I heard Jesus talk about money more than anything. I dug a little and I’m not sure I agree with that statement.
It is true that Jesus spoke of money in 11 of his 39 parables. But I think money was often a common resource that helped people understand a deeper spiritual principle about what Jesus was really focused on: the kingdom of God. With these words, Jesus makes fairly clear statements about money.
For example, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches ”(Matthew 6:24). Jesus ’primary concern was to teach us that the kingdom of heaven is approaching and that Jesus is making our way inside. He recognized that the gathering of earthly treasures could very easily distract attention from the pursuit of the kingdom of God.
Compare the two interactions that Jesus had with the rich young man and with Zacchaeus. The former did not want to leave his property, and Jesus mentioned how difficult it was for the rich to enter the kingdom. But Zacchaeus gave his possessions to the poor and returned above what he owed everyone, and Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19: 9).
John Wesley delivered a radical sermon called “The Use of Money.” In it he set out three principles for the use of wealth to build the kingdom of God. Get everything you can, Save everything you can, Give everything you can. But it’s not that simple. Every principle goes deep into the heart of holiness and discipleship.
When John tells us to get everything we can, then he is outlining an ethic for a healthy and responsible working life that respects the dignity of all humans and creatures. This is not “get everything you can at any cost,” no. Goals do not justify means. We must earn our money in ways that build the kingdom of God in ourselves, in others, and in the world.
The purpose of saving everything you can is to live a simple life. Most of us are tempted to keep up with the Jones, to live beyond our means, assuming that as our income increases, so should our way of life. Instead, John praises us for saving what we have gained and not spending it on luxury.
By getting everything we can, and then saving everything we can, then we have to give all we can. John relies on the biblical understanding of governance, that the wealth we have acquired is not truly ours, but belongs to the Lord. And that is why we must use the gifts God has given us to care for the poor. For Wesley, it was not about giving 10% tithe to the church. It was about giving everything you could, go above and beyond if you are able, to build the kingdom of God.
I find this a challenge. Not because I’m a stingy person, but John Wesley urges me to be diligent in the way I take care of my finances that I’m just not used to. He challenges us to think about each purchase and whether it brings glory to God. I simply admit that I was not so aware of my spending habits. Still, I am touched by the challenge of it and I certainly agree with the principles as Wesley puts them.
I think I want to say that it’s not an excuse for me to say that I’m just not so focused on money or the way I spend it. I have the privilege of not living from salary to salary. I have the privilege of being able to supply my emergency fund, my savings and my retirement plan. I admit that privilege has made me lazy in giving everything I can.
Most churches are currently in the middle of a management campaign or will begin soon. It is true that churches need income to survive. Giving to your church does the right service and it is important to contribute to your church community. I am grateful for the annual reminder that what I do with my wealth is important. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God in this world. I accept the challenge of deliberately thinking about what I do with my income.