Communion Meditation: A Lesson from an Eight-Year Old

CommunionI was baptized when I was eight. I was short for my age, skinny, and proudly wore a butch cut. The kids would call it a buzz cut today.

My church had less than 100 members, and we met in a converted warehouse, sitting in folding metal chairs bracketed into rows.

The elders decided that if I was old enough to be saved, I was old enough to be put to work. So, on Sunday nights, it became my job to pass out communion. An older man would say the prayers, and I’d take the tray to the members.

Of course, this was Sunday night, and so only members who’d been “Providentially hindered” from attending that morning took communion. When the prayers were said, each Providentially hindered member would stand, letting me know who was to get the bread or grape juice.

After the third prayer, the one for the offering, I noticed that several members who’d stood for the first two prayers were sitting. This puzzled me greatly. After all, there were five acts of worship, and you had to do all five! Even I knew that! And so, I figured they’d gotten too tired to stand. After all, they were old!

Well, there weren’t that many of them, and I could easily remember who’d stood the first two times. Figuring they were tired, it just seemed the polite thing to do to bring them the tray for the offering. After all, it’s five acts of worship and you have to do all five! It’s hardly good enough just to watch the five acts. Even I knew that!

And I knew about the widow’s mite. No one has so little money that they can’t give anything! I’d have happily received a penny from each Providentially hindered member. But zero? I never even considered that this could be possible.

And so, I took the tray to a woman who was sitting but had been standing and stuck it under her face. She shook her head for some reason. I figured she was palsied. I had seen some old people like that. And so I waited. And waited. And then she reached into her purse, grabbed some green bills, and sheepishly stuffed them into the tray.

I figured I’d done a pretty good deed! This woman was tired and in her tiredness had completely forgotten to have her money ready to give. It was only polite to patiently wait for her to grab her offering. It was worth waiting to relieve her of the awful sin of performing only four acts of worship!

I then went to a man who, like the woman, had tired of standing. He was fumbling through his billfold for money, clearly embarrassed that he’d forgotten to stand! And on the evening went. I made sure every single member participated in the collection, just as God had commanded!

Many years later my dad told me that my actions had prompted a special elders’ meeting. Someone wanted to know if they were going to let me keep on collecting for God or were going to teach me to politely let people decline. The elders decided there was no reason to make me stop! And so for years I was the elders’ designated collection agent on Sunday nights!

I was childish and naive. My views on worship were legalistic. I was a little Pharisee. But, I ask you, was I wrong? Is it wrong to naively and simply expect that those who receive the blessing of the communion should share their blessings with those in need? That those who are blessed by being part of the church should help support the church? That someone should consider their mite unworthy to give to God?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Communion Meditation: A Lesson from an Eight-Year Old

  1. Jay Guin says:

    From an anonymous reader:

    Hi brother, I didn’t want to post this on the blog but did feel I like I wanted to respond to “Communion Meditation: A Lesson from an 8-year-old”

    I’m all in favor of giving. But I’ve experienced being harrassed and pressured to give by adults and I’m quite sure it’s counterproductive. Like you say in your other articles, it’s all about bringing people back to Jesus. He’s giving and the more in tune we are with Him, the more our hearts will change. Financial giving ought to be freely given from the heart not forced by group pressure and guilt IMO.

    Thanks again for your blog. I’m enjoying reading it.

  2. Charles McLean says:

    “But I ask you, was I wrong?”

    And I answer, “But, of course you were, my friend!”

    You were a small boy and acted in well-intentioned ignorance, so your behavior is, of course, excused. What is not excused is the manipulation of your elders who decided it was a worthy endeavor to use your innocent ignorance to extort a few more shekels from those folks who dared miss Sunday morning services. I don’t know which smells more of whitewashed tombs, the cowardice of men who send a small boy to do what they dare not, or the immorality of teaching a small boy to do a wrong thing “for God”.

    I once was a small boy in the CoC, as “zealous for the Law” as you seemed to have been. But I can visualize my preacher father taking me aside if I did the exact same thing, and saying gently, “Son, if you embarrass folks into giving, that’s not really giving. That’s taking. We don’t do that.”

    “Teach your children well…” –Graham Nash


  3. Jason says:

    I just wanted to say as the person for my church who tracks the contribution statements there are many people who give on larger sum per month instead of every week. So I have to agree that the Elders should have corrected the behavior.

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