A few months ago, I got the ridiculous notion that the senior pastor in my church was giving me the stink eye. Problem is, I couldn’t figure out why or what I was feeling.
The reason came to me last month when I was paying my bills — I had accidentally stopped making my monthly donations. My oversight occurred in January after I enrolled in our church’s online contribution system.
I began the program by setting up three test payments on my credit card. If it worked well, I’d start making semi-monthly debits and rack up frequent flyer miles. However, making the initial payments, I forgot to add more.
The result was I hadn’t given so much as a penny in four months!
As a Protestant, I don’t normally confess to my pastor nor does he track my giving. However, since some congregants express their unhappiness by withholding contributions, I thought I should set the record straight with him. Of course I was too much of a coward to tell him directly, so I went to our administrative pastor instead. (Kind of like picking which parent you’ll least disappoint.)
“Norris, I’m so glad you mentioned it,” he said. “Our bookkeepers had asked me if you were upset with us.”
“No, no,” I insisted. “We’ve been quite happy here for 12 years. Please forgive my senior moment.”
“I can understand that,” he said. “Most of us check our credit cards and bank statements looking for fishy charges and to see if somebody took something from us that they shouldn’t.
“But,” he added, “most of us fail to stop and count what we should have given, but didn’t.”
He was right.
There were no fraudulent charges in my monthly statements, so I had focused only on my healthy bank balance. I hadn’t bothered to ask why the balance was higher than normal. I took the spend-now-audit-later approach. I was looking out for No. 1, thinking about getting what I deserved — never mind what I ought to be giving to those in need.
Instead of limiting my search to fraudulent charges, I should have been looking for the places I’d failed to be generous. I should have been looking to see if I shorted someone, not just if someone shorted me.
Jesus told a story in Luke 12:13-21 about a greedy farmer who produced such a terrific crop that he asked himself: “What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.”
His answered himself by tearing down his barns to build bigger ones. Then he sat back and said: “Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy, and have the time of your life!’
But the next night, the dude died and stood before God to answer this question– “Fool! Who gets your barn full of goods now?”
Jesus concluded with a warning: “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
After confessing to my pastor and promising to right my wrong, I felt better.
The administrative pastor had only one request.
“I think your story makes a good point. Can I share it with the congregation? Anonymously, of course.” (Video of the pastor sharing the story is at http://tinyurl.com/norris-forgot)
I agreed because, while Protestants might do confession, this was a good opportunity to do public penance for such a boneheaded mistake.
In the end, the pastor wasn’t giving me the stink eye nor was he monitoring my contributions, but after he reads this, he probably should.
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