Sometimes I have a hard time finding a book that draws me in, but I’ve grabbled onto one now with great interest. It’s the biography of William Wilberforce by Kevin Belmonte, which I’ve begun reading in preparation for a series of sermons I want to preach next year from the book of Philemon. Wilberforce was a powerful British politician whose career and values were shaped by his Christian convictions.
In the opening chapter, Belmonte says that Wilberforce was greatly influenced in childhood by a series of influential relationships and mentors. A good example was his uncle John Thornton, one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Thornton had been converted under the ministry of George Whitefield, and he viewed his vast wealth as the means of funding the Lord’s work. Thornton lived frugally that he might give generously. He gave vast sums to Bible distribution, missionary causes, and to people in ministry such as Rev. John Newton.
One morning as Thornton was going through his correspondence, he opened a letter informing him of the wreck of one of his valuable ships and the loss of all the cargo. The news was a heavy blow and represented a large financial loss. It caused him considerable distress of mind and spirit. He tried to absorb the news, but he also noticed several other letters on his desk. They were from various ministries asking for his financial assistance.
Gradually Thornton’s mood lightened. Opening his check book, he started making generous contributions to the various ministries that had appealed to him, saying: “Let us try to do a little good while we still have the means to do so.”
It’s no wonder that young William, by watching his uncle and family, grew up to become one of the greatest reformers and philanthropists in history.
Difficult economic days may come, but we can always be faithful to giving to the Lord’s work. We can live more frugally and give more generously. We can support the work of the church at home and around the world. Let us try to do a little good while we still have the means to do so.