Just as I was thinking the service at chapel this morning didn’t offer much beyond the normal fare (no commentary on the preacher!), I was walking down the hallway to make my way outside to my car when I noticed a young boy, no older than 7 or 8, slowly and suspiciously slithering down the hallway toward the offering counting room. Remembering how devious I was at his age, I slowed my pace so I could watch what he was up to.
As he got to the counting room door, which had a slim window in it, he stopped for just a moment then took one deliberate step past the door as he carefully looked inside at the counters as he did. He then turned around, apparently preparing to duplicate his last maneuver for a reason I still wasn’t sure of. Just as he turned, however, he noticed me -by now nearly caught up to him- and looked up with an expression which revealed both his surprise and embarrassment at being “caught in the act.”
I half expected him to turn and run but instead he held out his hand and asked if I could give the little nickel he held out to the counters.
I asked if it was offering, to which he answered in the affirmative. I then asked him if he had found it, assuming he came across it on the floor of the sanctuary and fearing eternal damnation if he kept it, wanted to be sure his record was clean by putting it in the offering. I was surprised, then, when he said that it was in his pocket and he forgot to put it in the offering plate when it went by.
My heart melted.
I went from seeing this little boy as a source of amusement as he played out some curious scenario to seeing him as an example for many who would not make such an extraordinary effort for such a small amount. I answered, “sure” and took his nickel into the counting room and, so he could hear me, told them, “this young man had offering that didn’t make it into the plate, can you still take it?” which they did and the boy seemed relieved.
I felt good that I could help this little guy get his nickel into the offering and thought about when Jesus was watching worshipers put their offerings in the temple treasury:
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on (Luke 21:1-4, NIV).
I don’t know if this young giver gave out of his wealth or poverty, but if his childhood is anything like mine was, that nickle could have gone toward buying a lot of things other than a pat on the back at church. I hoped that nobody would look down on him because of the small amount he gave (had anyone seen him). I’m pretty sure those in the chapel community would recognize the greatness of this boys offering and encourage him for his sacrifice, so I relegated this biblical lesson to others who might boast of their giving .
But this boy’s commitment to seeing that his nickel made it into the offering stayed on my mind as I finished the walk to my car while another, more personal, lesson hit me. I was abruptly reminded of how just three weeks before, I neglected to put my tithe in the offering at church the first Sunday after payday, having run out of checks and not taking the time to go to the ATM. Then another Sunday went by with the same excuse! I was brought to shame by this child, who faced obvious fear to approach the counting room alone to make sure his nickel he brought for God made it where it belonged while I couldn’t even take an extra 10 minutes to go to an ATM to be sure my offering got in on time.
I’m pretty sure that little boy will receive a greater reward for the nickel he put in the Sunday he brought it than I will for my much larger offering it took me three weeks to finally give…and he deserves it!
Photo credit: http://bitsandpieces-sonja.blogspot.com/2010/11/dad-preached-we-went-along-for-ride4.html