Just as our lives come from God, the ways we use the gifts of life and grace are our offerings back to God. Therefore, Wesley emphasized that both inward and outward holiness matters. How we respond in various circumstances, how we utilize our time, how we spend funds, or how we treat others can be gifts to God when they reflect the holiness of Christ.
One of John Wesley’s famous statements of advice is, “Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Why? What did he really mean? Wesley talked and wrote at length about how to carry out this advice. Here is a brief summary of his thoughts:
- Wesley put restrictions on the way we gain all we can. Earning money was discouraged if it came at the expense of our own health, whether physical or spiritual. This caution rules out gaining all one can through “workaholism” or through any means that leads us to cheat, lie, or in any way violate the standards that Christians ought to hold. Nor should we earn money at the expense of another person’s physical or spiritual health. The business we conduct should be fitting to a life dedicated to God.
- Similarly, the way we save all we can also matters. Wesley’s idea runs much deeper than getting a good deal or buying things on sale. What we buy matters as much as what we pay for it. For Wesley, saving meant avoiding any expense that was simply for our own pleasure, rather than for taking care of a legitimate need. He understood that indulging our desires could lead us away from God. He also understood that spending money on unnecessary items left less for us to give to others. The point of saving is not hoarding; it is giving.
- To give all we can is to reflect God’s own generosity and thus to participate in God’s work. We are to manage our money and property to be able to use it for God’s purposes. If we think about the use of money as a spiritual discipline, then we can see that the point is not to give away what we think is extra. The point is to play our role in distributing God’s resources equitably, not denying our own needs, but seeing the needs of others to be as legitimate as our own.
For the next four weeks we will be involved in a church wide study called Earn. Save. Give. Wesley's Simple Rules for Money by James A. Harnish. I will be preaching on topics from the book, and our adult Sunday school class will follow with a lesson on the same topic. I will also host a study group at the parsonage on Wednesday nights at 6:30 starting Oct. 14. A nursery will be provided from 6:15 until 7:45 for those needing childcare. Please sign up this Sunday if you are interested in the Wednesday group.