This post is reprinted from one of my favorite blogs, Wesley Bros. You can see Charlie Baber’s fantastic cartoon/infographic accompanying this post and illustrating Wesley’s rules on money there, and you can order all kinds of WB swag, including a print of the comic, here.–jlwt
Nothing makes you more wary of the church than when that preacher gets up there and starts talking about how you should use your money.
One of John Wesley’s most famous sermons, The Use of Money, begins with the strange parable Jesus told of a shrewd manager who was going to be fired. Before he lost his job, the manager edited the books so that clients owed less money to the boss. This way, the manager would have grateful people who looked out for him after he lost his job. Jesus concludes this weird story by saying, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes” (Luke 16:9).
For Wesley, money is a practical tool that is a gift from God. His three basic rules are easy enough to remember, but pretty challenging when you break them down and think about how they apply in your own financial practices:
- Earn All You Can. Scrooge McDuck knows what I’m talking about. Seriously. This is the first rule: make bank, people! But there’s a few important caveats to how a disciple of Christ should go about earning income.
- Never accept a job that will harm your body or mind. Avoid work that prevents healthy living, or that involves questionable practices that go against your ethics. Work is meant to be life-giving, not life-taking.
- Do not exploit others in order to get ahead. What you do or what you sell should not cause someone else harm to body or mind either. If you are an employer, you should seek to provide fair wages for all your employees.
- Your job shouldn’t be putting other people out of a job. Do not become so competitive that others have to lose in order for you to win.
- Earning all you can means working to the best of your ability. Give your best effort to the work before you.
- Save All You Can. This rule probably should have been “Spend As Little As You Can,”but that doesn’t really fit the poetry here. Money is a tool to help supply for the basic needs of all people. When we spend as much as we can on ourselves, we run the risk of forgetting that life is not all about “ME.” When we buy our kids whatever they want, we teach them that they should be able to have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Self-service is a contrary ethic to the Christian value of selflessness. Meet the basic needs of your household first, and then set aside the rest of your money to be distributed for the basic needs of others.
- Give All You Can. Here’s the heart of it: give every penny to God’s purposes in the world. The pennies spent on you and your household should be for God’s glory. The pennies spent for others should be for God’s glory. Wesley was opposed to the idea of tithing because it was never about giving a percentage, but giving everything back to God, who gave us everything we have on loan. Wesley suggests we ask these questions on anything we spend:
- Will I be acting, not as an owner, but as a steward of the Lord’s goods?
- Am I acting in obedience to the word of God?
- Is this expense a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ?
- Do I believe that this expense will bring reward at the day of resurrection?
Treating our money this way makes it clear that personal finance is actually a spiritual discipline. It becomes pretty heavy if you take Wesley (and the church fathers) seriously to think that failing to give to those in need is actually robbing from God. How we Earn, Save, and Give our money is all meant to give life to us and to the world around us.