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What would Jesus tip?

February 2, 2013

Did you see the story this week about the flap over the reaction of a church pastor over leaving a tip on a visit to Applebee’s?  It seems that last weekend a group from a St Louis church, including the pastor, went to Applebee’s for a meal after the service as was their custom.  Since the group had over eight members the restaurant, as was their policy, added an automatic 18% tip to the bill.

The pastor, on her bill, added the following message to the receipt – “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?”  I am not sure if the tip was paid, some web sites say yes, others no.  In any event, one of the waitresses, not the one who actually worked the table, posted a copy of the receipt with the message online and added the following comment – “I am sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”

As the story made the rounds hundreds of people added comments and, before too long, the fact that it was online got back to the pastor who called Applebee’s and demanded that those who were involved in posting it online be fired.  Applebee’s complied and fired the waitress who did the posting.  As I am sure you can imagine, that news triggered even more comments, some of them rather obnoxious and most of them negative toward the pastor.  In fact, I am not giving a link to the story itself as so many of the articles include vicious comments.  You can Google it yourself if you wish.

What are we to make of this?  What is the lesson here?  It seems that there is a lack of grace in several quarters.  Most people would agree that the pastor’s comment was a bit snarky and uncalled for.  Indeed, in a subsequent comment to the press she as much as said so, even as she did not retract her call for the firing of the waitress.  The woman who posted the receipt online also seemed to lack grace.  She too has apologized.  Applebee’s stood by their decision to fire her and did not cut the waitress any slack.

At the end of the day, the waitress, who was working her way through college and was being paid the  $3.63/hr. minimum for workers in tip-based jobs, is still out of a job.  The pastor is being deluged with negative and hurtful reactions and Applebee’s is not faring so well in public opinion either.  It seems to be an all-around loss.

I think the lesson for Christians is that we are always on display in society and many, including those hostile to our faith, are ready to assume the worst.  One false move, or even one that can be interpreted as false, and we are criticized.  There is nothing we can do about it; there is no reason to be upset about it.  This is just the way life is and we need to get over it.

However, the incident reminds us that our focus on grace needs to be relentless.  If we leave no tip or even a small tip people will talk and make assumptions about our faith.  If we make one false move in traffic and people see our Christian bumper stickers they will complain.  One wrong comment, action or even facial expression is judged.  Everywhere and in every way our Christianity is on trial, sometimes in ways that seem unfair to us.  This is simply the way life is.

Scripture does seem to indicate that we should be people of grace.  We are known by our love; we can expect to be asked about the hope that it is within us.  This only happens when we are visibly different than the world around us.  I am reminded of a young Christian woman, the daughter of friends, who worked as a waitress near a major Christian university.  She commented about how often she received tracts instead of tips.  Perhaps asking “What would Jesus tip?” is not as strange as it sounds.

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From → Christianity, Grace

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