MORE TO CHEW ON
John Wesley’s Trilateral is specifically about money, and it is confronting.
John Wesley understood that Christian people who have money are responsible before God for how they use it.
I read on Thursday that in his lifetime John Wesley “earned” the equivalent of about $30M. He died with almost no money. He gave it away or used it in his ministry.
Admittedly he had no children and he lived a life very much focused on his ministry. But we can still hear his message.
Money is not evil. Even the love of money is not evil. They say ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’ because money is power and power tends to corrupt.
But imagine a person who has loads of money who remains determined to be generous. They can do so much good. Other people can do loads of good in other ways, but people with money are in a position to be a financial blessing.
Earn all you can … save all you can (be efficient with money) … so you can give all you can. Anyone can adopt that purpose, whatever their financial position.
I don’t believe in telling people how much money they should give, nor where they should give it. People will give money to people and places in which they believe. If they believe in their church, they will be generous to that church. If they don’t believe in their church, why would they?
Generosity is a window into a Christian heart filled with gratitude to God. Those who have received generously should give generously.
Well, here goes my record. Until now I have been able to say I’ve never actually addressed the topic of giving money in this church. Today I am going to do exactly that, though not exclusively about giving money to the church.
Two weeks ago I warned that I would be using John Wesley’s trilateral, and I will be. I’ve pushed it off on to the extra sheet as something to think about.
What is a Christian attitude towards money? Is money evil? Is money to be avoided? Jesus said it is harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Is a “rich Christian” impossible?
I think not. I don’t think money is evil, and I do think that a rich Christian is possible. But a rich Christian who is not generous is deluded.
In the parable of the talents (talents being money), the only bad guy in the story is the one who doesn’t make money. He is given money, and he is lazy with it.
You can apply that to gifts and abilities, but the story is first of all about money. And if you have been blessed with money or the skills necessary to earn money, then you are expected to do so (without causing injustice on others, as much as it is in your power).
But in the parable, what is done with the money? It is returned to the master. And the master represents God.
Here is the meaning. God has entrusted you with many things; many useful things which you are expected to work with. But whatever gain you make, it is not ultimately your own, it belongs to the master; it belongs to God.
This may be true of every person on planet Earth, but I only say it to followers of Jesus Christ. We claim to be following Jesus by choice, and I hope we are happy doing so.
I’ve known unhappy followers of Jesus, and they are sad creatures. Very often they are sad because of this very point. You are not ultimately your own; you belong to God. Your money and your possessions are not ultimately yours; they belong to God.
Every one of us has to work this out. Every Christian married couple has to work this out. Every child growing up as a person of faith has to work this out, and it is not easy.
Since we exist in a highly materialistic society, and standard of living is the god of the masses, it is hard to get this in perspective.
Your neighbour may afford a boat and a holiday that you can’t afford because you give money away and they don’t. They appear to benefit. You may even be a generous giver in church and you see others in church with the same material benefits as that neighbour, and perhaps you wonder why you do it.
The Kingdom of God is bigger than the church, but the church is very much a part of it. We bear the message of God’s salvation through Jesus. However flawed we may be, we bear the ministry and mission of the Holy Spirit and God hasn’t given up on us as his instrument.
Here is the truth as best I know it. The Kingdom of God is more valuable than the boat; more valuable than the holiday home; more valuable than the holiday; more valuable than the fishing trip.
The Kingdom of God is more valuable than anything else going on in this world. And here is the thing – we get to be involved with God in this immeasurably valuable thing. Most people are missing the chance, and I pray they may yet get the chance. But you and I are getting this chance, and I would hate for you to miss that.
There have been times when I have experienced this – I have somehow earned an unusually large amount of money, or back in my programming days received a Christmas bonus – and I have had the pleasure of giving a percentage of that to the church, knowing that they were not expecting it.
I have experienced the pleasure, and it runs very deep, of knowing that money doesn’t possess me, but that when I come into possession of it, I get to give some away.
Being generous is part of being a follower of Jesus Christ, with the Spirit of God connected with your spirit. Maybe you find giving money easy, or maybe you find it difficult. If you find it difficult, I hope you discover the way out.
Generosity is such a joyful thing, and it is contagious. I hope we all catch it.
Of course the reason I haven’t needed to speak about money these last 6 years is because there are generous people here. It is something some ministers in other places wish they had in their churches.
But let’s not grow careless, it is the Kingdom of God we are investing in, and there is always more to be done. The job is not going to be finished today or tomorrow, and many challenges lie ahead.
Make sure you are investing in the Kingdom of God. What you have is a trust from God. Invest it generously.