John Wesley, the 18th-century British evangelist, author, and theologian, was known to live a very frugal lifestyle during economically uncertain times.
From humble beginnings, Wesley became so well known that he earned 1400 pounds a year. Today this would be the equivalent of about $300,000. So what did Wesley do with his wealth?
He chose to live on just 30 pounds per year and gave the rest away. In other words, he lived on 2% of his income and donated 98% of his earnings to charitable causes.
Wesley’s biographer, Stephen Tomkins, writes that he traveled over 250,000 miles on horseback, preached over 40,000 sermons and gave away in excess of 30,000 pounds during his lifetime.
Our word of the week is generosity.
In an age of conspicuous consumption, unbridled spending and credit card debt, Wesley’s lifestyle and generous spirit seem foreign to us. However, generosity has more to do with attitude, motivation, and intention than the amount given.
The Bible has a good deal to say about generosity.
Paul admonished the rich “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).
The wise man reminds us that “A generous man will himself be blessed,
for he shares his food with the poor” (Prov. 22:9)
The Psalmist affirmed that “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice” (Ps 112:5).
It is the general ruling principle that “A generous man will prosper; (and) he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25).
Generosity is not limited to giving huge amounts of money. It may be giving one’s time. Talent. Effort. And energy. It is symbolized in the spirit of giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name (Mk. 9:41). And exemplified by the unselfishness of the widow donating her two coins, all that she had, to the Treasury (Lk 21:1-3).
Jesus is our perfect example of generosity. His giving went beyond mere dollars and cents. Jesus was generous with His time. His ministry. And the personal sacrifice of His own convenience. Luke records that “he went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). In his parting words to the Ephesian elders, Paul reminded them (and us) of Jesus’ generosity. “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35).
Furthermore, be advised that monetary success is not a sin. But is an opportunity to not only adequately provide for one’s family, support the Lord’s work, but as we have the opportunity to “do good to all men” (Gal. 6:10).
John Wesley once shared his philosophy about money in a sermon on Luke 16:9. He said that money is a tool that can be used for great good or great ill. “It is an excellent gift of God” he claimed, “answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his 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.”
Wesley’s three simple rules regarding money can still guide us today. (1) Gain all you can. (2) Save all you can. (3) Give all you can.
Be generous with God’s blessings. But don’t look for worldly accolades. Remember, as William Welsh expressed it, “A generous action is its own reward.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman