John Wesley, one of the great revival preachers of the eighteenth century, is known popularly for a number of things. This is the man who had his “heart strangely warmed” and became the preacher who would declare not that the parish was his world, but “the world is my parish,” a sentence he fulfilled by traveling some 250,000 miles mostly on horseback, preaching 40,000 sermons and seeing countless thousands come to real faith in Christ.

In each aspect of his devotional life, his preaching, and his organization of converts, he had a method—and his emphasis on having spiritual methodology won him and his followers the nickname Methodists. By the time of his death at 88 in 1791, he left behind him an organization of pastoral care divided by area and size that would eventually become known as the Methodist Church.

A lesser known aspect of Wesley’s Christian discipleship was his philosophy on financial stewardship. His sermon on Luke 16:9 (“I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” KJV) was simply titled “The Use of Money.” In it he summarized his Christian attitude toward money by three memorable phrases: Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.

Wesley had no trouble encouraging his people to make as much money as they could through “honest industry.” As a hard worker and an early riser (4 or 5 each morning for devotion), it was natural for him to call on believers to “never leave off anything till tomorrow which you can do today—do not sleep or yawn over it—spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves.”

Having gained all you can, he then emphasized the need to save all you can by not wasting money on needless luxuries. Wesley ate and dressed plainly, seeing money not as a talent that was to be hidden away for a rainy day, but as one that must be used wisely and profitably and given away. In Wesley’s worldview, it was always a rainy day for someone! Money was to be used; not using it was like throwing it away. After providing for family, the “overplus left” was to be for God’s cause, social or spiritual.

And this wasn’t just a sermon. The message was autobiographical. John Wesley preached what he himself practiced, motivated by the good that money well used could accomplish.

He envisioned money turned into “food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked … a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain.”

Throughout his life, Wesley gained and saved much, but his altruistic spirituality delivered him from accumulating these resources for personal gain and increasing personal wealth. For him, all spending was for the greater good of God’s kingdom.

The church has nothing to do but to save souls:
Therefore, spend and be spent in this work.

*****

Bibliography
Forty-Four Sermons, John Wesley, Epworth Press, 1944, Sermon XLIV