>The Use of Money


The Protestant ethic as undermined not by modernism but by capitalism itself. The greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant ethic was the invention of the instalment plan, or instant credit. – Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

When I was a young boy my father was a Baptist minister. My sisters and I used to laugh when he would “recycle” his sermons. He would never preach the same sermon to the same congregation mind you, but from time to time when he was asked to be a guest at a different church, rather than write a whole new sermon he would go back into his archives and find something that applied, update it a bit and presto! The only people that had any clue were my sisters, my mother and me.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with recycling sermons. All the great preachers have done it. If you weren’t in the original audience it’s new to you right? Even the great John Wesley (1703-1791) an itinerant preacher who travelled all over England and the New World recycled his sermons. According to most accounts one of Wesley’s most preached sermons was called The Use of Money.

A complete transcript of the sermon is available here
If you can get past the archaic language, it was the 18th century after all it’s well worth the read.

Wesley makes three points on the Use of Money; Gain all you can, Save all you can, and Give all you can. To me this is the very essence of the protestant work ethic. I touched in this back in February in a post called “How to Get Rich (or at least not go broke)” but it bears some repeating, in a way I guess I’m recycling my message too, just like my dad and John Wesley.

As the first decade of the new millennium draws to a close I’m sad to say the protestant work ethic is dead.

It started in the 60s when big government started offering big plans supported through big taxes that took away the incentive and much of the ability of individuals to give on their own. Big organizations are nowhere near as efficient as individuals at getting support to those who need it. By one account $2.3 trillion has been given through government supported institutional aid to the poorest nations of Africa since 1949 with little measurable increase in per-capita income for individuals over that time. By contrast there is a mounting body of evidence that suggest countries that have shunned aid, or more accurately been shunned by aid, have actually fared better. (William Easterly – The White Man’s Burden)

The damage caused to the protest work ethic by taxpayer support aid has come by removing individuals from the process. The thinking follows that since government is going to take the money from me in the form of taxes anyway why should I give more or get involved? Without direct engagement of the donors however, in this case taxpayers, accountability suffers and corruption takes over, hence the aforementioned $2.3 trillion that has largely gone to waste.

By the mid 80s a new cancer had emerged in the protest work ethic. Easy credit in the form of lower interest rates and multiple credit cards made it possible to finance the purchase of everything from cars to home furnishings, clothing and even everyday items like food. With easy credit the notion of saving and delayed gratification gave way to buy now and pay later. The worst part was (and still is) that society became addicted to the free flow of cash and rather than put the brakes on by raising interest rates, which has the dual effect of discouraging borrowing while encouraging saving, governments kept the rates low. It’s a dirty little secret that government and big business don’t actually want you to save. Saved money is money that is taken out of circulation and not contributing to the economy.

For more on the savings verse the free flow of capital debate check this out this video; The Story of Stuff.

In recent years we have begun to see the last nail in the coffin of the protestant work ethic. The drive to gain all you can, indeed any desire to work for anything, has died. In this era of high taxation, easy credit and billion dollar bail outs, many are asking, “why bother?” Why bother, when the government is going to tax me into the ground and waste my hard earned money on inefficient programs that I don’t want? Why bother when I can finance my life on easy credit and consume all I want, now?

Why indeed?

I am calling for nothing less than a complete return to the protestant work ethic. Work hard (gain all you can), resist the temptation to spend on easy credit (save all you can) and support those in need (give all you can). Anglo-Saxon western society, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada were built on this. The foundation of our great society is crumbling but it’s not too late to fix it. Government isn’t going to change its policy overnight. Taxes will stay high and interest rates will stay low but if enough of us buck the trend we just might turn this thing around.


  1. Andrew33 says:

    >It is very rare that I am "one of few words". Too rare in fact, but on this, I say yes.The only thing I can add is that we study God's word, our perspective should change. The information available now thanks to discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) has shed much light on and verified available Biblical knowledge. If we are truly growing with and in the Lord, those old sermons will change over time as our perspectives change, just as they do in all aspects of life. As Christians, we should all look at our (spiritual) lives objectively measure growth accordingly. If we are in the same place (spiritually) as a week, month or year later, then we are not moving forward on the path God has set for us. I do not use the term "we" lightly as I often look at my own life and realize that in one area or another, I am lacking and must improve. In doing so, combined with studies of God's message along with Biblical context and history, my perspective of God's message changes over time as does those I study with and/or debate. So, spiritual growth should give new meaning to those old sermons. As wth so many things including our spiritual lives, those sermons should get better with age. I guess I wasn't a person of few words here either. I guess I should work on that. ;0)Excellent post!!!!

  2. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Andrew33Sometimes a timely message can also be timeless…

  3. Epiphyllum says:

    >As usual I like your spirit and learn. I do want to alert you to some contemporary capitalist defects. (1) Yes, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates give! But way too many believe only in profit for themselves. The individual reins supreme. (2) The market is not free and its demands are not natural. Check out Kentucky Fried Chicken's new sandwich, Double Double.It is a killer. But it makes money. So sell it and leave health choices to the individual. Am I my brother's keeper? I'll leave it at this for now. You inspire me.

