Earn All You Can… Honestly
Beloved God, I pray that you would inspire these words that they might inspire your people gathered here. Where these thoughts are only mine and do not align with your wisdom, I pray that no harm would be done. Amen.
Over the next three weeks the sermon time will be a little different. Instead of a regular sermon, I will set up our theme and then have a chance to watch it play out through a kind of fishbowl format. The people in these skits will be playing characters and I will try to address each situation individually.
Our overarching topic is money. We're going to utilize John Wesley's sermon "The Use of Money" as well as biblical examples as our guides. One of the most important points I want to raise up from the biblical examples is that Jesus met each person where they were. He didn't put out blanket statements for all people to follow when it came to money. He know that each individual life comes with its own set of problems, complications, and blessings. So we will try to honor that and do the same.
I encourage everyone to read John Wesley's sermon. We have put it online for easy access and linked it to our weekly email news. We also have some hard copies available in the back of the sanctuary.
The three parts of Wesley's sermon and the simple line that sums it up is this: earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
We'll take one part each week. Today we talk about earning.
The scripture passages we read today give us a glimpse into the biblical world. It doesn't look terribly different from the one we live in today. Paul writes to a congregation that's dealing with some inequity. He tells people that “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
When you hear that line are you thinking about poor people who "live off the system" or rich people who live idle lives of luxury?
It is a bit ambivalent in the text, but it is actually more likely that Paul is talking to the wealthy. For our purposes today, we're going to assume that he is talking to both groups and others who think that work is something that other people should do. (One caveat to this passage… it is definitely not saying that we should stop feeding the poor. It has nothing whatsoever to do with that. Paul is talking to Christians about Christians and about how we are expected to work hard for the kingdom of God. Remember, he ends that section with: "Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”)
We also heard about Zacchaeus. The tax collector who humbled himself enough to truly be taught by Jesus. No matter where we are on the socio-economic spectrum, this humility is truly the most needed thing.
So what does John Wesley have to say about earning all we can?
If I were to sum it up, it would be something like this: work hard, find the thing that you can do, do it well and with honesty and integrity. Don't take a job that makes you sacrifice your morals. Nothing that hurts other people or forces you to lie, cheat, or abuse anyone. Work hard but not so hard that your body breaks. Make sure that you can rest - remember that we need Sabbath rest - and that the labor doesn't literally kill you. The same goes with your mind. Make sure that you have time to rejuvenate. Make sure that you have time for your family and community, because that's part of our life's work.
As we go through these lessons together, I am keenly aware that different people will take these words in different ways. Folks with a tendency to work hard, unfortunately often hear the message that they need to work harder. This is not so. Do not break yourselves. ...I'm a perpetual reoffender in this category and I'm so grateful for people who love me who tell me to get some rest.
Others who tend not to work or to work little, too often hear the call for rest and hold on tight to it. Wait, back up. Nope, you need to hear the other thing. The work hard thing. The earn all you can thing.
It is sometimes difficult to determine which kind of person we are. That's where the humility comes in. And it's where we need to rely on others who we live and trust to guide us toward our truth. This is another reason why Jesus met each person individually.
So let's meet with some characters and see what happens… maybe we will meet ourselves in the middle here somewhere.