A Victim of our own success

Notes from the pastor


Dear Front Street Church,

       John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, observed that the Methodist people had become prosperous as a result of their discipline, frugality, and diligence.  Although this was not a bad thing, he saw the potential that one day such wealth would lead us to become “a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”  Wesley observed that as Methodists increased in wealth they seemed to decrease in grace.  Self-reliance replaced dependency upon God and one another.  Self-discipline gave way to self-indulgence.

    I recently came across an Indian parable about a guru who had a star disciple that illustrates Wesley’s point.  The guru was so pleased with the man’s spiritual progress that he left him on his own.  The disciple lived in a little mud hut.  His only clothing was a loincloth, a small covering around his midsection.  He lived simply, begging for his food.  Each week, the disciple washed his loincloth and hung it out to dry.  One day he came back to discover the loincloth torn and eaten by rats.  He begged the villagers for another loincloth, and they gave it to him.  But the rats ate that one too.  So he got himself a cat.

    That took care of the rats, but now when he begged for his food, he had to beg for milk for his cat.  So he got a cow to feed his cat, but now he had to beg for hay to feed his cow.  So, in order to feed his cow, he decided to till and plant the ground around his hut.  But soon he found no time for contemplations, so he hired servants to tend his farm.

    Overseeing the laborers became a chore, so he got married to have a wife to help him with the farm.  His wife didn’t like the mud hut he lived in and demanded a real house.  So the man had to grow even more crops and hire more servants to keep his wife happy.  In time, the disciple became the wealthiest man in the village.

    Years later this man’s guru was traveling nearby, so he stopped in to see his old student.  He was shocked at what he saw.  Where once stood a simple mud hut, there now loomed a palace surrounded by a vast estate worked by many servants.  “What is the meaning of this?” he asked his disciple.  “You won’t believe this, sir,” the disciple replied.  “But there was no other way I could keep my loincloth.”

    So in order for the Methodist to avoid decreasing in grace as they increased in wealth, Wesley came up with a prescription for the use of material resources. He admonished the Methodists to increase in grace by “earning all you can, saving all you can, and giving all you can.”  Wesley understood that how we earn and use our resources as individuals and institutions determines our future vitality as God’s people.

Still in One Peace,

~ Pastor Ray 

Last Published: October 6, 2016 3:28 PM
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