren’t they one? Isn’t your wife one? Isn’t that teenager one? Isn’t that little baby girl one? Now being a literalist, God says, “Let every one of you, every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. That means that when the family meets, sits down, “Son, this is your part. You’re one. And sweet wife, you’re one. This is your part. And little baby girl, this is your part, you’re one,” the whole family, and dividing it up as a family what God has given.
I want to show you what that can mean. Let us say you, Dad, took your boy to the state fair yesterday, Saturday. You took your child to the fair, to the State Fair, and you had the best time in the world. Merry-go-round, round and round; Ferris wheel, round and round; all the other things out there, up and down, peanuts, popcorn, hotdogs, hamburgers. Oh, man! You had the best time in the world, and when the day was done, why, you had spent twenty-five dollars on that lad, twenty-five dollars, then forty dollars, fifty dollars. Shows you the old times that I live in, my land! Did you know—it’s hard for me to realize—in my first pastorate they paid me twenty dollars a month, and I lived on twenty dollars a month! I lived on twenty dollars a month.
So you have the best time in the world out there with that boy. Let’s say fifty dollars then, fifty dollars. And Sunday comes, today comes, and you put in that boy’s hand fifty cents to bring to God. You don’t have to say anything, nor do you have to preach a sermon, he has learned it well! The merry-go-round, and the Ferris wheel, and hamburgers, and hotdogs, and peanuts, that’s big business! That’s fifty dollars. But God’s business is little business. That’s fifty cents. He’s learned it well. You’ve taught him good.
Sweet families, and sweet people, why not do what God says? “Let every one of you on the first day of the week” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Whatever comes into the family from God’s hands, “Sweet wife, this is yours. And my young teenager, this is yours. And my little girl, this is yours.” And make it so big that the little boy’s eyes bug out and the little girl is astonished, and the whole family is taught in the way of the Lord. Do it! Do it.
There is never any time that we obey God’s Word but that God is in it, and the Lord blesses it, and the Lord works with you, and God makes His blessings so abounding, He says, that there’s not room in the heart to receive it [Malachi 3:10]. Do it! Try it, and see if God’s not true to His word. May we pray together?
Our precious Lord in heaven, it is such a privilege to read God’s Holy Word, to open our souls and hearts to believe it, and to exemplify and try it in our lives. And our Lord, to take Thee at Thy promise and to do what God has invited us to do, and then just to see the hand of the Lord in blessing upon us; Lord, may our people be like that: a godly people, loving Thee, trusting Thee, and believing God will do an abounding, abundant thing for us. And most of all, as the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth, first to give your own selves to the Lord, then to give according to the grace of God [2 Corinthians 8:1-5]. So this hour and this morning, Lord, sanctify and hallow, confirm the truth of the message by a gracious harvest. We will love Thee for it, in Thy saving, keeping name, amen, amen, amen.
In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you; or just one somebody you, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to my heart and here I stand.” On the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, there is time and to spare. And on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I am standing.” Do it. May angels attend you in the way while you come, while we stand and while we sing.