My friend Arnold made one of his infrequent trips to church on a recent Sunday and came to ask me about the offering.  He said he feels a little guilty about not putting something in the collection plate.  

     “So why didn’t you throw in a couple coins when it went by?” I asked.

     “Well,” he said, the plate came around so suddenly I didn’t have a chance to put something in.  Do you pass that plate every Sunday?”  

      “Yes, every Sunday,” I told him.

      “Why?” he asked.  “Are you so far behind on the light bill?” 

      “Giving is part of Christian life,” I said.  

      “I know,” said Arnold.  “I have a buddy – he’s a good Christian, I guess – who always gives to someone begging on the street.  Once we had a good discussion about it, but I disagreed with him.”

      “About giving to someone who asks?”  

      “Yes,” he replied.  “Giving to those panhandlers only makes them keep panhandling.  Some of them could get good jobs and do some work for a living, if they really wanted to.”

      “Some of them?” I asked.

     “Well, I suppose that there are a few of them who are unable to work – but not most of them.  I remember a movie with Clint Eastwood when Clint was hit up by a panhandler and Clint gave him five dollars and said to him, ‘Now make sure you don’t buy any food with this.’  That was really funny.  And that’s another reason not to give:  they’ll just use it for drugs or booze.”

     “Now Arnold, aren’t you being a bit judgmental?”  I asked. 

     “Probably.  But there are enough soup kitchens where they can get food for free.  Places, like shelters, where they can sleep for free too, without cluttering up the sidewalks.”

     “Do they feel safe in those places?” I wondered.

     “Why not?  A lot of those places are churches,” Arnold said.

     “See?” I said.  “That’s one of the reasons Christians give, to offer safe places to those who need them.”

     “So that’s why you pass the plate every Sunday.”

     “Not the main reason,” I said.  “Christians know that everything they have comes from God – life first of all, then skills and talents to pursue their professions – and they commit themselves to giving back to God a portion of what God has given them.  It’s an act of thanksgiving.”

     “So I suppose you think that those of us who don’t give aren’t very thankful.”

     “Arnold, you said that, not me.”    

     “So it’s not all about the light bill?” Arnold said.

     “No.  It’s all about you, and the kind of person you want to be,” I replied.

     “Well, Padre, thanks for the religion lesson.  Maybe I’ll be back to your church in a couple Sundays – and I’ll bring a couple coins with me.”       


                                -- Richard Jeske, Vicar