This bumper sticker appeared on the rear of an expensive European sports car. It seemed to be a perfect expression of how our culture values the acquisition of wealth and all of the "toys" that wealth could buy.
This article offers a lesson to help your youth develop skills to think theologically about a prevailing message of popular culture. With your group, explore the following questions:
What does the slogan mean? (Ask youth to think about the messages they receive from their culture.
Write responses on a markerboard.)
Does this slogan remind you of anything from the Bible or Christian faith?
What are some messages behind the slogan?
Divide the group into four teams. If you are a large group, divide into several smaller teams and assign each verse to more than one team. Teams will examine Bible stories that deal with the slogan’s message. Assign one of the Scriptures listed under the "Scripture" heading (following the article) to each team and tell them to answer the following questions:
- What are the attitudes of the people in the story?
- How do you feel about money and the things that money can buy?
- If you could put the feelings of the main character into a slogan, what would the slogan be?
- How would you translate Jesus’ lesson into a slogan?
Bring the teams back together and have each team report. List the slogans on the markerboard, perhaps in two columns. Give one column the heading Jesus Slogans and the other The Other Guy’s Slogans. Talk about the messages behind the slogans.
The Christian tradition is also an important source of understanding our faith and how to critique our culture in the light of the faith. Read the message from John Wesley below and discuss the following questions:
- What does Wesley’s slogan mean?
- What are some messages behind the slogan?
- How would it work today?
- How is Wesley’s slogan different from "The one who dies with the most toys wins"?
Wrap it up! Ask:
- How do you make decisions about spending money?
- What are the priorities you have in mind when you go to the mall with money in your pocket?
- What are the important reasons for buying the best clothes or newest electronic toys?
- Which slogan is an example of faithful discipleship?
- What are some ways to live out Wesley’s slogan?
Ask the youth to create a plan for implementing Wesley’s slogan into their lives. Then talk about ways they can be accountable for spending wisely and being generous in their giving.
John Wesley preached a sermon called, "The Use of Money." The outline for the sermon has become one of the famous "slogans" among United Methodists:
- Earn all you can. (Wesley said "gain," which means the same thing. Earn is more familiar to modern ears. Wesley was very clear that money was to be earned honestly and in ways that were not demeaning.)
- Save all you can. Don’t just trifle money away but save it and put it to good use. You also want to save so that you can . . .
- Give all you can. For Wesley, the purpose and importance of money was not what it could buy nor how much we could pile up against the future. Money was important for one reason only—so we could have the means to help others in need. Wesley believed this and practiced it. If he had kept the proceeds from the sale of his books and invested the money at modest interest, he could have been among the wealthiest men in England. Instead, he gave it away to the poor or used it to buy property for churches, schools, and medical clinics. When he died, he had only a few possessions but was very wealthy in the things of the Spirit.
The Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21
This passage is a perfect example of someone who died with lots of "toys." He seemed to be prudent, providing for safe places to store his crops and secure his future. However, the future did not wait for him; and he was caught with the wrong priorities.
Jesus and the Rich Young Man, Mark 10:17-22
The Rich Young Man is an example of someone who had "lots of toys" and was not able to give them up. This story has been held up many times as the example of how a perfect Christian would live. Jesus instructed that wealth shouldn’t get in the way of following Jesus. You have to set priorities and make choices.
The Widow’s Gift, Mark 12:41-44
Note why Jesus praised this woman. She gave everything she had, instead of just a little bit out of great wealth. The key is not how much wealth we have, but what we do with our wealth.
Jesus and Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10
Tax collectors were usually rich and usually gained their wealth at the expense of the poor. The law of Moses said that if someone cheated another, he or she had to make double restitution. Zacchaeus is so caught up in his new life in Jesus that he is willing to make a four-fold restitution. Here is a man who has really changed priorities!