The following is excerpted from “The Use of Money,” a 1744 sermon by clergyman and founder of Methodism John Wesley.
“The love of money,” we know, “is the root of all evil”—but not the thing itself. The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it. It may be used ill: and what may not? But it may likewise be used well. . . .
In the hands of His children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller 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. . . .
All the instructions which are necessary for this may be reduced to three plain rules. . . .
I. Gain All You Can
Gain all you can, by common sense, by using in your business all the understanding which God has given you. It is amazing to observe how few do this; how men run on in the same dull track with their forefathers. . . . It is a shame for a Christian not to improve upon them, in whatever he takes in hand. You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading, and reflection, to do everything you have to do better to-day than you did yesterday. And see that you practice whatever you learn, that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.
II. Save All You Can
Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is, “Save all you can.” Do not throw the precious talent into the sea. . . . Do not throw it away in idle expenses, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea. Expend no part of it merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. . . . Daily experience shows, the more they are indulged, they increase the more. . . .
And why should you throw away money upon your children, any more than upon yourself, in delicate food, in gay or costly apparel, in superfluities of any kind? Why should you purchase for them more pride or lust, more vanity, or foolish and hurtful desires? They do not want any more; they have enough already; nature has made ample provision for them: Why should you be at farther expense to increase their temptations and snares, and to pierce them through with more sorrows?
Do not leave it to them to throw away. . . . Do not set these traps in their way. . . . Have pity upon them, and remove out of their way what you may easily foresee would increase their sins, and consequently plunge them deeper into everlasting perdition! How amazing then is the infatuation of those parents who think they can never leave their children enough! What! Cannot you leave them enough of arrows, firebrands, and death? Not enough of foolish and hurtful desires? Not enough of pride, lust, ambition vanity. . . .Give each what would keep him above want, and bestow all the rest…for the glory of God. . . .
III. Give All You Can
The directions which God has given us, touching the use of our worldly substance, may be comprised in the following particulars. If you desire to be a faithful and a wise steward, out of that portion of your Lord’s goods which he has for the present lodged in your hands, but with the right of resuming whenever it pleases him, first provide things needful for yourself—food to eat, raiment to put on, whatever nature moderately requires for preserving the body in health and strength.
Secondly, provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who pertain to your household. If when this is done there be an overplus left, then “do good to them that are of the household of faith.” If there be an overplus still, “as you have opportunity, do good unto all men.” . . .
If, then, a doubt should at any time arise in your mind concerning what you are going to expend, either on yourself or any part of your family, you have an easy way to remove it. Calmly and seriously inquire, “In expending this, am I acting according to my character? Am I acting herein, not as a proprietor, but as a steward of my Lord’s goods?”
. . . Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbour, in soul or body, by applying hereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you.
Save all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; to gratify either the desire of flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children.
And then give all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God. Do not stint yourself. . . . Render unto God not a tenth, not a third, not half; but all that is God’s, be it more or less.