Give All You Can: John Wesley's Example
By: Pastor Pete Grassow
Mat 19:16 A man came to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?"
Mat 19:17 Jesus said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? Only God is good. If you want to have eternal life, you must obey his commandments."
Mat 19:18 "Which ones?" the man asked. Jesus answered, "Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others.
Mat 19:19 Respect your father and mother. And love others as much as you love yourself.11
Mat 19:20 The young man said, 'T have obeyed all of these. What else must I do?"
Mat 19:21 Jesus replied, "If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower."
Mat 19:22 When the young man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.
Mat 19:23 Jesus said to his disciples, 'Tt's terribly hard for rich people to get into the kingdom of heaven!
Mat 19:24 In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom."
Mat 19:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly surprised and asked, "How can anyone ever be saved?"
I was taking a subway in New York when I saw this
graffiti: Jesus is the answer:
And someone had sprayed across it: Yes - but what is the question?
Matthew's Gospel tells a story of a man who comes to Jesus looking for an answer - and instead of giving him an answer, Jesus - in essence - says to him: I do have answers, but you need to ask a better question:
So here is the first question:
Mat 19 :16 A man came to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?"
Let me pause for a moment to make sure that we understand the question:
Do we understand the words "eternal life"?
This might not be what you think. Some of us grew up with the words "everlasting life" - literally "living forever"
This is not what is being discussed here: the word in the original text is aionios, This is not just living on beyond death: 1 It carries the idea of quality as well as quantity of life.
Listen how John's Gospel explains eternal life;
Joh17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Eternal life is living a life that knows the presence God ... and the question is therefore:
what must I do to make sure that my life is blessed by the presence of God?
Which is a great question - something that is asked by every generation - what must I do to gain God's blessing. And most people come up with the same basic answer - keep the rules & pay God something
Many preachers have hammered on keeping the rules: both in Jesus times...and ever since. Religious leaders have argued about the rules - and the different churches have debated what are essential rules and what are not. Because we want God's favor we better get the rules right This what this man thought that Jesus was saying - so he said to Jesus Mat 19:20 ... "I have obeyed all of these.
But it is clear that he had been listening to Jesus teach - and that he knew that Jesus always reached behind the obvious:
1 https :/ /www.concordant.o rg/expositions/t he-eons/g reek- words-aio n-aio nios/ Th e Greek word aionios is basically the adjective form of the noun aionios.
If we were to find the closest dynamic equivalent usage in English for the word, the Greek word aionios could be pretty well expressed by the English phrase "of the ages." htt;p://orvillejenkins.com/theology/aionios.html
So he then follows up his first question with a second question:
"What else must I do?"
And Jesus answers him: "give your money away"
Now I have heard many preachers say something this - if you want God's blessing - give your money to the work of God.
And then those who wander into heresy - I have heard pastors promising that if the church would just buy the Gulfstream jet then God's blessings will flow.
Please note that Jesus is not asking for the man's money: when this man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do - Jesus tells him this: Push aside that which comes first in your life - and you will see God is standing there....
Because God has never stopped blessing you - you just have not been able to see God at work!
"Give away the thing that you trust more than God...and you will find God."
The fact is that all his wealth was given to him by God - so giving it back to God was just recognizing who owned his wealth!
And here is our lesson for today: What must we do to inherit eternal life - what must we do to be a partner with God?
Push aside the things in our lives that are more important than a relationship with God
This is tough stuff:
Because we live in a culture that does not teach us to give away wealth. We are taught to accumulate it.
We also live in a culture that teaches us to buy our way out of our problems,
so it comes naturally to think that we can also buy God's blessings in our lives.
Often I have heard this expressed as a kind of commercial transaction - give your tithe to God and God will bless you
As if God and us have a sort of contract, whereby God is obliged to make up any losses incurred while we are serving God.
The fact is that God has already blessed us with our wealth
We do not buy God's favour with our offerings - they belonged to God before we ever got our hands on them:
And when we bring our gifts - we are acknowledging that all that we have comes from God.
This is our Methodist tradition: in our hymnal....
We give thee but thine own,
whate'er the gift may be;
all that we have is thine alone,
a trust, 0 Lord, from thee.
To sum up:
Jesus says to the man who comes with the questions: you have done well - now give it all away and you will discover the presence of God. This is deep in our bones as Methodist people:
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement put it like this:
Gain all you can
Save all you can
Give all you can
In essence - Wesley is saying that if we want to live life fully aware of the presence of God: then give away the stuff God has given us. And when we do so we will see God standing there - ready to give more!
So that we can give away more.....
In the words of John Wesley: "No more covetousness! But employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in eve1y possible kind and degree to the household of faith, to all men!"
Today is Pledge Sunday!
I am inviting us to give all we can: pledge as a sign of thanksgiving to God for blessing us!
Give it away - and then watch God go to work in your life, and in the life of the community.