“Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. ‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'” – A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Jenny never really understood the point passing around those velvet-lined, gold-ish, fancy plates simply to collect the money people gave to the congregation. Something about it always made her uneasy, especially when she was the only one on the row who wasn’t reaching into her purse as soon as she passed the juice. She was only a poor high school student anyway. She gave to God in many other ways – time, energy, pretty much in any way that doesn’t cost money. College isn’t getting any cheaper. She has always justified herself by bargaining with God. She would promise to give way more than ten percent once she got a “big-girl” job if he would not hold her responsible until then. She was a pretty good Christian, after all.
She grew up in one of the larger congregations in town. There were many rich people that worshipped there on Sundays and Wednesdays, and she didn’t really know most of their names, but she at least recognized everyone.
There was an older man in the congregation, Mr. Taylor, who always went out of his way to talk with the teenagers in the youth group. They called him the Candy Man because he always passed out pieces of gum and hard candy. Everyone loved him, and he loved them more.
His dated suits, his rusted pick-up truck, and his less than impressive house led Jenny to assume that he didn’t have much cash to spare. He was left a widower fifteen years ago, and he had no children to take care of him, yet his face was always joyful, like he knew something others didn’t.
The next Sunday, Jenny noticed that Mr. Taylor wasn’t standing in the back handing out candy to the children as they entered. In fact, she didn’t see him anywhere. He had never missed a Sunday morning service since she had been alive. There was a certain darkened aura about the minister and the elders as they prepared to begin. One of the elders stepped up to the pulpit, quieted the assembly, and made the announcement…
Jenny couldn’t believe it. This man that had watched her grow up, who had given her countless pieces of candy and advice, who had become another grandfather to her left to be with Jesus.
Later that day as Jenny and her parents sat around the dinner table, they began talking about Mr. Taylor. Her parents had known him much longer than she had. They knew him personally for over twenty years, back when he was still the CEO of the large computer company in town. He made countless millions of dollars in his time, and gave away almost as much as he brought in.
Jenny’s mom, who was the treasurer for their congregation, told her that Mr. Taylor was the single greatest contributor to church every Sunday. He had funded hundreds of youth activities and had helped start several of the outreach ministries in which most of the members took part. Yet he never told anyone, except Jenny’s mom, about any of this. He made her promise to keep it anonymous when she first took over the treasury.
The funeral was a terribly sad, yet extremely joyful occasion. Nearly one thousand people crammed into the church auditorium to pay their respects to Mr. Taylor. Jenny overheard numerous conversations around her between people reliving their fondest memories of Mr. Taylor and telling how influence he had on their lives. Jenny simply sat quietly, tears rolling down her face.
The preacher gathered the crowd’s attention and began to speak of the great ways Mr. Taylor had helped shape countless lives by giving of himself. The preacher read a familiar verse from the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The next Sunday after passing the juice, Jenny reached for her purse…