John Wesley (June 28, 1703 – March 2, 1791) was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian who, along with his brother Charles, is largely credited with founding the Methodist movement. He was also a man who taught – and lived – some financial principles which continue to challenge us today.
Wesley was — and is — known for these three principles:
- Gain all you can.
- Save all you can.
- Give all you can.
He practiced the “give all you can” principle with a passion, setting and maintaining the same standard of living throughout his entire life and giving away everything above that threshold. Even when Wesley earned many times more than that modest standard, he continued steadfastly living on that income and giving the rest away.
His philosophy, therefore, was, “What should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.”
What were these Bible verses that Wesley used for his money decisions?
1. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
Wesley insisted that believers should make sure the family has the necessities and conveniences of life, that is, “a sufficiency of plain, wholesome food to eat, and clean raiment to put on” as well as a place to live. The believer must also insure that the family has enough to live on if something were to happen to the breadwinner.
2. “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8
Wesley adds that the word translated raiment is literally coverings and thus includes lodging as well as clothes. “It plainly follows whatever is more than these is, in the sense of the apostle, riches – whatever is above the plain necessities, or at most, conveniences, of life. Whoever has sufficient food to eat, and raiment to put on, with a place to lay his head, and something over, is rich.”
3. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Romans 12:17
Wesley insists that the proper handling of money will demonstrate honor, even if others have behaved dishonorably.
4. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
Wesley, as many financial advisors today, challenged his followers to avoid debt. He adds that those who are in business for themselves need to have adequate tools, stock, or capital for the carrying on of the business.
5. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10
After the Christian has provided for the family, the creditors, and the business, the next obligation is to use any money that is left to meet the needs of others.
There you go. Five principles which can be summarized as:
- Take care of your family.
- Be content with what you have.
- Always deal honorably, even with those who are unscrupulous.
- Avoid debt.
- Look for opportunities to be a blessing to others.
As we would expect from timeless scripture, these principles are as relevant today as they were in Wesley’s day.
Readers: In what ways have these encouraging bible verses challenged you? What other scriptures on finance are important to you?