Occupy Till I Come (Stewardship)
October 15th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-15-89 10:50 a.m.
Welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Occupy Till I Come. You are going to be surprised at the kind of a sermon prepared for this annual stewardship message. It is a message from a Greek text, and the context we read in Luke 19, beginning at verse 11. Luke 19, verse11:
. . . [Jesus] spake a parable . . .
[And] said . . . A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
He called his ten servants, and delivered [unto] them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come . . .
Then he [called] those servants . . . to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
. . . The first [came], saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
He said unto him, Well, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
. . . The second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
And he said unto him likewise, Be thou also over five cities.
[Luke 19:11-13, 15-19]
Now the exegetical sermon from the Greek context: “He said to His servants, ‘Occupy till I come’” [Luke 19:13]. You wouldn’t know by looking at that English translation what our Lord actually said and what He fervently meant. “Occupy”—the Greek word for this mundane factual existence is pragma. You have an English word built on it, “pragmatic,” “pragmatism”—concerning things down here in this life. Well, here is the verbal form of it: pragmateuomai. They translate it here “occupy.” The word actually means, “do business,” “trade.” Pragmateuomai, get with it till I come—heos, “until”; erchomai, “I come.” Wherever you see that word, it will refer to the second coming of our Lord. Throughout the New Testament, He will be called erchomenos, “the One who is coming,” “the coming One,” erchomenos, “the coming One.” So pragmateuomai, “do business,” “trade,” until I come [Luke 19:13], erchomai, the second coming of our Lord. A redeemed society would demand a prepared people, men and women to rule over God’s heritage. And that’s what the Lord is saying here. We’re to prepare for a tremendous assignment in glory, in the world that is to come [Luke 19:13].
I clipped out of a newspaper this cartoon: on one side is a man with his angelic wings sitting on a cloud, and he’s twiddling his thumbs and talking to his wife, with her angelic wings, seated on a cloud. And he says to her, “If we’re just going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs for all eternity, are you sure this is heaven?” Well, that’s most people’s idea of what it is going to be like when we enter that world that is yet to come. We just sit on a cloud. We just twiddle our thumbs. We do nothing. Absolutely—there’s not anything that could be further from the truth than that fantastically incorrect idea. In heaven, we are to be assigned tremendous work for the Lord [Matthew 25:23]. Romans 8:22-26 says this whole creation will be redeemed from its fallen nature. When our Lord makes this new heaven, remakes this new heaven and this new earth [Revelation 21:1-5], there will be no more fallen stars. There will be no more burned-out planets. There will be no more desert places. The whole creation will be remade according to the purpose of God in the beginning [Revelation 21:1-5].
And in that new creation, we will have a vital and dynamic part. This man here is to be leader over ten cities [Luke 19:16-17]. And this one here is to be leader over five cities. All of creation will be given to us in trusteeship. We’re to be God’s stewards, God’s partners in its rulership [Revelation 22:3-5]. It will be a marvelous and glorious anticipation, looking forward to what God has in store for those who love Him and prepare for that day [1 Corinthians 2:9]. We’re to be God’s servants, God’s partners, God’s stewards in ruling over God’s whole created universe [Revelation 22:3-5].
I sometimes think, when we have our home in the New Jerusalem, when God gives us our mansion there [John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:2-3], we’ll be able to go to our assignments in the speed of thought. Right now, I can close my eyes, and I’m in Paris, I’m in Johannesburg, I’m in Hong Kong, I’m in Rio, I’m in New York, I’m in Dallas. I can be just like that. That’s the way it is going to be in this new created universe of God, all of it remade, re-created, gloriously perfect. And in that vital society, with its billions and billions raised from the dead, and all of its parts conversant with the holiness and glory of God, we shall have our assigned parts. And God is getting us ready as trustees, and as partners, and as stewards for that glorious assignment.
That leads me to speak of that pragma of this mundane world. God must like it; He created it [Genesis 1:1]. He made it, and He is the One that presides over it [Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 42:5]. It’s a strange thing to me how we separate material from spiritual, sacred from secular, as though this were unholy, and for us to serve God, we must separate ourselves from the unholiness of the material creation of the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth—as though a man would be such-and-such seated here in the congregation, and then tomorrow out in the marketplace, he’s something else.
