The Use of Money

[Note: This is my summary of John Wesley’s 1760 sermon, The Use of Money. I have preached two versions of this sermon on two separate occasions and received wonderful feedback. Because people have said this has been helpful, here then is my third version of this, intended for reading instead of hearing.]

 

A dishonest businessman was caught in his corruption. Knowing he would soon lose his job, the businessman quickly calls in his clients and fixes the books in their favor, so that they will owe him after he loses his job. The same corrupt behavior that got him into this mess gets him out, as he swindles his way into a comfortable retirement. When the business owner finds out of this treachery, he congratulates the businessman on his wise maneuvering, and merrily sends him on his way. This, Jesus tells us, is what this world teaches about money.[1]

 

Christians have gotten away from teaching how to use money properly, for God’s Kingdom. I asked at Bible study last week, “What have you heard preachers say about money?” and the overwhelming answer was, “Give your money to me.” I have no problem believing that; I’ve preached similar sermons myself. But there is so much more to our financial decisions than that, isn’t there? We move our money around every day. We fret over money. We lose sleep and argue with our spouses over money. We fear its loss. So when the church ignores money (beyond, “Give your money to me,”) we are ignoring a large part of the life of every man, woman and even child. When we refuse to teach on money, whether out of fear or ignorance, we are surrendering that lesson to the world.

 

When I brought this up at Bible study one of my members asked me, “But doesn’t the Bible say that money is the root of all evil?” No. The Bible actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”[2] I can take out a five-dollar bill, sit it on the table and leave it alone until the cows come home, and that money will not do a bit of evil. It won’t do a bit of good either. What we do with the money, how we use it; therein lies the evil or good.

 

But even taking that five dollars and putting it in the collection plate at church, I haven’t necessarily used it well. What if as a church we decide to take these offerings and buy the preacher a new jet airplane? Is God’s Kingdom built up or torn down by that use of money?

 

As a Church and as individual Christians, we need a better understanding of the use of money. We need to teach it in our churches and in our homes, not only with our words but with our actions. Our children will learn from us that way.

 

The world is already working hard to teach kids about the use of money. Shouldn’t we work harder? In the hands of this world money is a restless evil. But in the hands of God’s children, money is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, and medicine for the sick… if we use it as such. Money is a tool to be used. So, Wesley gives us three rules for money. The first is this: earn all you can.

 

Christians should always be the best workers in any business. Scripture tells us to labor as though working for the Lord no matter our job. Likewise scripture warns followers of Jesus to never be caught in idleness, to not frivolously waste our time. We should be the best workers any boss can ever hire. No matter if we love our job or hate it, no matter if we have the best or worst coworkers in the world, the best or worst boss in the world, the way we work ought to testify to the love of Jesus Christ present and real in our lives.

 

So, work so as to earn all you can, as long as that work is good. If you can make $100 honestly and $1,000,000 dishonestly, then $100 is the most you should earn. If you can earn $100 by loving your neighbors, or $1,000,000 by harming your neighbors, then $100 is the most you should earn. If you can earn $100 by taking care of God’s Creation, or $1,000,000 by destroying God’s Creation, then $100 is the most you should earn. Earn all you can without doing any harm.

 

The second rule is this: save all you can. This is the one that actually confuses most modern Christians. We hear, “Save all you can,” and our minds go to retirement and savings accounts. And while there is need for that kind of saving, keep in mind that we are to be using our money for Christ’s Kingdom. If we are saving all we can by burying money in the backyard, then when we die we’ll be buried right alongside it, and that’s the end.

 

No, save all you can means don’t waste your money. Do not use your money to stoke your own ego or show off, and do not use your money on materiality that will contribute to your own destruction. If you have a true need, use your money to provide for that need, but do not be excessive.

 

I firmly believe Christians should buy used cars. Christians should have fewer shoes than the average person. Christians should pray over their bills and find ways to cut costs, whether it’s turning off the cable TV or being comfortable with the thermostat at a different setting.

 

We need to teach our children to do the same. The world outside our homes and church doors constantly tells our children that their worth is in name brands and trends and looking simply fabulous. Don’t use your money to support that message. Tell your kids how much they are worth with more than just your material possessions; teach them what matters and lasts in this world and in eternity is not clothes or cars or gadgets or name brands or fads.

 

Wesley’s third rule for use of money is: give all you can. We are not created for ownership, but for stewardship. God has placed all things into our hands, and there will be a day we stand before God’s judgment throne to account for all we have done in this world. This includes our money. We are not here to build up our own bank accounts and personal value, but to build up God’s kingdom. God’s Kingdom is not built up by hoarding, but by sharing, by giving, by generosity and hospitality.

 

This does not mean that we are to give so much away that we impoverish ourselves. If God has given you the money to put food on your table and shoes on your feet, do that; do not depend on others to feed you when you are capable of feeding yourself. But when there is a surplus, when you can afford to put food on your table and on someone else’s table, do that. In such a practice, you are giving to God.

 

I often hear Christians say they don’t give money because people abuse the system. Yes, there is some truth to that, but it does not excuse us from giving. We are to give carefully, as wise stewards, covering our financial and giving decisions in prayer, seeking the best way to give, and then giving. Making excuses to avoid giving is making excuses for denying Christ in the lives of others.

 

Brothers and sisters, we cannot succumb to the teachings of this world, nor can we ignore them. Both are equally dangerous. If we do not embrace right and righteous use of money, and if we do not teach our children to do the same, then we are participating in this world’s kingdom, not Christ’s, this world’s economy, not Christ’s. But when we dedicate ourselves to right and righteous use of money for Christ’s kingdom- when we earn all we can, save all we can, and give all we can- then we are laying up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust will not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.

 

If we want to be better Christians, if we want to live better lives, if we want to be revived in our hearts and souls, then we must do something. It is not enough just to attend church; nothing will change in your life unless you decide to change it. Money is a daily reality. If you dedicate the use of your money to the glory of God, then every day you are able to be a part of God’s Kingdom work.

[1] Luke 16:1-10

[2] 1 Timothy 6:10a (emphasis mine)

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