John Wesley’s Example in Managing Money


John Weley statue in Savannah, Georgia

John Wesley statue in Reynolds Square in Savannah, Georgia

“’[John Wesley] had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a Winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left. It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he had spent his money. He asked himself: “Will Thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold!”

“… Now, we need to be careful not to misconstrue this illustration. The point is not that every picture on the wall in our house or my house is evil… [and] not that we need to feel guilty whenever we purchase anything that is not an absolute necessity. The reality is that most everything in our lives in the American culture would be classified as a luxury, not a necessity. The computer I am writing this book on, the spoon and fork I will eat my dinner with… and the bed and pillow I will sleep on tonight (in addition to many other things in my life) are all luxuries.

“… Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?

“Now we’re getting radical.

“Or maybe we’re getting biblical. (2 Corinthians 8:14; 9:11)

“… [Wesley] identified a modest level of expenses that he was going to live on every year. The first year his income surpassed that level by a small amount, and he gave that excess away. The next year his income increased, but he kept his standard of living the same, so he had more to give away. This continued year after year. At one point Wesley was making the equivalent of about $160,000 a year in today’s terms, but he was living as if he were making $20,000 a year. As a result he had the equivalent of more than $140,000 to give away that year.”

Taken from pages 126 to 128 of David Platt’s Radical. Platt quotes from Charles Edward White’s article in Christian History, “Four Lessons on Money from One of the World’s Richest Preachers.”

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