That’s why you have these monasteries, and these cloisters, and these celibates, and all of these monks, trying to pull themselves out of a fallen and dirty and sinful world. Nothing could be further from the truth than that! The whole creation is God’s, and He is the King and Lord over all of it [Psalm 89:11]. And all of it is to be used for His blessing, and His glory, and His praise—all of it [Psalm 148:1-14]. God doesn’t make that distinction between what is sacred and what is secular, what’s material and what’s spiritual.
One of the most unusual things, I think, as I read through this Bible is this: there are many, many, many scholars who say that the high watermark of all revelation is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. That’s the chapter on the resurrection from among the dead. They say that is the high watermark of all revelation.
Now, when I read the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, then I read the sixteenth chapter—well, in my Bible and in yours, there is a heading there, there’s a chapter there: 16. We put that there, God never put that there. All that reads just right along, and here’s the way it reads—after getting through describing the glorious, triumphant resurrection from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:50-58], look at the next breath: “Now concerning the collection, my brethren, as I gave order to the church in Galatia, even so do you. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store all that God had prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. All in the same breath! The glorious resurrection from among the dead and the offering we bring to our blessed Lord on Sunday, “on the first day of the week”—that’s God! All of it is His, and we’re to use it for the glory of our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:50-16:2].
Psalm 24 begins: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and everything that is therein” [Psalm 24:1]. In the fiftieth psalm: “The animals of the forest are Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” [Psalm 50:10]. All of it is God’s. And to take some of it or part of it and say, “This is mundane”—pragma—“and is not to be used to the glory of the Lord,” is a violation of the very heart of Scripture. Could I take that a step further? When you read ecclesiastical history, one of the things you will be amazed at is the persuasion of those Christians a long time ago that not only the universe was evil and vile, and we must separate ourselves from it, but our bodies are evil and vile, and they have to be mutilated.
Origen was the greatest intellectual Greek of all of the church fathers. Thomas Aquinas was an incomparable minister before God. Both of those men took sharp knives and emasculated themselves, trying to rid themselves of this evil body. Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, a monk, flagellated himself, beat himself, beat himself, beat himself. His body was vile and evil. Such things come out of a dereliction. It comes out of a perversion of the mind and is the opposite of the Word and the revelation of God.
This world, this pragma, this universe in which we live belongs to God! He made it [Genesis 1:1-31], and what God is doing now is placing in our hands a stewardship that we might be prepared for that great assignment, when God re-creates the whole universe [Revelation 21:1-5], and we are set over God’s redemptive creation [Revelation 20:6].
It’s a wonderful thing, what God purposes for those who love Him. This is God’s. There is a Greek word, kurios, Lord, kuriakos, belonging to the Lord. The church, our dear church, is a kuriakos, it belongs to the Lord. There is a day, a kuriakos day, “the Lord’s Day”—the first day of the week, it belongs to the Lord. There is a supper, a kuriakos supper, “the Lord’s Supper”—it belongs to the Lord; and the whole universe of creation, the pragma—God’s! There’s no land but God’s land. There’s no air but God’s air. There’s no sunshine but God’s sunshine. There’s no time but God’s time. There’s no being but God’s being. The Lord created it, and He did it for us!
There was a neophyte, a young preacher, right out of the seminary, and, you know, sometimes they get kind of bold, you know. So he was called as pastor of a mill town in South Carolina. And the young fellow was up there, at the mill, and the richest man in that part of the earth, he was seated right there. And he gave two dollars and fifty cents a Sunday to the whole work of the Lord. And the preacher, you know, and he pointed him out. If you get a little more, you know, nice, why, you don’t do things like that. But when you start out—he pointed him out and spoke of the fact that what he had didn’t belong to him; it belonged to God. Well, it made that mill owner furious. So after the service was done, he came and said, “I want you here at this church at two o’clock this afternoon, and I’m going to pick you up.”
And the young preacher said, “Wonderful, I’ll meet you here at the church at two o’clock in the afternoon.”
And the mill owner was there promptly at 2:00, picked the preacher up, and carried him to his beautiful mansion, and said, “Do you see this beautiful mansion? That’s mine. Mine, I own it!” And he took him to his broad plantation of thousands of acres and said, “Look at this beautiful plantation. That’s mine, I own it!” Then he took him to his mill and said, “Look at this big mill. That’s mine, I own it!”
“Yes sir,” said the young preacher. “Yes sir. Yes sir.”
