Moneymakers - the Parable of the Pounds and the Life of Sir John Laing
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To consider the question, 'What is a Christian attitude to wealth?'
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three students to play the servants in the parable of the pounds. Rehearse what they are to say. You can either use the text of Luke 19.11-27 as the script or, preferably, use it as the basis for your own improvisation of it. It is best if you, as leader, assume the role of the 'Master'.
- Read the biography of Sir John Laing on Request's website (at: http://tinyurl.com/orn3vzj).
- Print out The Sunday Times' ‘Rich List’.
- Inform the class teachers about the moneymaking challenge that will be set during the assembly. Depending on the health of school funds, assign to each class a sum of money, such as £5 or £10. The challenge is that each class is to use the money to make more money. Discuss ideas for moneymaking schemes and decide which you will proceed with. Tell them that, following Sir John Laing's example, all the profits each class makes will be given to a charity of their choice.
- Begin by showing the students The Sunday Times' 'Rich List' of Britain's most wealthy individuals. Inform them that, while many of these people inherited their wealth, many others began life with very little. By virtue of their efforts and their intelligence, they have succeeded in making huge sums of money. Often, to make money, many of these people had to make difficult decisions and take massive risks.
- Tell the students that Jesus once told a story about making money. It can be found in Luke's Gospel, chapter 19, and is usually called the parable of the pounds. It features a master and his three servants. Call the 'servants' to the front.
- Perform the parable.
- Following the performance, say that the parable is about more than just making money. Jesus told it to encourage his followers to use the gifts and talents God had given them to help spread the Christian message in an often hostile world. Today, some Christians do this by using their talent for writing or speaking or making music, but what happens if you are a Christian and your talent is making money?
One Christian who had a real talent for making money was John Laing.
Sir John Laing
As a child, John made money by growing and selling vegetables. He also did odd jobs for his neighbours and made furniture.
Later, when he took over his father's small building firm, he was determined that it would become one of the biggest companies in Britain. Some 50 years later, these ambitions were fulfilled. The name of John Laing became world famous and he was knighted by the Queen.
John's company undertook the building of huge projects, such as reservoirs, airfields, the first motorway in Britain and even Covemntry Cathedral. The profits from the company were enormous, but, when John died in 1978 at the age of 99, his personal wealth amounted to less than £400. What had he done with all the money?
He certainly hadn't spent it all on himself as, for one of the country's wealthiest men, John lived a very simple life. He hadn't hidden it away secretly because that would have been against the law and Sir John was famous for conducting his business very fairly. So, what had he done with all his money?
Quite simply, for years, Sir John had been giving almost all of his money away to charity. He gave a lot of money to setting up Sunday school programmes that still run today. He also gave money to universities and colleges and book publishers to promote the study of Christianity. As God had given John the gift of making money, John thought that he should use his gift to help tell people about God.
- Now, let me tell you about a moneymaking challenge I want to set you.
Each class will be given some money. Your class is to use the money in order to make more money. Following Sir John Laing's example, all the profits each class makes will be given to a charity of your choice.
Time for reflection
We thank you for everything that we have.
Please bless all our moneymaking schemes so that we can use the money raised to help people who have much less than ourselves.