John Wesley & David Lipscomb on Wealth & Poverty

In the compilation of writings, “The Works of John Wesley”, volume 7, John Wesley writes “On Dress”. Perhaps to your surprise, Mr. Wesley doesn’t spend a great deal of time on dress lengths or modesty (as you might expect from “Old Time Religion” folks like John Wesley), rather he directly confronts self aggrandizement, wealth, riches, over-comsumption, greed, and lust for more “stuff” and makes a striking connection between these and the plight of the poor. Wesley could not have been more direct in making such connections when he wrote that,

“Every penny we spend on expensive clothing is, in effect stolen from God and the poor! And how many precious opportunities of doing good have you defrauded yourself of! How often have you disabled yourself from doing good by purchasing what you did not need… I pray consider this well. Perhaps you have not seen the light before. When you are laying out that money in costly apparel which you could have otherwise spared for the poor, you thereby deprive them of what God, proprietor of all, had lodged in your hands for their use. If so, what you put upon yourself, you are, in effect, tearing from the back of the naked; as the costly and delicate food which you eat, you are snatching from the mouth of the hungry. For mercy, for pity, for Christ’s sake, for the honour of his gospel, stay your hand! Do not throw this money away! Do not lay out on nothing, yea, worse than nothing, what may clothe your poor, naked, shivering fellow-creature!” (The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7; pg. 33-34)

For some of you C of C folks, this rhetoric should sound familiar. Our own great gospel preacher, David Lipscomb, said some strikingly similar things:

“Just as Christ sacrificed his honors, glories, joys and possessions in heaven, to help poor helpless, fallen man on earth. This was the fellowship of God to man. I will give of my honors and joys to you, to take of your weaknesses, sufferings and sorrows to myself, is the language of Jesus to man, in his mission to earth. Our fellowship for one another must be of this character… The man that can spend money expanding his already broad acres, while his brother and brother’s children cry for bread – the woman that can spend money in purchasing a stylish bonnet… merely to appear fashionable, while her sister… is shivering with cold… are no Christians… notwithstanding they have been baptized for the remission of sins.” (David Lipscomb “Destitution South’ pg. 171-172)


  1. Wesley and Edwards were great evangelists in colonial America. One was Arminian and the other was Calvinist. But both were intent on two things. First, that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the only way to salvation and Heaven. And the second, that riches were a waste and the entire Christian community was obligated through the love of God to meet the needs of the poor without justice.


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