Friday, September 9, 2011

A Short Story from the Pulpit

A few weeks ago in church we had a guest pastor giving the sermon, one who frequently peppers his speeches with sports vignettes and metaphors, which is usually an effective teaching tool, especially among this type of down-home, rough-and-tumble congregation. However, the more I think about what he told us, the more I feel uncomfortable with it.

This particular story was about an assistant coach to a pro-football team somewhere in New England, I forget which team, but it's one of the big ones. Throughout his tenure as coach he always had a witty rapport with an old African-American man who worked in the cafeteria. The man was always joking with the coach that one day he was going to own his mercedes. The coach would always joke, "Man, you could never afford my Mercedes!" Ha ha, lots of laughs.

Then, last year, the coach got a job as a head coach with a pro team down south, and on his last day at work, he went to the old African-American man and said, "Hey, do you have any cash I could have? I forgot my wallet today." And the African-American man pulled out all the cash he had in his wallet - a $20 bill.

He handed it to the coach, and the coach handed him the keys to his Mercedes and said, "You just bought yourself a Mercedes!"

And there was an "Oooooooooooooh!" that went through that congregation - a sigh of such sweetness at this tender story - look at how wonderful was this coach! Giving this man his Mercedes for only $20! How nice he is! What a good CHRISTIAN he is!

And I immediately thought of the widow at the box, the one that Jesus was so focused on the day before he was slaughtered: He said to his disciples, "Look at that woman, she gives two coins - all she has. And that other man, the rich man, he gives 100. But WHICH ONE has shown more favor to God?"

The answer is the African-American man: he gave all the money he had in his wallet to a man who makes multiple millions of dollars per year, and now with his new head coaching gig, will probably be able to buy a new Mercedes every month of his life until he dies! And yet, this story was intended to show what a great Christian is the coach - for showering such pity on the poor.

I couldn't believe my ears. I was stunned at the reaction of the congregation. Could they not see? Could they not hear? Did they not believe?

At the very least, the pastor should have ended the story with "but the coach also gave him back the twenty! But noooooooo! He probably kept the bill!"

We have to start looking at the quality of our giving - and not at the stuff that we give.

My God! I cry out every time I think of it!

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