Earn, Save, Give; Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money by James A. Harnish
This little book is a compact exposition of the philosophy for the personal handling of finances by a Christian that was taught by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It is a short read consists of only four chapters. The first chapter calls for wisdom. “The goal is to enable disciples of Jesus Christ to discover wisdom that will guide them in using their money, so they may continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ” (p. 14). As often happens when reading a book, one finds a gem on a topic related to the author’s primary one. In this first chapter there is a wonderful discussion of wisdom and the book of Proverbs covering about six pages (pp 20-26). The key point of the chapter is to remind us that wisdom is better than wealth and is the basis for good handing of finances. “Those early sages were convinced that some of the most important choices we make are not between good or evil but between what is wise and what is foolish. The words wise and wisdom appear 111 times in the Proverbs; the words fool and foolish appear 77 times (NRSV) (p. 32).
The wisdom from Proverbs is then used to introduce the three admonitions from John Wesley that grow out of biblical teaching. Each one is treated in a separate chapter.
Earn all you can is expanded in chapter 2. I love the wisdom limits that were put upon the pursuit of gain such as, “Earn all you can, but not at the expense of your health.” And “Earn all you can, but not at the expense of your soul.” And “Earn all you can, but not at the expense of your neighbor” (pp. 63-68).
Chapter 3 discusses Wesley’s aphorism “Save all you can.” This chapter expands the concept of biblical stewardship. “There is no such thing as ‘self-made’ success. We are stewards of things that have been placed in our hands by an extravagantly generous God who trusts us to use things that ultimately belong to God in ways that satisfy God’s good intentions, not just our own” (p. 83).
Chapter 4 explains the last of Wesley’s three principles, “Give all you can.” Of course, whenever the church talks about money, some people are suspicious of the motive. But the author explains, “Wesley’s rules are not about raising money for the church; they are about becoming more like Jesus. His intention was to guide the early Methodists in the spiritual discipline of generosity so they would become a giving people whose lives were shaped in the likeness of an extravagantly generous God. The ‘farther end’ toward which Wesley sought to move us is a life that fulfills God’s best purpose for the use of our resources and equips us to participate in God’s loving, saving, healing work in this world” (p. 114). Toward the end of the chapter there is a very helpful list of four distinctions between charity and stewardship (pp 116, 117).
This is a helpful little volume to explain the Christian discipline of stewardship. I highly recommend it for all Christians as they grow in this vital area of their discipleship.