Message #7

May 1, 2023
Rev. Randy Booth

When the Methodist movement was spreading rapidly in England and Ireland in the mid-1700’s, people’s lives were changed. The transformation was widespread. Many people had a real relationship with God and the assurance of going to heaven. Families were restored, and many people had wealth for the first time in their lives.

Methodism was no get-rich-quick scheme.

And it’s certainly not the ‘prosperity gospel’ that falsely tells people God’s blessing is primarily financial. That lie usually sounds like, ‘If God really loves you, your bank accounts will be bigger so you can give more.’ Or “Live your best life now.’ That’s not the gospel.

No. The newfound wealth among the Methodists was actually related to holiness. As the people were transformed by Christ’s love, they stopped wasting their money on gambling, drunkenness, lawlessness, divorce, and the like.

Holiness may not make each one of us rich, but it likely prevents us from throwing our money away on earthly foolishness.

So, John Wesley had a wonderful problem: Methodists had more money than they were used to. He needed a theology of money. Here’s a little of what he wrote.

“Do you now know that God entrusted you with [your] money first to buy necessities for your family and also to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless? How dare we defraud the Lord by applying our money to any other purpose.”

Wesley says God gives us money to take care of our families first… the necessities. Stewardship is a call to generosity, not to poverty.

Right behind that is giving to take care of people outside our families: charity.

Perhaps Wesley’s strongest word in this quote is defraud, that is, to deceive or fool God by using our money selfishly.

What foolish ways do we still spend?

Is it in alcohol or drugs? Is it following every trend in clothing, or cars, or phones, or remodeling? Is it seeking entertainment or gaming that fills our senses but not our souls?

Do you waste money on the lottery?

The lottery has been described as a ‘voluntary tax for those bad at math.’ It’s voluntary because nobody forces you to buy a lottery ticket, there’s no penalty if you don’t. It’s like a tax because losers’ money goes to the government.

It’s for people bad at math because the odds favor the lottery, not the player. You have better odds at picking your new neighbor’s birthday than winning the lottery. Go ahead. Try that. Send your neighbor a birthday card and see if you’re right. Those odds are 1:365. Odds of the Pick-3 are more than three times worse against you at 1:1,000. And the pick four thirty times worse than picking a birthday at 1:10,000.

The bottom line is that God gives us money to take care of our families and the necessities. But God doesn’t give us money to waste. There are hurting people out there; there are ministries right here that need our money.

When God comes first, our spending falls in line. We take care of our families. Without wasting, we are delighted that there’s now plenty of money to go around.

When we stop wasting money on un-godly things, we have plenty to take care of our families, each other, and the church.

Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return to you?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’

In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me…

Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.

Malachi 3:7b-10, RSV