  4. RMB says:

    >You raise some valid points. The political danger with bread and circuses is that the masses eventually come to expect them and instability is threatened if they are not placated. But I think one of the most interesting things that we have learned in the Great Recession, is that the financial irresponsibility of main street may be inconsequential in light of the growing influence of MNCs and large institutional investors. One can only hope that there will be a new recognition among believers of the simple financial truths recognized by Wesley, that were set forth long before him in The text. I literally think of the Proverbs' admonition against the sluggard and the exemplar of the ant when I wrestle with getting up before the sun has peaked its head above the horizon – each day.www.ryanbarnett.com

  5. hak55 says:

    >The Best CharityThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The best charity is that given to a relative who does not like you."——— Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 100Religion is Very EasyThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Religion is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded."——— Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Hadith 38Be Dutiful to your MotherThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God has forbidden you to be undutiful to your mothers, to withhold (what you should give) or demand (what you do not deserve), or to bury your daughters alive (a pre-Islamic practice)."——— Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith 8:6Good Conduct Toward NeighboursThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "He will not enter Paradise whose neighbour is not secure from his wrongful conduct."——— Sahih Muslim, Hadith 15Do not Turn Away the PoorThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once told his wife: "Do not turn away a poor man..even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you…GOD will bring you near HIM on the Day of Resurrection."——— Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376A Heart Free of MaliceThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said to one of his companions: "Son, if you are able, keep your heart..free from malice toward anyone."——— Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 59Those Sheltered by GODThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Seven kinds of people will be sheltered under the shade of God on the Day of Judgment…They are: a just ruler, a young man who passed his youth in the worship and service of others for the sake of God…a man who is invited to sin…but declines, saying 'I fear God'…one who spends his charity in secret, without making a show…and one who remembers God in solitude so that his eyes overflow."——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 376Avoid What is DoubtfulThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "That which is lawful is clear, and that which is unlawful is also quite clear. Between these two is that which is ambiguous, which most people do not know. One who avoids the doubtful safeguards his faith and his honor."——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 588Good MannersThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "A believer may achieve the status of one who regularly fasts (for religious reasons) during the day and spends the night in prayer, through his good manners."——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 629A Clean HeartThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "No companion of mine should tell me anything bad about another person. For when I meet you, I would like my heart to be clean (unbiased.)"——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 1539HumilityThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "(God) has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another."——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 1589Avoid JealousyThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "Avoid jealousy, for it destroys good deeds as fire destroys wood."——— Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 1569FelicityThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "If you are given health and security from evil in this world and the next, you have attained felicity."——— Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 781Say What is Good OR Keep QuiteThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said "Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day (of Judgment) should not harm his neighbor. Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously. And anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet."——— Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 47

  6. Lauren Sheil says:

    >EpiphyllumI'm advocating for personal responsibility here. If you read the text of Wesley's sermon when he makes the point for "gaining all you can" he goes to great lengths to be clear that in so doing you should not cause harm to yourself, others or the environment. The KFC example you raise is a good case in point, it is very harmful and while it is ultimately up to me and you if we want to eat it, KFC is partly responsible for having produced it in the first place.

  7. >Daniel Bell was right! Not only should we pay cash for what we want and need but we should also pay our taxes every month instead of letting the government deduct them. Maybe that would shock us into getting rid of some of our corrupt politicians.

  8. Lauren Sheil says:

    >old geezer..After much prayer and consultation with wise Christians, I declared personal bankrupcty in 2005. It was the by far the best financial decision I have ever made. Today, 5 years later, I am happy to say that I have paid off my proposal to creditors and am now 100% debt free. It's the only way to live!

  9. Marymanard says:

    >Fascinating and well written, I am not so eloquent, but it certainly reminds me of the universality of certain laws, regardless of religion, such as tithing (or giving back)… sure there are millionaire atheists, but because of tax breaks, or humanitarian efforts they give back, and as such they receive greater than what is put out.

  10. Andrew33 says:

    >To the Old Geezer, deducting taxes from paychecks was implemented because of voter anger over having to pay taxes "out of pocket." The socialists who implemented payroll and s.s. taxes realized that if the tax money was never seen, it would never be missed. Also, the structure of income tax was set up so that those not making enough to pay income tax would never realize there was an additional layer of taxes that paid for their benefits but they never saw. This created an environment conducive to class warfare, which is instrumental to the implementation of socialist policies. Lastly, tax day (April 15th) is as far from Election Day (1st tuesday in November) as possible without being obvious. This being because elected officials know people have short memories. None of this matters at all, however because the Federal Government (via the FED) is printing money so quickly that it doesn't need to collect taxes at all. Disclosure of that fact would cause an economic collapse unlike any in American History, therefore the tax debate goes on!

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