By Gene Markland
Old Joe sits on the edge of his bed and struggles with arthritic hands to fasten the cufflink on his shirtsleeve. He does pretty well for a 91-year-old man. The people at the assisted living center help him into his wheelchair, for the church bus is soon coming. Today is a special missions Sunday service and Joe hasn’t missed one in 82 years.
As they roll him toward the door, he reaches over to a small wooden box sitting on his bureau. He takes something out and puts it in his change purse. Returning the empty box to its place, he leaves for the bus.
Later at church, he sits in his wheelchair at the end of the front row, and his mind is flooded with memories. The singing ends and the Pastor begins his sermon about the missionaries they support, some of which are in attendance.
Again Joe’s memories take him back, to a time in his childhood at the age of nine. He sat in this same church on this same missions Sunday, and listened to songs calling men to service for God, and testimonies of the glorious works of God overseas. When they passed the offering plate, though inspired, young Joe had nothing to give. This saddened him, so on that day he purposed in his heart to never again have empty pockets when the missions offering plate is passed around.
So young Joe got himself a paper route and the next year he placed a brand new silver dollar in the missions offering. Every year thereafter, Joe continued to give. The church grew and prospered and so did Joe. It seemed like the more Joe gave, the more he prospered and the more he prospered, the more he gave.
Years passed and he became a successful manufacturer, owning his own factory. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t out-give God. Missions' projects flourished around the world for years through his giving, and God blessed him in all his ways.
In time, Joe retired, sold his factory and enjoyed his latter years with his beloved wife Bernice. Now she is with the Lord and his possessions have been reduced to one small room in an assisted living center. Through insurance, his expenses are paid but he has no income and therefore no spending money. So, after all those years of blessing and wealth, old Joe sits in the mission’s service once again with empty pockets.
He thinks back to his first wedding anniversary, the mint condition silver dollar dated the year of their marriage that Bernice gave him, and the small wooden box he kept it in all those years. Today, old Joe would reach beyond his empty pockets and into his change purse.
As the Pastor prayed over the special missions offering, Joe struggled with knarled bony fingers to open the clasp on his small change purse. He reached inside and held his treasure tightly between his thumb and forefinger. As the offering plate was presented to him, he held his feeble hand over it and raised his thumb to reveal that precious silver dollar that Bernice had given him so long ago.
A tear rolled down his cheek as he lovingly placed his last offering in the plate for the Lord. His pockets are empty once again. As the service continued, Joe’s hands rested in his lap and his chin rested on his chest. Joe entered his rest and his reward.
I suppose as he entered heaven he was met by his heavenly Father, who embraced him and said, “Son, you started with empty pockets and ended with empty pockets, but in between, you have been faithful. Multitudes of souls rejoice here today because of your generosity. Like the widow who gave all she had, though small, it was counted as great. So well done Son! Great is your reward in heaven, and you don’t need pockets!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Luke 21:3-4 NLT).
You can contact Gene at firstname.lastname@example.org