Earlier this year a 92-year-old Georgia woman named Josephine King was expelled from her church, a church she had been a member of for more than 50 years. The notification she received read: “Josephine King is no longer considered a member of this church as she has shown non-support towards the church in the areas of constant and consistent financial and physical participation.”
Ms. King admitted that she had not been giving as she once had. She also admitted that she had not attended church much recently – since she was an invalid! This fact was evidently ignored by the pastor and church board before they excommunicated her.
It’s always been this way. There are those in the church who are more concerned with money than anything else – not everyone – but enough to make us all cautious. And while this story is rather extreme, it is not unusual for churches to take financial pledges from their members, and if said members don’t pay up, they receive a reminder (usually more gentle than the one dear Josephine received).
I’m not unsympathetic to the financial requirements of the church. I’ve been a pastor for more than 20 years, and I understand the practical demands of things. No church – and none of our favorite charities for that matter – could do their work without people giving generously to their causes. Most folks recognize and accept this, yet most folks just as quickly recognize injustice and the abuses of religious greed.
A decades-long member in good standing grows old and frail. Rather than coming to her and helping her, praying for her, supporting her – the church kicks her out. “If you can’t put your rear in the seat – and more importantly – can’t put your dollars in the collection basket, well we are striking you from the rolls; good riddance to the extra baggage” – seems to be the mentality. Of course, if she were to show up some Sunday and drop a fat check into the collection basket, I’m sure all would be forgiven.
And speaking of baskets, here’s an old story I would like to bring to the attention of Ms. King’s church: A farmer got so old that he could no longer work. His son, now in command of the farm, would look at his father sitting on the porch doing nothing. “He’s of no use any more,” the son thought to himself.
So one day the son brought home a large basket and told his father to get in. Without saying a word, the old man climbed inside. The son then dragged the basket to a high cliff. As he approached the edge from which he would throw his father, he heard a light tapping from inside the basket.
Looking inside, his father smiled at him and said, “I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest that you save this basket. Your children will need it for you one day.”