When the ushers in the church I attended last week counted the money in the offering plate, they found something they didn’t expect. I don’t know what, but I know they didn’t expect it. I also think they likely had a good laugh at me behind my back.
I understand. Really.
The Preacher and I have always made it a practice to give God back a portion of our income. We do this with gratitude and joy, contributing also to the work of the churches we attend. We’ve found blessing in that.
Giving to others, Jesus said, should be done quietly, without seeking public praise, lest we become motivated by the esteem of others rather than the needs of others. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing,” he said, metaphorically emphasizing the importance of humility in our donations, and indicating that God rewards those who practice generosity.
But I don’t think Jesus meant we shouldn’t involve our brains. I made that mistake last Sunday, but I didn’t know it until I left work the next day.
That Monday, just after four, I shrugged on my coat and out of habit, reached into my pocket. Finding a folded slip of paper, I pulled it out for a better look, hoping. Until that cool weekend, I hadn’t worn the coat since last spring. I’ve forgotten folded bills in coat pockets before. A ten. A five. Even a hundred once.
It took a moment to grasp what I saw. I gaped, then groaned. I held in my hand the cheque I’d intended for the church’s offering plate last Sunday.
How in the world? My mind scrambled, mentally retracing that morning. I’d made out the cheque before leaving home. Rather than lose it in my purse, I’d put it in my coat pocket for easy removal.
At church, I removed my coat and hung it in the coat rack. But during the first congregational song I remembered that I’d forgotten (!) my offering. Slipping from my pew, I walked back to the vestibule, found my coat, stuck my hand in the pocket and pulled out the folded paper. Without looking down, I slipped it into a contribution envelope on which I’d already written our name, the amount of the cheque and its designation: Missions.
Back in my pew, when the collection plate reached me, in went the envelope. I never gave it another thought – until the next day when I realized my mistake. Good grief, I thought. What did I stick in that envelope? A gas receipt? A note from one of the grandbeans? A grocery list? A library slip? Worse – did the counters wonder if I’ve gone senile? I’m afraid to ask. So far, no one has contacted me, so perhaps they are too.
Next week I’ll rescue the reputation of my mind. Meanwhile, in a world with so many reasons to frown, one unexpected grin at my expense won’t hurt.