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October 28, 2015, 9:39 AM

Earn, Save, Give (an adaptation of John Wesley's Sermon 50-The Use of Money

Luke 16:1-13, CEB
Jesus also said to the disciples, “A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate. He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’
“The household manager said to himself, What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and too proud to beg.I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.
“One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’[a] The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’[b] He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
10 “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. 11  If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12  If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? 13  No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
“Earn, Save, Give”
Our message today is an adaptation of John Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money.” I have tried to make the language more 21st century friendly and to shorten the message a bit, as Wesley came from a time where sermons were much longer.
Jesus is in the midst of parable-telling. He just finished the beautiful parable commonly called “The Prodigal Son,” which he told to those who were murmuring about his welcome of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus then turns to his disciples, perhaps with those murmurers listening in, and tells this strange parable of a dishonest steward being commended for his shrewd dealings. The steward is commended in the story because he has made friends for himself using the worldly wealth. Jesus declares that people of the world are more clever, are wiser, in their dealings than the followers of Jesus, the children of the light. People of the world are wiser in the use of money than those who follow Jesus.
We have to admit this is true. People who do not follow Jesus but subscribe to the world’s priorities and values know how to use money to the best advantage for themselves. They make money their tool for what it is they want. Disciples of Christ have an uncomfortable relationship with money. How many times have we heard the saying “the love of money is the root of all evil?” How many of us feel that our faith calls us to reject money as ‘bad’ and yet we struggle with it for we need it to survive in this world? Yet, here we have a story from Jesus where shrewd use of money is commended. What do we do with this story?
Of course money can be used for corrupt purposes. It can cause greed and avarice, disparity and inequality. But it depends on how it is used. Money can also be used for good. In the hands of Jesus’ followers, money is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, a place to rest for the stranger. In this story, Jesus is calling us to “use worldly wealth to make friends.” Jesus is calling us to use money as a tool for God’s kingdom building. And by making those kingdom-building connections, we will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
John Wesley boils down the right use of money into three simple rules.
Rule #1-Gain all you can! Here, he says, we may speak like the children of the world. Earn all you can. However, we should earn all we can without jeopardizing our life, our health. We should make sure we take time for nourishment, for rest, for self-care. We should earn all we can, but not at jobs in unhealthy working conditions that hurt our bodies. No amount of money is worth our health and our strength. We should earn all we can but not in jobs that hurt our minds—pulling us into places of darkness and temptation. To gain money we must not lose our souls. And what is a healthy workplace for one person might not be for another. Use wisdom to determine where you may earn and still flourish in health and life. And finally, we should earn all we can but not at the expense of our neighbors, all our neighbors around the world. Wesley would love fair trade! We should do nothing that hurts a neighbor’s home or property, their work or business. We should do nothing that hurts our neighbor; body, mind, or soul. We must gain all we can by honest work; hard work; our best work. Always seeking improvement and learning. Always seeking to put our whole self in the work. As John says, “that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.”
Rule #2—Save all you can! Here John gets a bit blunt and direct. Here is where he brings the gospel to step on our toes, so to speak. He does so because Jesus is a bit blunt and direct when it comes to how we spend our money and our resources. Saving all you can means no “idle expenses.” Jesus and John challenge us to truly look at our spending, and therefore our saving; what the Apostle Paul calls the ‘desires of the flesh.’ How much do we spend on extravagant food, clothing, decorations, on things that others will admire and praise? How much, John asks, do we spend on our vanity? What example do we set for our children? What do they learn from us about the use of money? As we consider our spending and our saving, we lift up rule three, for this conversation continues into the third rule.
Rule #3—Give all you can! As disciples of Jesus Christ we cannot stop our use of money with earning and saving. Money must be put to use and that use is in creating the commonwealth. It is found in giving. When the Creator of heaven and earth brought us into being and placed us in this world, it was not to be as proprietors but as stewards, as caretakers. All that God created is God’s, including us. We are God’s, we belong to God. This church is God’s church. All that we enjoy in this world is God’s. God has made it clear how we are to employ what has been entrusted into our care, it is to be lifted up as a holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ. Therefore, all the money entrusted into our care through our earning is in fact for us to give, but to give in four ways.
  1. The money is given to provide the necessary things for ourselves, for our health and strength; food, clothing, shelter, etc.
  2. The money is given to provide the necessary things for our family and their health and strength.
  3. The money is given to provide for our family in faith; our church family.
  4. The money is given to provide for our family on this planet—all of humanity, all of creation.
If we live with and use our money in this manner than it is all given to God, to the glory of God.
We are called to examine the use of our money. When we are considering a purchase, an outgoing of the money earned, we examine our motives. Am I acting in this moment as a steward of God’s goods? Am I keeping true to what scripture calls me to do and be? Can I offer up this action, this expense, as a holy sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ? Is this act part of living God’s kingdom now? And as we send forth funds, can we pray over them, dedicating them to God, for God, and for all God’s wondrous creation? Gee, that would change bill paying and shopping, wouldn’t it? John says, “Render unto God not a tenth, not a third, not a half, but all that is God’s by employing all to God’s glory as a good and faithful steward.
If we earn all we can through hard work and dedication, if we save all we can by examining our desires against the desires of God, and if we give all we can for the health and strength of ourselves, our families, our faith community, and God’s world, we use the money entrusted to our care to further God’s realm in this world.
Hear John’s closing words to his sermon:
Our kingdom, our wisdom is not of this world: Worldly custom is nothing to us. We follow no one any farther than they are followers of Christ. Hear Jesus! Yes, today while it is called today, hear and follow Jesus’ voice! At this hour, and from this hour, do Jesus’ will: Fulfill his word, in this and in all things! I entreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling! No more laziness! What your hand finds to do, do it with all of who you are! No more waste! Cut off every expense which the world demands! No more covetousness! But employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree to the household of faith, to all humanity! So, ‘laying up in store for yourself a good foundation against the time to come, that you may attain eternal life!” Amen!

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