A Stewardship Message by Robbin Clarke
Sunday, March 15, 2009

This week we begin the 2009 stewardship campaign, and we also are mindful of being in the time of the church calendar called Lent. Therefore, it is quite natural that we turn our attentions to one of the Fathers of Methodism, John Wesley, to glean his thoughts on the matters of money and the church. During his lifetime, he preached and wrote extensively on Bible topics that dealt with money and materialism (Psalm 62:10; I Timothy 6:9; Matthew 6:19-23 Sermon on the Mount, Luke 16:9) It is the latter scripture, however, that he highlighted, when in 1872, he wrote his famous sermon (often referred to as “Sermon 50” entitled: The Use of Money.” During his lifetime, Wesley was not shy about his Biblically based views on matters economic, and what he has to say, especially in these Recession-omic times, is particularly relevant. He offered considerable advice to people on just how they should use their acquired means, and boldly spoke about the eternal consequences of materialism.

As a United Methodist, you’ve probably heard of Wesley’s Quadrilateral. Briefly, it is his proposal of how we, as Christians, can decide if something is right or wrong. It’s rather simple, and that simplicity is exactly the beauty of it! The four points (“quad”) to consider before making a Christian decision are based on The Bible, Tradition, reason, and experience. Wesley Quadrilateral suggests we ask ourselves: 1.) What does the Bible say about the matter at hand? 2.) What has the church through two thousand years had to say? 3.) Does this make reasonable sense? 4.) Is it proven to work out in human experience? Try this the next time you have a weighty matter to decide upon, it works rather nicely…

However, this morning’s conversation has to do with yet another weighty, or shall we say in this day in the USA, anemic matter. Today we’ll talk about Wesley’s Trilateral: his three points to consider when making a specific decision about “The Use of Money.” Again, John being the organized, Methodological Methodist that he was, he focuses on three points, based on the passage from Luke 16:8-13.

Specifically: 1.) GAIN all you can. 2.) SAVE all you can. 3.) GIVE all you can.

GAIN all you can: “The love of money, we know, is the root of evil; but not the thing itself. The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use (abuse) it…” Wesley suggests that money can be used for good or evil and as Christians, we should Biblically consider our every decision on how we will gain it, as well as spend it.

We ought to gain all we can, but without paying more for something than it is truly worth. Wesley invites us to be THRIFTY.

He also points out that we should not endanger our health, or the health and well being of others to gain all we can. This means we have a responsibility to work hard, but to eat right, get our eight hours sleep, spend time with our precious families, and the biggie: Wesley wants us to be mindful of the killer stress in our work to gain all we can.

Wesley urged that we should not gain money through any occupation which “lying, cheating, stealing, or avoiding taxes was the norm.” We all know someone in the news of late that swindled a lot of persons out of their entire savings.

He points out that we have a duty to not expose ourselves to danger or harm at the work we do to gain all we can. Back in his day, folks worked the factories of industry and “…were exposed to dealing much with arsenic, or other equally hurtful minerals, or the breathing of air tainted with steams of melting lead, which must, at length, destroy the firmest of constitutions, or perform jobs writing, especially if a person is sitting for hours in an uneasy posture…” Kinda makes you feel a lot better about asking your boss for that Ergonomic chair for your computer workstation! “Life is more valuable than meat, and the body than raiment.”

2.) SAVE all you can: “Having GAINED all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is to SAVE all you can.”

Wesley again invites us to be THRIFTY and FRUGAL, by using every bit of everything we have GAINED. He would have been proud of RECYCLING, and certainly would be, if alive today, in the crowd of marchers on April 21st of each year on Earth Day. Throwing something away that still has use to it is akin to ‘making yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” [Luke 16:9]. It also means that we should, perhaps, use the four steps of the Quadrilateral whenever making decisions of the use of what we own. If the radio is still working, just a bit beat up and ugly from too many trips to the beach, and we DO decide to purchase another: RECYCLE the old one: Donate to the thrift store, or give it to someone who could use it. Saving finds a wealth of righteousness in sharing.

Wesley urged Christians should be wary of extravagant spending on taste: expensive food which he felt was an “epicurism” which led to gluttony in other area of life as well. He urged people to eat only “simple foods,” and I’m sure he would be proud to partake of our “Comfort Food” Pot luck luncheon in Weyand Hall, today.

3.) GIVE all you can:

Wesley stated: “Having first GAINED all you can, and then SAVED all you can, then it is time to GIVE all you can. The Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, NOT as a proprietor, but a steward. As such He entrusted you, for a season, with goods [also talents and abilities] of various kinds; but the sole property of these still rests in Him. Such is your soul and body not your own, but God’s.
Thus, we’ve heard the saying:
“All that you have is a gift from God.
All that you give is your gift, to God.”

GIVING is the motivation on Wesley’s entire view on money, and the basis on which the Wesleyan Trilateral stands. The question remains, even today: To whom and how much? Wesley again proposes FOUR levels of giving: “ 1.) First, give to yourself all you need for the basics. 2.) Then give to your family and your employees their fair share, or you are worse than an infidel. 3.) Third, give to the ‘household of faith’, the organized work of the Lord in churches. 4.) Finally, give to all those in need and the poor, even if they are not believers.”

Today we begin the first Sunday of our Stewardship Campaign. We ask you to prayerfully consider one hundred percent participation in this Christian event. Every person in our congregation is important, as is every part of the body of Christ. As part of the family, each person makes a commitment to support the family to the best of one’s ability. By making a pledge of whatever amount you can, you are making a powerful statement to your brothers and sisters in Christ, to God, and most importantly, to yourself, about the value of Asbury Church in your life.

Give generously, but only according to your ability and resources.
Celebrate the fact that you CAN give, that you have been blessed by God
with riches you are ABLE to share with others less fortunate.
Although we are currently in the Lenten Season of the church year, be mindful that
the act of giving is not a penance, it is not a sacrifice. It is a JOYFUL PRIVILEGE!

When you make a pledge, be it five dollars a week, or five hundred dollars a week, you are saying:
“I belong here. I am part of this, my family, at Asbury Church…”

And, considering the words of Wesley: GAIN, SAVE, and GIVE all you can:

“For this is, in no small part, the Wisdom of the Just. Give all ye have, as well as all ye are, a spiritual sacrifice to Him, who withheld not from you, His Son, His only Son: So laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may attain eternal life.”