Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Kirby: Sometimes it's better not to ask questions

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Not every question deserves an answer.

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– Publius Syrus

Here’s an old story from my public speaking file that you might consider at church Sunday.

A young preacher and an older one were sharing lunch. Their conversation touched on the usual ecclesiastical topics but eventually got around to money.

“Everything is going well,” the young minister said, “except when it comes to the offering collections. My folks just don’t put much in the plates. Yours, however, are known for their generosity. Why?”

“Well, brother,” the older man said, “it’s sort of a secret.”

“I knew it must be,” the young minister said excitedly. “Please share it.”

The older pastor sat back in his chair, considered the request for a moment, glanced upward just slightly, then responded.

“As you know,” he told the young man, “I’m getting ready to retire. I guess it would be fitting that I passed along something I learned over the years to help a fellow man of the cloth. So I will share this with you.”

Slowly the old preacher reached into his pocket and pulled out a large, gold pocket watch, secured with a heavy chain.

“At collection time,” he said, “I have the ushers stand at the back of the church.

“Then I lean over the pulpit, dangle my watch in front, swing it to and fro and pray in a soft, monotonous voice.

“This hypnotizes the people in the pews,” he said. “When I sense they are ready, I signal the usher and, as they pass the plates around, I say softly, ‘Put big money in the plate,’ ‘Put big money in the plate …’ ”

“That’s it?” the young preacher said.

With a slight smile, the older pastor nodded.

So the next Sunday the young preacher began his new approach. He had acquired a big pocket watch, and when the time came he dangled it out in front of the pulpit from its chain.

He swung it gently side to side and prayed softly in a pious monotone.

As he watched the congregation in their pews, he sensed a transformation taking place. Those who had long been inattentive now began to stare back at him in rapt attention.

“We all know what our church needs,” he said quietly.

The congregation seemed to agree.

“We all know that it is better to give than to receive,” he added.

A few “Amens” could be heard.

“We all know what we need to give,” he said, holding the swinging watch up so that all could see it.

Unfortunately, he stretched too far. The heavy watch slipped from his fingers and fell toward the floor.

“Shucks!” he shouted, just before it hit the floor.

And that, they say, is why even to this day, the sanctuary of his church carries the faint aroma of fresh corn.


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