‘‘There are three kinds of givers: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of the flint, you must hammer it; to get water out of the sponge you must squeeze it; but the honeycomb just overflows with its sweetness. Some people are as hard as flint; others like sponge, yield to pressure; while others give without being asked.’’
I have been preparing for a sermon I shall preach this weekend (28th February), I shall preach on the subject of “Looking at, and becoming Like, Jesus”. During this time I remembered John Wesley and his practice of giving. Whenever I read of Wesley’s practices I know I am not Christlike in my finances, I have many opportunities to give more generously than ever I choose to accept.
The following version describing Wesley’s giving habits was taken from Mission Frontiers magazine:
While at Oxford, an incident changed his perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, Will thy Master say, “Well done, good and faithful steward”? Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy!–Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?
Perhaps as a result of this incident, in 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds.
Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. In the fourth year, he received 120 pounds. As before, his expenses were 28 pounds, so his giving rose to 92 pounds.
Wesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.
This practice, begun at Oxford, continued throughout his life. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply, and he quickly gave away his surplus money.
One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds. Because he had no family to care for, he had no need for savings. He was afraid of laying up treasures on earth, so the money went out in charity as quickly as it came in. He reports that he never had 100 pounds at any one time.
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
St. Augustine of Hippo
I have always thought of Jesus Christ as being the most prefect human being to ever live on planet Earth. J Oswald Sanders in The Incomparable Christ talks about Christ’s character and makes this comment,
The excellencies of both sexes coalesced him Him [Christ]. But while possessing all the gentler graces of womanhood He could never be regarded as effeminate. Indeed, He was linked in popular thought with the rugged Elijah, and the austere John the Baptist [Matthew 16:14]. There is contrast yet not contradiction in his delicacy and gentleness in handling people who merited such treatment, and the blistering denunciations he poured out of the hypocrites and parasites.
Jesus was not macho nor was he womanly. He was fully human, perfectly balanced in all character and emotional characteristics. He is to be admired above all.