Pawn shops and churches have some things in common as well as some distinct differences. Both institutions reach out to people with problems. The word “redemption” describes an important aspect of what each of them does. Interestingly enough, the clientele of each establishment is almost mutually exclusive. Church goers do not frequent pawn shops; those who go to the pawn shop usually don’t go to church.
At a pawn shop, the customer brings something of value to pawn. The clerk judges what the item is worth. He then offers to loan the patron considerably less than the actual worth, because if the loan is not repaid in an agreed upon time (three or four months) the item becomes the property of the pawn shop which then has to sell it to recoup the loan. The item can be redeemed before the time expires by paying the amount of the loan plus the accrued interest. Pawn shop attract persons who want money to go out drinking and gambling, people who desperately need money for necessities such as food or utilities, and thieves who want to dispose of stolen goods. Pawn shops try to avoid taking stolen goods because if the police match an item in the pawn shop to an item on their list of items reported stolen, the pawn shop has to give up the item and loses the money it had loaned for it.
Those who come to church are freely offered the “good news” of salvation. Their lives are pawned to Satan. When they do not pay what he demands, they become his slaves. Jesus Christ died on the cross, He shed His life blood to redeem us back from the bondage of sin and Satan and to reconcile us to God. When they become a child of God, they become His concern. He not only cares about their soul, He cares about their electric bill, food for the family. When Jesus was preaching to thousands on the hills of Galilee, it was He who brought up the subject of where would the people find food before they had to travel home. He gave thanks to God and fed them, “as much as they wanted.”
In my opinion the existence of pawn shops should make Christians uncomfortable. The folk who are going into the pawn shop for a high interest, short term loan and putting up some valuable for collateral are the very ones to whom the church should be reaching out. We have good news for them and it is free, but it won’t do them any good if we keep it inside the church and only unwrap it on Sundays.