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Here’s a Tip

Here’s a Tip

Dear Church Family,

I love reading stories about grace. Maybe you came across this heartening account this week, as well: last Saturday, Steven and Makenzie Shultz, a couple in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went out to dinner to celebrate their sixth anniversary. But it was anything but a relaxing evening. After they were seated in the restaurant, they were practically ignored. It took them twenty minutes to get water, another forty minutes to receive their appetizer, and more than an hour passed before the server arrived with their entrees. By all accounts, this was a perfect example of how not to provide excellent service.

Nevertheless, while other patrons at the restaurant shook their heads in disgust or sneered disapprovingly, Steven and Makenzie took a different approach: they gave their server a 150% tip. No, that’s not a typo. Not 15%. One hundred and fifty percent. On a $66 bill, the Schultzes tipped $100.

Why? Very simple: they had been extended such undeserved kindness themselves while serving tables in their pre-marriage days. Next to the signature on the bill, Makenzie wrote: “We’ve both been in your shoes.”

Did their server that night deserve such an outlandish tip? Certainly not. Had he been rewarded according to his performance, he would’ve received nothing. And that’s precisely what many of the folks dining at his tables left him. A big fat goose egg of gratuity (accompanied, most likely, by a rude comment on the receipt. … I’m speaking as one who has waited plenty of tables in my day). Yet, in offering such an incredible tip, the Schultzes beautifully pictured grace.

Grace is generosity to the one who deserves nothing. Grace is love for the unlovable.  Approval for the one who should have been rejected.

Of course, grace is a hard thing for us to demonstrate and perhaps just as difficult for us to accept. It makes us uncomfortable if we focus too much on it. Because we live in a world that is all about the two-way street. You get what you deserve. If you clean your room you get your allowance. If you drive too fast you get the speeding ticket (I’m speaking hypothetically, of course!). If you’re good to me, then I’ll be good to you. If you forgive me, then I’ll forgive you. That’s just the way it should be.

But the one who doesn’t love still receives love? The one who doesn’t give is given everything? The one who is late with dinner gets an incredible tip? That makes no sense.  That’s scandalous.

One dead theologian once wrote that most churches can handle anything but too much grace. The plea of these congregations, he said, is:

“Restore to us, preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove to us that there is at least something we can do [to save ourselves], that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. … We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything, but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.”

Indiscriminate acceptance. That’s the whole story of the Bible. A people who were strangers are made to be sons. A people who were lost are loved, pursued and captured.  A people who were blind are given sight. A people who were dead are made alive. A people who were enemies are tenderly brought to the table.

And it is a recognition of that—what we’ve been saved from and to, or more specifically, the grace we have received—that moves us to be gracious to others.

After taking some criticism for her unwarranted generosity, Makenzie Shultz wrote: “This definitely was not the largest tip there ever was. This is more about being kind. …I’m just sharing this as a friendly reminder to think of the entire situation, before you judge. And always, always, always remember where you came from.”

That sounds remarkably similar to something the apostle Paul said repeatedly: “Therefore, remember … continually remember … that you were separate from Christ … without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … [Therefore] be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 2:11-13; 4:32)

You don’t have to give a $100 tip to be gracious. But those who know how much they’ve been given are eager to show generosity. Even to a person who shows up late … and bearing cold food.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor John