As an Ulster-Scot, I can tell this story on one of my own: There is a wonderful story about an old Scotsman of a former generation, who, pulling the wrong coin from his pocket, unintentionally dropped a gold sovereign in the offering bag at a church service. It was a serious mistake by his calculation. His intention was to put in only a shilling.
Recognizing his blunder, he tried to retrieve the sovereign. The usher, however, pulled away the bag with a smile: “Jock, once in, always in!” The old man said, “Ah well, there’s credit for me in heaven for it.” The usher responded, “Hardly. You’ll get credit for your intention, and a shilling was all you intended to give!”
Even though that story comes from the pews, it has a message for the pulpit, too. We get credit for intentions. We are to give, and give our best with enthusiasm each time we rise to declare our message. So let us be done once and for all with lukewarm preaching!
Nehemiah, whose name means “The Lord comforts,” recalls a moment when temple offerings were given with delight in gratitude for the preachers: “Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered” (
Scripture consistently informs us that joy and enthusiasm are among the valid marks of God’s presence with His people. Nehemiah speaks about the taking of offerings, but the essence of the message is bigger than the concept of money. It has to do with all of life, and its application is never more important than when applied to those of us called to preach the gospel.
As was Elton Trueblood, the more I study Christ’s preaching model, the more I am persuaded the one thing the Pharisees could not stand about Jesus was that He was the living personification of the gospel, which of course means “good news.” For the Pharisees, the good news had taken on a long face and the never-ending drone of negativity. Who wants to follow that siren song? Not I! Not you! Not anybody! The long and short of it is that if we are not preaching with joy, we are not preaching like Jesus.
You will remember how He got excited about little things: tiny children, Zacchaeus, a widow’s tiny (by the world’s standards) offering. With Him, there were no little things, and there were no small victories. In times such as these, when almost the whole world seems to be rocking in financial fear and America is divided as never before, God is looking for cheerful hearts to tell the good news. Let it sound forth first from those of us who are called to preach the message that He is still on the throne.
The psalmist declared, “My times are in your hand” (
Thank God that you and I who are called to preach also are richly blessed with a message that even the unbelieving Greeks called “good news!”
Remember these things, and preach your heart out with enthusiasm. In a world of bad news, we have the best news and the only news that lasts.