So when they made the rounds of all the things that the rich man had owned, they came back to the church, and the preacher, that young fellow said to the mill owner, “Now, I’ll meet you back here at the church at this same time, in this same place next Sunday.”
And the mill owner said, “Fine. Next Sunday, I’ll meet you here at this church, same time, same place, same hour.”
And the young preacher added, “Only, one hundred years from now; only, a hundred years from now. Then who has that beautiful mansion? And who owns those broad plantation acres? And who owns that mill? God! God! We just use it. It belongs to God.”
You got a banker here, James Donnell. Suppose I go to James and say, “James, I’ve got a program assignment that I would like to achieve out here in the world. I want to borrow, I want to borrow a sum of money from you.”
And James says, “Fine, we’ll help you.”
And I borrow the money, and he puts down—it all depends on how usurious you are, James—five percent, no not five percent, twelve percent, fifteen percent? And I go out, take the money, got it from the bank—they own it and I use it—and pay him twelve, fifteen percent. Or let’s take my days as a country preacher. I was a country pastor for ten years. And those tenants would take the land that belonged to a landlord and give him one-half of the produce, one half of it.
Well, suppose I come before God, and I say to the Lord God: “O God, thank You for my eyes. Thank You for my eyes. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for my eyes. In fact, if you were to offer me five million dollars for just one of my eyes, I wouldn’t take it. Thank You, Lord, for my eyes. Thank You, Lord, for my hands. Thank You, Lord, for my feet. Thank You, Lord, for my breath. Thank You, Lord, for my days and my time. And our Lord, if You will bless what You have given me, I’ll faithfully and carefully set aside one tenth of everything that You give me. I’ll set it aside for Thee.”
The Lord seems to have taught us that throughout the whole Book—all of it. Four hundred years before the law, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him tithes of all [Genesis 14:19-20]. And Jacob vowed a vow saying, “Lord if You will bless me, of all that You give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:22]. And Moses wrote in the law, “The tithe shall be holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. And the prophets prophesied and spake saying, “Bring ye all of the tithes into the storehouse, and see, prove Me, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour ye out blessings, there will not be room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10]. And our Lord said, “You tithe mint, rue, herbs, these ye ought to have done” [Luke 11:42]. And the Book of the Hebrews says, “Here, men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth” [Hebrews 7:8].
What a marvelous, wonderful thing! When I come here to the house of the Lord, you have a basket here. And I take my tithe and my offering, and I put it in that basket. But God’s Book says the One that receives it is my Lord up there in heaven: “Here men that die receive tithes, but there, He receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that He liveth” [Hebrews 7:8]. One of the dearest, most precious of all of the experiences in life is, “Lord, I will be Your partner, and You bless me. I will try to be a good steward of what You give me. Remember me, Lord, in what I try to do for Thee and for Thy kingdom’s work.”
After all when you think of it pragmatically—pragma,”pragmatically”—God doesn’t need us, and least of all does He need our tithes. I quoted that fiftieth chapter of the Psalms, “The earth”—the fiftieth chapter of the Psalms—“The animals in the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills all are Mine” [Psalm 50:10]. Look what the Lord said: “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee” [Psalm 50:12]. “The beasts of the forest are Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” God doesn’t need us. He could do without us.
One of the strangest things I read in the Bible—page after page, after page, page after page—describing the animals that they were to bring to the temple for sacrifice, they were to be perfect, the lamb from the herd, the sheep from the flock, the bullock from the drove; they were to be perfect—page after page describing all of that [Leviticus 1-6]. Then when they brought it to the temple, they burned it up, burned it up! After all of those directions about how careful you are to be in choosing this lamb, or choosing this bullock, or choosing this sacrifice—take it to the temple of God and burn it up, burn it up!
Well, I think of that neighbor who said to his former friend, he said to him, “Neighbor, you don’t have to work those six boys of yours so hard to raise a crop.” And the father of the boys replied to his friend and neighbor, and said to him, “Listen, listen, my brother and friend: I’m not raising a crop, I’m raising boys! I’m raising boys!” That’s God! God doesn’t have a program of tithing in order that He needs it, but God does it for us, for us! You see, God is preparing stewards, partners for the great day that is yet to come. And He gives us pragma—He gives us the substance of this world. And how we use it is the kind of a steward we are going to be up there in glory some day.
