The Kingston Trio recorded their song, "MTA," in 1962. I always thought it a great sing-a-long, but never knew the story until visiting Boston a few years back.
The legend is that Charlie boarded the MTA subway system after paying his nickel fare. However, the rate was raised another nickel while he was en route. Since he either didn't have the nickel or refused to pay it, Charlie "may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston," as the "man who never returned."
The subway pass in Boston is still called the Charlie Card in his honor.
Too cheap to come up with another nickel? I’ve met a few folk like this along the way. Among them was the pastor search committee who showed up unannounced one Sunday. The chairman asked if they could talk with me a few minutes after worship and I agreed to the request. As they prepared to go, the chairman told me they'd confer and decide if they wanted to talk with me again.
"If we decide it's not God's will that we talk with you further," he said, "then you won't hear from me. That way we'll save the church the expense of a long distance call."
The idea that a 35-cent phone call was too much to spend in order to show common courtesy is beyond my understanding.
And then there was Earl. Earl was a good man who loved the Lord. He didn't seem to mind the church asking for people's money, but he didn't want the church to spend it. Earl served on the finance committee one year, and it was one of the worst years I ever had as a pastor. Earl's constant refrain was "I'm against it," and we either had to let it lie or outvote him and make him more determined the next time.
We convinced Earl one month that we needed to buy a new copy machine since the old one died. We had several bids and Earl reluctantly suggested we buy the "American" one. The rest of us knew that all copiers at the time came from Japan, but we kept this to ourselves, agreed with Earl and bought the new copier!
Surely the church can find balance between being cheap and being spendthrift. We must be accountable, to be sure, but we must be compassionate.
How can a church's bank balance multiply every month when we live in a world of overpowering need?
As an evangelist friend of mine used to tell congregations during his revival meetings, "Why do you want to pile up money for the Antichrist to spend after the rapture?"