Wesley on Money

I’ve been reading a book on John Wesley’s theological method for my master’s course, and found an interesting section on his teachings and practice in regard to money.

Here’s an excerpt:

Wesley’s care for people extended beyond their spiritual well-being. In his time he was in the forefront of helping to alleviate the social ills of 18th-century England. His care for souls extended to the whole person, especially among the poor, the uneducated, the sick and the dispossessed – for example, slaves and prisoners.

The poor received special attention. He provided basic medical care and wrote simple medical manuals to help those who could not afford professional healthcare. At Kingswood school he set up a benevolent loan fund for people with immediate financial needs, the only stipulation being that they should repay the loan within three months.

Wesley preached what he practiced. Many sermons were intended to instruct on how to handle money. His best-known sermon dealing with money is entitled “The Use of Money.” In it Wesley exhorted Christians to “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Wesley soon discovered that his followers were good at the first two principles, but ignored the third principle against surplus accumulation, which he considered the leading ill of Christian praxis. He was so concerned over the misuse of money and corresponding injustices that he published several sermons specifically warning about the spiritual danger to the person who does not give.

(Thorson, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: a model of evangelical theology, 53-54)

Several stories are told about Wesley’s passion for good stewardship of money came about. First of all, he grew up in poverty. His father was a minister and John was one of 9 kids.

As a young man, Wesley was accepted into Oxford University. At Oxford, he had just finished paying for some pictures to decorate his room, when one of the maids came to his door. It was a cold day and she only had a threadbare gown to wear with no coat. He reached in his pocked to give her money to buy a coat, but he found that he had too little left after decorating his room. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward’? O justice! O mercy! Are these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

Starting in 1731, Wesley reportedly began limiting his expenses so he would have more that he could give away. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses were 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give away. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. In the fourth year, he received 120 pounds. As before, his expenses were 28 pounds, so his giving rose to 92 pounds.

Wesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away extra income. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but their standard of giving.

With increased income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but their standard of giving.

One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds.

Wesley encouraged Christians to “gain all you can,” meaning that it is good to make a lot of money. However, he added that in gaining all you can, Christians must be careful not to damage their own souls, minds, or bodies, or the souls, minds, or bodies of anyone else. He prohibited gaining money through industries that took advantage of others, exploiting them or endangering them.

Wesley outlined four guidelines for spending one’s income:

  1. Provide things needful for yourself and your family (1 Timothy 5:8)
  2. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8)
  3. Provide things honest in the sight of all men (Romans 12:17) & Owe no many anything (Romans 13:8)
  4. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)

I was challenged and encouraged by reading about Wesley’s attitudes and practices with money. I hope you are too.

Let’s not stop with only being inspired – but may we be moved to action! Is there a change that needs to be made in the way you view or handle money?

 

Debt Free!

A few years ago when we moved to the US, we got into debt. 

Related article: Should I Tithe if I’m in Debt?

Prior to that, when living in Hungary, we had never gone into debt, and had even been able to save enough money to put a down payment on a house, buy a car and a few other things when we moved to Colorado.

The reason we went into debt was because of the legal fees associated with getting our adopted son’s papers straight here in the US. It was a 2 year process, and we are grateful for the good work that our lawyers did, but it put us in the hole quite a bit – albeit a small price to pay to take care of something important for someone we love. 

Our debt was on several credit cards and loans and when we started adding it up, we were frustrated to see how much we were paying in interest, and how we had been robbing Peter to pay Paul but never making any true progress. Like many people, we though we were working the system and winning by accruing points from our cards or by using interest free loans or by saving 5% here or there by using this card or that. We weren’t winning at all.

In November of 2014, our church, White Fields, hosted Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. Another couple from our church led it, but my wife and I were some of the first to sign up. We had wanted to get out of debt for a while, but had lacked a solid game plan, so we hoped this would help.

It did. Just yesterday we made our final payment, and are debt free! 


The journey to dropping this debt meant a change of lifestyle in many ways. We started budgeting and sticking to our budget, even at the end of the month when it meant not doing things or buying things because we had already spent what we budgeted for that month. We sold our SUV and got a smaller car which saves us money on gas and maintenance. We got rid of cable and cut some of our monthly subscriptions. I worked doing snow removal in the winters and other odd jobs when I had the chance. We had several garage sales and Craigslisted many items. Tax returns went to paying off debt rather than going on trips.

The benefits have been more than just financial. The process has helped us to be more strategic about what we spend our money on, which ulimately reflects our values. 

The Dave Ramsey material was good because it gave us a plan as well as a framework for thinking about money and how it speaks to your values. Ultimately the goal is to begin to use the blessings that God has given you to be a blessing to others in the world (cf. Genesis 12:2).

If you’re looking to get a better handle on your finances and a game plan for the future, I recommend taking one of these classes. We’re excited now to move forward from here and continue using these same practices for new goals.

Charitable Giving Habits of Americans

Living abroad for many years, one of the things which I came to realize and be impressed with, is how much American citizens give to charitable causes.

I was living in Hungary when the monster earthquake hit Haiti, and Hungarians were blown away to hear that average people in the United States were giving generously to help provide aid and relief for people they had never met in some faraway country. They were used to governments giving aid to regions with humanitarian crises, but for regular people to do such a thing was surprising to them.

