Have I really made it this far without doing something by my bro, John Wesley? Wow. Well, here is a summary of one of my favourites: his great sermon The Use of Money.
While worldly people often speak about how best to use their money, God’s people do not often do so. God’s introduction of money into the world is a great example of His wise and gracious care for humanity. Poets and philosophers of almost every age and nation have criticized it as the great corrupter and a pest of human society. But is money itself to blame? “The love of money,” we know, “is at the root of all kinds of evil” [1Timothy 6:10]; but not money itself. The fault lies instead in those that use it – certainly, it can be used for evil, but what can’t? It facilitates all kinds of daily activities and (if we use it according to Christian wisdom) all kinds of good. It is an excellent gift of God, enabling the noblest ends. In the hands of His children, money is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked; it provides a place for the stranger to lay his head and supplies the needs of the widow and orphan. By the right use of money we can defend the oppressed, cure the sick, and ease the suffering of those in pain; it can be like eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and even lift up those at the gates of death!
It is therefore essential that all who fear God learn how to use this powerful resource in order to meet these glorious goals. All the necessary instructions can be boiled down to three simple rules.
Rule #1: Gain All You Can
It is our duty to gain as much money we can, but without giving more for it than it is worth.
First, we should never gain money at the expense of our health. No amount of promised gain should convince us to take (or stay in) a job which would involve us working so long and hard that our health would be damaged. Nor should we do any work that requires us to be deprived of time for proper food and sleep.
Second, we should gain all we can without hurting our spirit any more than our body. Therefore we should not engage (or continue) in any sinful work that is against the law of God or the law of our country. For instance, any work that necessarily involves robbing the government of its lawful taxes. Other work, although it is innocent in itself, cannot be done innocently in our society. For instance, some work cannot be done well without cheating or lying or some other activity incompatible with a clear conscience. Such work must be avoided, for while gaining money we must not lose our souls [Matthew 16:26]. There is other work which others may do innocently, but you yourself cannot. Either it entangles you with company that would be harmful your soul, or you may have particular weakness in your soul which makes this activity that is safe for others dangerous for you. No one can decide for another in matter, but each person must judge for themselves and abstain from whatever is found to be harmful to their soul.
Third, we should gain all we can without hurting our neighbour. If we love our neighbour as ourselves [Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:39], we cannot hurt our neighbour’s livelihood. We should not devour his property by gambling, by charging inflated prices, or by requiring exorbitant interest when we lend him money. Brotherly love forbids us from selling our goods below market price, from planning to ruin our neighbour’s business to advance our own, from enticing employees he needs to leave him to join you. Neither should we gain by hurting our neighbour’s body. Therefore, we should not sell anything that is harmful to the health of others. Finally, we should never gain at the expense of our neighbour’s soul by promoting things that are either sinful in themselves or that naturally lead to sin.
Apart from these three restrictions, all who engage in worldly business must observe the first great rule of Christian wisdom regarding money: gain all you can. Gain all you can by honest work, diligently carrying out your calling in the world. Furthermore, gain all you can by using all the intellect God has given you in your business. It is amazing how few do this; instead, they run down the same dull path as their predecessors. As a Christian, you should do things better than those who don’t know God. You should be continually learning, reading and thinking in order to do everything better today than you did yesterday. Be sure to put into practice whatever you learn so that you can make the most of your opportunities.
Rule #2: Save All You Can
Don’t throw away your hard-earned money in idle expenses.
Don’t waste any money gratifying bodily indulgence, buying pleasures for the senses – especially that of taste. I don’t simply mean avoid gluttony and drunkenness; any honest non-believer would also condemn these. There is a respectable kind of sensuality which does not directly harm our stomaches or perceptibly impair our thinking, but it can only be maintained at considerable expense. Cut off this kind of spending! Despise elegance and needless variety and be content with the essentials your body requires.
Don’t waste any money gratifying the pleasure of the eye, by unnecessary or expensive clothing or accessories. Don’t decorate your house with unnecessary or expensive furniture; with costly pictures, painting, woodwork or books; with elegant rather than useful gardens.
Don’t waste any money gratifying pride in your possessions, to gain the admiration of others. This motive of spending is frequently interwoven with one of both of the former desires. People have expensive food, clothing, or furniture, not only to gratify their appetite or their eye, but their vanity too. As long as you are “splendidly clothed” and live “each day in luxury” [Luke 16:19], many will applaud your good taste, generosity, and hospitality. But their applause comes at a great price. Instead, be content with the honour that comes from God.
Who would spend anything gratifying these desires if he realized that doing so merely increases them instead of satisfies them? Whenever you pay to please your senses, you are paying to inflame your sensuality. When you spend to please the eye, you merely increase your envy and attachment to those pleasures which are gone as soon as we use them [Colossians 2:22]. When you buy anything that others will applaud, you are purchasing more vanity. Didn’t you already have enough sensuality, envy and vanity? Did you really need more – and to pay for it? Wouldn’t throwing your money into the sea be less harmful foolishness?
Don’t waste your money on fancy food or costly clothing for your children any more than for yourself. Why should you buy more pride, lust, vanity, or other foolish and harmful desires for them? They don’t need any more; their natural share is enough already. Why should you incur great expense just to increase their temptations and snares, and to pierce them with more sorrows [1 Timothy 6:10]?
Rule #3: Give All You Can
You haven’t saved anything properly if you merely store it. You may as well bury it as keep in your safe or in the bank. Not to use it is effectively to throw it away. So add this third rule to the two previous ones: “give all you can.”
When the Owner of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward. As such he entrusted you, for a season, with goods of various kinds; but the sole ownership of these still rests with him. As you yourself are not your own but his, so it is with all your material goods and wealth. And he has told you, in the most clear and express terms, how you are to employ it for him.
First, purchase the things you need: food to eat, clothes to wear, whatever is necessary to keep the body healthy and strong. Secondly, provide the same for your spouse, your children, your servants, and any others who belong to your household. If when this is done there is any left over, then “do good to those who belong to the family of believers” [Galatians 6:10b]. If there is still a surplus, then “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” [Galatians 6:10a]. This is how to “give back to God what is God’s” [Mark 12:17]: not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you spend in providing the things you and your household need.
If you’re ever uncertain whether what you are going to buy for you or your household is necessary, seriously ask yourself these questions:
- Am I acting not as the owner of my money, but as a steward of my Lord’s resources?
- Am I doing this in obedience to his Word? In what Scripture does he require me to do this?
- Can I offer up this expense as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ?
- Have I reason to believe that God will reward me for this purchase at the resurrection of the just?
Pray your answers to these questions back to God. See whether you can say to the Searcher of hearts, without your conscience condemning you: “Lord, you see that I am going to spend this sum on that food, apparel, or furniture. And you know that I am acting in this purchase solely as a steward of your resources, expending this portion of them in this manner in accordance with the plan you had in entrusting me with them. You know I do this in obedience to your command. Let this be a holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ! And give me an inner confirmation that for this labour of love I shall be rewarded on that day when you will repay everyone according to their works.” If your conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit that this prayer is well-pleasing to God, then have you no reason to doubt that the expenditure is right and good.