Canada’s decision to do away with the penny reminds me of some pennies I once purloined. From God.
I was still a preschooler when, each Sunday morning, my dad would give me two pennies to drop in the offering plate. It made me feel like part of the church family to make my own contribution, even though I’d done nothing to earn the money.
One Sunday I watched as the plate passed down the rows of adults. I noticed the occasional person simply passing the plate without contributing, or gently shaking their head at the usher to indicate empty hands. It occurred to me the offering was optional.
It also occurred to me that if I were to hold back my pennies and save them, I could buy myself a treat. Five cents was enough to buy a chocolate bar; ten cents would procure a bag of chips. Yes, I’m that old.
As much as I would love to blame one of my big brothers for planting this sinister idea in my impressionable little mind, I suspect it got there all by itself. I began to implement my plan. When the usher came by, I shook my head “no” like I’d seen the grown-ups do and kept the pennies in my little red purse. Each week, I stacked them higher on a shelf in my bedroom, no doubt rubbing my greedy little hands together like Dr. Evil and congratulating myself on my cleverness.
One night when Dad came to tuck me in, he noticed the growing stack of pennies, now up to six or eight. I must have been holding out for the bigger prize of chips. Delayed gratification began early in my family.
|Photo by my friend and photographer extraordinaire, Gayle Loewen|
“Where did you get the pennies?” Dad asked.
“Um. I don’t remember.”
“Sounds like you’re having a little memory trouble. Did you forget to put them in the offering?” Like he didn’t already know.
I might not have slept much that night had I known the story from the New Testament about the married couple who sold some property, gave a portion to the church, and agreed to tell others they’d donated the entire amount. Their story does not end well. (You can read it in Acts chapter 5.) Though they had every right to keep some of the money, their lying and conspiracy got them in deep enough trouble to be made a disturbing example of.
Dad was far gentler. Eventually, I fessed up. We talked about the plans I’d made for the money and Dad explained how it belonged to God and had come my way only by grace in the first place. I’m certain Dad didn’t realize he was giving me an accurate picture of my heavenly Father. Like Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery, Dad did not punish or condemn. His “go and sin no more” message got through, and I knew I was loved.
I wish I could say I never dreamed up another naughty scheme in my life. My schemes only grew more sophisticated with age. But each time I fail, I know where to turn for forgiveness.
Just think. If I’d kept up my deceptive hoarding, I’d have over fifty bucks stashed by now. That’s a lot of pennies! Before they’re gone for good, I think I’ll stack a few pennies on a shelf as a gentle reminder. For even if it were a million dollars, it could never begin to replace the lesson Dad taught me that day: genuine treasure comes in the form of mercy, love, and grace.