The One Dollar Offering: Talk Ain’t Cheap

On Sunday morning, the ushers took up the offering. Among the bills and checks, the money counters discovered an unusual one-dollar bill. A note was written on it in magic marker with big, bold letters. It said, “BURN IN HELL!” They saved the bill and showed it to the pastor on Monday.

The next Sunday, the pastor announced the following:

We are happy to consider any advice you may inscribe on your offerings. From now on, however, we will only read messages written on $100 denominations and higher.

Talk ain’t cheap.

In my view, a one-dollar message is expensive. A one hundred dollar message might be overkill. It’s particularly dear considering the fact that the money counters might not even notice (or pay attention) to the message. I don’t think I’d take the chance.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how many $100 bills find their way into an offering plate. Very few, I suspect. Those memorandums would probably be more easily detected. Not being one of the counters, I can’t say for sure.

I would surmise that anyone putting that much into the coffers would rather write a check. Not only is it safer, it’s easier to track for tax deductions. The IRS can be rather finicky about such things as large charitable deductions (particularly cash ones). It’s not that a one-time hundred-dollar contribution is huge. But if you do that every Sunday, you’d be donating $5000 over the course of a year. A lot of congregations would appreciate those sorts of notes. For the right price, we can take a considerable amount of abuse—the fires of hell not withstanding.

Giving your money away is such a touchy subject that it might be a good idea if the US Treasury would put a few blank lines on each one hundred dollar bill. It might boost charitable giving if people were encouraged to add their two cents (as it were) by way of a nasty note. They could write a positive note as well, but those kinds are normally delivered orally.

“How cheerful is that?”

There’s an old saying that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” As a matter of fact, it’s Biblical. The Apostle Paul passed that along to us in 1 Corinthians 9:6-7. Maybe that’s why many congregations sing lively, upbeat songs during the Sunday offering. If we can cheer ourselves up while we toss our money into the plates, maybe we’ll feel better. I remember one congregation that used to applaud the offering. How cheerful is that?

The interesting thing, however, is that Paul was taking up an offering for a group of poor folks in another city. When we in the church give today, an extremely high percentage stays in the local congregation (gotta pay those utilities and such). It’s a little easier to be cheerful when you’re giving to yourself.

I don’t know about you, but my giving has become so habitual, I’m not sure I’m very cheerful about it anymore. I think I need to re-evaluate…

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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