No More Nickels!
by Patricia Backora, author of Tough Love in Christís Millennium
(novel available online from: www.publishamerica.com)
Honest, this really did happen at a church I visited several times. Although it seemed like something out of a comic book, I didnít find it the least bit funny. It made me want to cry for the poor people who got humiliated by it.
Brother Bullard (not his real name, of course!) was an elderly pastor whoíd forgotten how to count his blessings properly. He had received a rare miracle from the Lord_being healed of a physical infirmity beyond the power of medical science to help. Deeply grateful to Jesus, Brother Bullard wanted to serve Him for the rest of his days, and so long as he kept his priorities straight he did a magnificent job.
Brother Bullard was a jolly fellow. His worship services always had you swaying and tapping your feet. He was good at exhorting the saints to believe God for the impossible, for he was living proof that Jesus is still in the healing business. Brother Bullard was so full of life you never felt like falling asleep in the pew.
The area had fallen on hard economic times. The joy of the saints had to spring from deep within, not from their sad circumstances. Quite a few in the small congregation were out of work. Just burning the gas to go to church was a big sacrifice. But it never occurred to any of these good folks to stay home till times were better and they could put real paper money in the offering plate again. These transparently honest people just gave what they had...and, in monetary terms, it wasnít much.
Brother Bullard and his family had gotten used to a comfy lifestyle, even though they were far from millionaires. They didnít have to work at the plastic plant or the chicken cannery. While Brother Bullardís flock could barely make ends meet he and his family often travelled to church conferences to get recharged spiritually. This was like icing on the cake of the pastorís privileged life. His poor flock struggled for mere bread.
But it was getting harder and harder for the pastor to afford such treats, above and beyond his living expenses. And he dreaded counting up the proceeds after each service. He hated the nickels and pennies given by jobless, burdened saints. Despite the fact that the majority of prayer requests seemed to be for God to find jobs for young couples with kids, or to relieve financial want.
Well, Brother Bullard would take authority over this financial crisis...in the wrong way. Scarcely had everyone sat down before he got their attention and picked up the offering plate. Why should you be ashamed to let others see what youíre up to, he asked his people, if what youíre doing isnít wrong? Let the whole wide world see your good works!
ďNow, Iíll start the offering the proper way,Ē he said, whipping out a ten-dollar bill and flipping it into the plate. ďAnd donít place your nickels so softly inside so they wonít make a clink, as if youíre ashamed for people to see your generosity. Just pick Ďem up and throw Ďem right in!Ē With that, Brother Bullard took a fistful of nickels out of his pocket and slammed them contemptuously in front of the pulpit.
No one got up and left, though I wish they had. There was just a shamed silence and awkwardness which subsided after a short time. But before you knew it, Brother Bullard had that old piano pumping out Gospel tunes just like nothing unusual had happened. I got so disgusted I stopped going shortly thereafter.
In John 2: 13-17 youíll read about another Preacher Who slammed some coins down to the floor. Only that time it was to protect the poor rather than to publicly humiliate them. Jesus didnít much care for the way the devilís business was being transacted in the Temple. His Fatherís House was not to be a market place, but a House of Prayer. I can imagine the bellowing beasts stampeding away from the whip Jesus made, how the money changersí coins jingled onto the pavement and rolled away from greedy scalawags fleeing from Jesusí shouts of rebuke.
Brother Bullard sure didnít value the coins he threw down. Anybody whoís ever been broke knows that a nickel can be the difference between getting all the groceries you selected at the supermarket and having to put something back. Maybe it was just as hard for those folks to put a quarter in the plate as it was for Brother Bullard to reward himself with a ten-spot. Godís kids must beware of a haughty attitude . Those who fly high can fall hard if He is forced to humble them to make them see sense again.
Just who did Jesus commend in Luke 21:1-4? The rich kingpins who dumped big offerings into the Temple treasury or the destitute widow who gave her last two cents? That was all she had left to live on, but the pompous scribes and Pharisees who bragged about their generosity were too blind to see as God sees. Jesus said the poor widow gave her all, but the rich gave just a bit of their extra fat. Godís math is a little different from that of people who are impressed by big numbers.
I know that Prosperity Theology has gotten to be a big stronghold in todayís church world but the Apostle James sees things differently. The first nine verses of James Chapter 2 exhort the Church of God not to treat rich church members better than poor ones. James even goes so far as to label it a sin against Godís Royal Law of Love to treat poor Christians like second-class citizens. Verse 5 says: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? And James reminded his listeners that it was the rich who opposed the First-Century Church the most.
Heaven will not be populated by ten-cent millionaires who refused to value their humbler brethren the way Jesus does. Good things come in plain packaging. All true saints of God are partakers of His gifts and His grace, and heirs of His eternal Kingdom who have His Spirit dwelling within them. This world and all its gaudy glories will soon pass away. Only those treasures laid up in heaven will last forever.