It could be because people in the United States have more expendable income than people in most parts of the world, and that our currency is strong and goes further than other currencies. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that there is a culture here in the United States of using what we have to do good for other people.

Perhaps it comes from our history: having been a nation of immigrants, whose ancestors moved here to seek a better life or to escape poverty, and so it is built into our collective psyche, to use what we have to help others, knowing that we have experienced divine providential fortune to live in this country.

It also can’t be ignored, that a great number of Americans identify as ‘religious’. Part of the Judeo-Christian ethic is that, like Abraham, if we have been blessed, it is so we might be a blessing to others – that God wants to bless other people through us (Genesis 12:2).

The Sacramento Bee published an article last month, showing the Adjusted Gross Income of every county in the US compared to how much was given in that county to charitable causes, non-profits and churches.

Interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, it was the poorer counties which gave more per capita than the richer ones. One of the major factors in how much people in a given county gave to charity seems to be religious affiliation; places with more people who attend religious services saw higher rates of charitable giving.

The idea that people who have less tend to give more may not be surprising to everyone. Jesus drew the attention of his disciples to a woman in the temple who gave her last 2 mites – all that she had, whereas other people who had more gave less of what they had. Preachers have long cited statistics which show the same thing: ironically, the more one accrues, the more miserly they tend to become with it.

How about Boulder County, Colorado, where yours truly is located? 2.6% of income was given to charity. That’s pretty low, and pretty ironic, because people in Boulder County, in my experience, talk a lot about being “locally minded and globally conscious” and caring about the well-being of other people, even if most of them are not Christian or attend religious services of any kind.

Neighboring Weld County was not much better at 2.7%, Larimer County came in at 3.2% (there are quite a few more church-going folks up there).

Here is the map with each county’s income versus charitable giving:

http://public.tableau.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js

Dashboard 1

 
Do you give charitably? The Bible recommends 10% of one’s income. The only places that came close to that number were the heavily Mormon populated counties of Utah.

Where do you direct your giving towards?

 

Busyness: The Enemy of the Soul

“How have you been?” “Busy!”
“Haven’t seen you much lately. What have you been up to?” “Oh, I’ve just been really busy.”
“We should really get together sometime.” “Yeah, I’d love to. Things are just really busy right now.”

We live in a culture that is chronically busy. Many of us, myself included, are busy doing a lot of really great things – but if we don’t watch out, our busyness with all these great things can destroy us.

What legacy will you have to show for all your running around?

Recently I’ve been listening to some audiobooks given to me by a friend. One of them is about how to get out of debt – a topic I’m very interested in. And what I see is that there is a parallel between how our culture handles money and time.

You see – because of technological developments of everything from cars to the internet, we now have more time on our hands, which frees us up to many more possibilities! We can go more places and do more things and connect with more people than ever before. In the same way – money and products are also readily available, perhaps like no other time before. Even if you have no money, there are a myriad of ways to finance purchases, which you can leverage to buy GOOD things, like houses and cars, you couldn’t have before. But, if you are always spending your money on every good thing that comes your way – after a while, you end up with very little to show for your years of hard work. The statistics on how much money passes through the average middle-class home in America are astounding.

Similarly, with busyness – if we stay busy doing a lot of really good things, we can easily find ourselves BUSY, but then looking back we have very little to show for it. Sure we might accomplish a few things along the way and spend time with some people – but what legacy will we have to show for all of our running around?

On a website I recently read about how the difference between chronically broke people and those who have financial security is found not in income, but in habits. One defining factor is that a much higher percentage of those who attain financial security set out concrete goals for themselves to work towards, whereas many chronically broke people never set out goals to work towards; they go through life living day to day.

The same principle can and should be applied to time-management. What are the goals that you would like to attain with your time? Who is the person you would like to be? What is the big-picture thing you hope to accomplish? What has God called you to do? If you are a spouse or a parent, that is a calling. If you are a Christian, by definition, you have a calling on your life – because to be a Christian is to be one who has been commissioned by Jesus Christ to join Him in His mission.

What do you want your legacy to be?  Do you want to raise a Christian family?  Do you want to have a closer walk with the Lord?  Do you want to be used by God for His purposes in the world? 

Once you have identified what you want to attain, what you are shooting for – then THAT will dictate how you spend your time, it will prioritize your options. Otherwise, you will be just like everyone else: running around like crazy, but with very little to show for it. In fact, being super busy with no purpose and direction – well that will quickly kill your creativity, and it will quickly kill relationships – with people and with God.

Guess what the first thing is that many God-fearing people cut out when they are feeling too busy:  Church. Time with spouse and kids. Bible study. Devotions.  “Oh, I’ll do those things when I am not so busy.”  But if you let your calling in life and the end goals that you hope to attain dictate your priorities, then seeking the Lord and being in fellowship with other believers is always a priority.

Certainly there are many things which might be dialed back in a busy schedule – but figuring out which ones you should dial back is the result of evaluating your goals and focusing yourself on attaining them.

Don’t wind up a victim of your own busyness! Figure out what it is that God has called you to do – and what it is that you hope to attain, and let those things dictate how you spend your time.