Could you use basic, simple advice for managing your money?  Below are some of John Wesley’s Christian teachings about “the right use of money.”  Although his wisdom comes from the 18th century (he lived from 1703-1791), his advice is still timely.  Wesley is credited with being the founder of Methodism, the basis of the United Methodist Church.

Luke 16:9  Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends.  Then when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.  (NLT)

“The love of money,” we know, “is the root of all evil”‘ but not the thing itself.  The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it.  It may be used ill: And what may not?  But it may likewise be used well: It is full as applicable to the best, as to the worst uses…if we uses it according to Christian wisdom of doing all manner of good…In the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head.  By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless.  We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame, yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!

It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree.  Perhaps, all instructions necessary for this may be reduced to three plain rules…

(Wording below is paraphrased for easier understanding except for text within quotation marks.)

1. Gain all that you can.  It is our duty to gain all we can by being wise in our use and spending of money – not paying more for things than we should, or more than they are worth.  We ought not gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health.  Neither should we pursue business that deprives us of proper seasons for food and sleep.

We are to gain all we can without hurting our mind any more than our body.  We must preserve the spirit of a healthful mind.  Therefore we should not engage in sinful trade; any that is contrary to the law of God, or of our country.

We are to gain all we can without hurting our neighbor.  This won’t be possible if we love our neighbors as ourselves.  We cannot affect the gain of others’ property or houses by gaming or inflated bills (we must charge others fair amounts due)…we are not allowed to “do evil” for our gain.  In brotherly love, we cannot charge unfair prices, seek to ruin our neighbor’s trade, or entice workmen from our neighbors if the neighbor still has need of them.  “None can gain by swallowing up his nieghbor’s substance, without gaining the damnation of hell!”

We should not gain by hurting others.  Therefore we may not sell anything that impairs the health of others.

It is the duty of all who are engaged in worldly business to observe Christian wisdom with respect to money.  Gain all you can by honest industry.  Use all your diligence in your calling.

2. Having gained all you can, “Save all you can.”  Do not throw your money away by foolish spending or poor management.

3. There is more than just to gain and save all you can.  To do only those things would be to do nothing.  Man must go forward with purpose to a greater end.  “You may as well throw your money into the sea, as bury it in the earth….Not to use, is effectively to throw it away.   Consequently, the third rule is to “give all you can.”

If you desire to be a good steward and manage well the “worldly substance” (money), first provide things needed for yourself: food, clothing, whatever moderate needs you have for “preserving the body in health and strength.”  Secondly, provide these for your wife, family, and all others of your household.  If money is left over, use it to “do good” to those of your “household of faith.”  If there is still money left over, use it to do good for “all man”.  In this way, you are giving unto God what is His, not just by giving to those in need, but also in providing responsibly for your household.

To determine proper spending, Wesley suggests asking yourself the following:

  • Am I spending in accordance with my character?  Am I being a good steward?
  • Am I doing this in obedience to God’s word?  If so, what scripture applies?
  • Can I offer this expenditure as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ?
  • Do I have reason to believe that through this very work/act I will have a reward at the resurrection?

Wesley’s closing:  “Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by applying hereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you; – save all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; to gratify either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children; – and then, give all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God.”

– End of Wesley’s teaching –

In summary, John Wesley says:   Gain all you can.  Save all you can.  With what you have, do all the good that you can.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4

References:

1. John Wesley, “The Use of Money,” The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 6. Sermons on Several Occasions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958.  From pages 124-35.  Available online at www.new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/50/.

2. Christian Ethics, an Introductory Reader, edited by Sam Wells. Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, UK, 2010.

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