And what a preciousness. “Lord, Lord, I thank You. And then just be here the rest of the morning hour. I thank You, Lord, for all of the wonderful remembrances that enrich and endow my soul and life. I thank You, Lord. And faithfully, I set aside, out of loving acknowledgment that God owns it all, I set aside one part out of ten for Thee, dear and blessed, Lord.”
That does two things. One: it acknowledges that I’m a steward. I don’t own anything. I’m a steward of God. And it also delivers me from one of the most cursed of all of the things that can happen to us in our lives.
There was a rich man who said, What shall I do, I have no room to bestow my fruits? This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater…And I will say to my soul, Soul thou hast much goods laid up…take thine ease, eat, and drink, and be merry.
But God said, Thou fool, this [night] thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be, that thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth treasure up for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Carve your name high above the shifting sand.
On the eternal rocks that defy decay.
All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
[“Peter Cooper,” Joaquin Miller]
Dear God, I live in that kind of a world. People—“Pastor, [the] funeral is such and so time”—and their hands are so empty. Dear God, help me to learn. Sweet people listen to me, you’ll not keep it, you’ll not keep it. You will not keep that tenth—God will collect it.
A pastor was asked, “How many members do you have?”
And he said, “Eleven hundred.”
And they asked him, “How many tithers do you have?”
And he said, “Eleven hundred.”
And the questioner was amazed, “You mean you have eleven hundred members and eleven hundred tithers?”
“Yes. One hundred of them bring the tithe to the Lord, God collects it from the other thousand.”
Sweet people, you remember this—if you do not give to God His tenth, God will collect it. You’ll have an accident; you’ll have a fire; you’ll have an illness; you’ll make a bad investment. You’re going to lose it, you will not keep it—God will collect it.
How much better to say, “Lord God in heaven, I don’t own anything, it’s all Yours. And Master, as a steward, I acknowledge Your ownership and my stewardship. Out of all that You give me, one part out of ten, I will dedicate to Thee.” And what a wonderful thing that happens thereafter! God opens the windows of heaven and blesses your heart and life, all to which you place your hands. God does it for you. And God does something else. He blesses us through you—our dear church, our children, our young people, the ministries of our precious Lord in this great city, and through our missionaries to the ends of the earth. O God, how could I fail? Help me to be a faithful steward.
And to you who have listened to the service this day, God grant that in your heart you find it; a longing to give your whole life to the blessed Jesus. And if you don’t know how to accept Him as your Savior, you call us. The number is on the screen, and we’ll show you and tell you how to be saved. And instead of looking upon life as being vain and empty and purposeless, you make a partner out of God. “Lord, You and I, we are walking this trail together. We are going down this road, You and I. And I will be Your steward and Your partner, and You bless me, Lord.” And God will do that, and you will find strength and help for the way that otherwise you would never know.
And to the great throng in God’s house this holy hour, “Pastor, today, this day I accept the Lord as my Savior and all that He promised to be. I will make room for Him in my heart and in my life, and we will pilgrimage together.” Make that decision now, accepting Him as your Savior [Romans 10:9-10], or coming into the fellowship of our dear church, answering the call of the Spirit in your heart and life, do it. And God will mean more to you than you could ever dream. And when you come to die, He will be there opening the gate of heaven just for you. Bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. “Occupy” – pragma in Greek; actually means “do business”
B. We are to prepare for a tremendous assignment in glory
1. Newspaper cartoon
C. Whole creation will be redeemed; in it we have a vital part (Romans 8:22-26)
1. We are God’s stewardsII. The work of this world
A. We separate spiritual and material, sacred from secular
1. All of it is God’s, and we’re to use it for His glory (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:10)
2. Ecclesiastical history of mutilating bodies because they were “evil”
B. He is preparing us for when we are set over God’s redemptive creationIII. What God has purposed for those who love Him
A. Kuriakos – “belonging to the Lord”
1. Mill owner
B. He has taught us throughout the Bible about tithe (Genesis 14:19-20, 28:22, Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:10, Luke 11:42, Hebrews 7:8)
1. He doesn’t need our tithes (Psalm 50:10, 12)
2. Sacrificial animals burned upIV. Faithfully set aside one part out of ten
A. It acknowledges that I am a steward – I do not own anything (Luke 12:17-21)
B. God blesses us