Earn All You Can...
"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Luke 16:9
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had three plain rules when it came to money. The first was “earn all you can...” Who doesn’t like a sermon that starts that way? But the key is the dot, dot, dot. The rules continued, “Save all you can, and give all you can.” Many people like the earning, but not so much the giving.
That was true in Wesley’s day. Late in his life as the Methodist Church in Great Britain had grown to more than 50,000 members, Wesley grew uncomfortable with what he observed as the increasing wealth of Methodists. He felt this was a real threat to the movement. He revised an old sermon he had preached some years before on the use of money. He said,
"Of the three rules which are laid down ... you may find many that observe the first rule, namely, 'Gain all you can.' You may find a few that observe the second, 'Save all you can.' But, how many have you found that observe the third rule, 'Give all you can'? Have you reason to believe that 500 of these are to be found among 50,000 Methodists? And yet nothing can be more plain than that all who observe the first rules without the third will be twofold more the children of hell than ever they were before."
Ouch! Wesley certainly didn’t mince words. But he also practiced what he preached. When he was a student at Oxford he lived on 28 pounds a year and gave what he had left to the church: 2 pounds. By the end of his career he was earning 120 pounds a year, yet he still lived on 28 pounds, giving away the remaining 92 pounds! His standard of living increased nil, but his charitable giving increased 4500%! That makes me gulp.
What a challenge to consider whether our giving has increased at the same rate as our standard of living. Believe it or not this devotion is not a sly way to get in a sermon on guilt at the start of stewardship. It’s really about balance. That’s going to be the guiding thought of our stewardship series: protecting the margins of our lives that keep life in balance. I believe that’s how Jesus approached money. He watched too many people stress about finances, worrying if they would have enough for the future. This is why he talked about the sparrows not worrying about where to get food. Too many people get out of balance in their own health, in relationships, and in work, because money gets in the way.
One day, Jesus told a story and finished by recommending to his listeners that they should use their money to gain friends so that when the money ran out, they would have something that wouldn’t! Wesley’s way of putting it was more like this, “Earn all you can, so that you’ll have that much more to give to things that matter!”
So, yeah, go make all the money you can. Just don’t get stressed out about it!
See you Sunday,