Matthew 6: ”19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
John Wesley is largely credited as one of the founders of the modern Methodist Movement. I was recently blown away by how well he lived out his own life’s teachings when I learned of the way that he managed his finances. It caused me to reflect much deeper on how I manage my own….
Wesley grew up in poverty as a youngster. He was one of nine siblings, all of them supported by his father, Saul, who served as a Anglican priest in England. A father who was once ushered off to prison for failing to pay back his creditors.
While he would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps by vocation, he felt God leading him to teach at Oxford University. Little did he know that eventually his financial situation would look nothing like his father’s. He was appointed as a fellow at Lincoln college (one of Oxford’s smaller schools). Financially, his life would never be the same. His new teaching position paid him a healthy 30 pounds per year, which afforded a comfortable life for a single man. Much of the money earned went towards playing cards, alcohol and tobacco. He was living high on the horse, but one a singular event would later turn his perspective on life and money upside down.
One day while he was busy decorating a room with pictures he had just purchased, a cleaning lady (chambermaid) knocked on his door. When he opened the door he found the woman wearing an exceptionally thin linen dress, which was likely all that she could afford. It was a cold winter day, and taking notice of that Wesley reached into his pocket to scrounge up some change to give to her so that she could buy a coat. He realized, however, that the remaining change in his pocket (after having purchased nice new pictures) was not enough to buy a coat. It bothered him that the Lord may have been displeased with how he had spent his money. He thought to himself………
“Will thy Master say, “Well done, good and faithful steward?” Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?“
That solitary event may have changed his life forever. He started to change his spending habits so that he could give more to the poor. He first recorded that he made 30 pounds that year and spent 28 pounds of it, which allowed him to donate 2 pounds to the less fortunate. The next year God blessed him by doubling his income to 60 pounds, yet he continued to live on only 28 pounds from the previous year. In subsequent years, he continued this same pattern, living to the same standard while giving away more of his increase. Here’s a summary of what it looked like as the years went on (in pounds):
|Income £||Expenses £||Charity £||Giving as a Percentage of Gross Income|
|Year 1||30||28||2||7 %|
|Year 2||60||28||32||53 %|
|Year 3||90||28||62||69 %|
|Year 4||120||28||92||77 %|
|Years later…..||1400||30||1370||98 %|
Wesley believed that with rising incomes, Christians’ standard of giving should increase — not their standard of living. You can see in the table above that Wesley eventually gave nearly 98% of his income away later in life. He was the ultimate example of what is often referred to as reverse tithing.
Wesley believed that Christians should consider themselves members of the poor. He lived and ate amongst them. Over the course of his ministry he opened two houses for widows. He rejoiced to eat at the same table and partake in the same meals that they ate. He looked forward to the day when all Christians would share together in the heavenly banquet.
His diet was modest, partly for health, but also because he believed “What I save from my own meat will feed another that else would have none.”
Wesley’s belief was that Christians should gain all that they can materially, so that they can give it to others in greater need:
“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 a 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!”
He also believed that the more that you buy the more you’ll want.
“Who would depend anything in gratifying these desires, if he considered that to gratify them is to increase them? Nothing can be more certain than this: Daily experience shows that the more they are indulged, they increase the more.”
Ain’t that the truth! I pray that we all consider the incredible life of John Wesley as an example of true kingdom-minded living. I have been pondering some practical ways to start on this road that seem impossible to accomplish in the flesh. I find comfort in knowing that Christ’s apostles found it equally difficult to do, even though they had left everything behind to follow Him (Luke 18:26-28).
My prayer – Lord if it’s your will, teach me how to be like Wesley. In a sincere way, that’s not a works based manifestation of the flesh, but in a candid spirit-led way that is not out of false compulsion to please you for rewards (here or in the hereafter) but out of my love for you and your children. Amen!