No Pious Meetings in the Liquor Store

“Your holy celebrations —even your most pious meetings—all are frauds! I want nothing more to do with them. I hate them all … Quit your evil ways. Learn to do good, to be fair, and to help the poor, the fatherless, and widows.” – Isaiah 1:13;17

I took Isaiah’s advice and skipped church on vacation. In lieu of worship I swam and rode bikes with my family. I also took a few trips to the country liquor store.

It’s the same place I bought candy as a child. Back then the proprietor seemed old. Now she’s ancient. The store is unchanged. There is the same photo of her dead husband hanging on the wall. The same tired shelves of tinned meat and sugar cereal. The same plastic bottles of off-brand gin. Some of these items might be exactly the same.

The place is covered in dust. There isn’t a thing you can’t find cheaper at a nearby Walmart. The owner isn’t friendly. Or maybe she just doesn’t see her customers. She won’t wear glasses. She doesn’t take credit cards. Cash only.

I thought, “What a God-forsaken place.” Then a grungy man bought a six-pack. The owner tried to read the register with a magnifying glass. She said, “I can’t read that. I can’t see it. How much do you owe me?”

I live in Chicago. I couldn’t believe this old woman’s naivete. “How much do you owe me?”

The register read $6.80. The customer said, “$9.00 Janice. Thanks.” He set a ten-dollar bill on the counter, picked up his beer and walked out. A woman bought a gallon of milk and a box of cereal. Same drill. “I can’t read that. How much do you owe me?” The register read $7.80. The customer said, “$11.00. Thanks so much.”

I don’t know the whole story. I do know there weren’t any pious meetings happening in that liquor store. Just a widow and some help and an upside down economy. Just the kind of praise God is looking for.


O God, teach us how to praise you with the way we use our money. Amen.

ddauthormattfitzgerald.jpgAbout the Author
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.