Tipping God



At a gathering of our neighborhood pastors recently one of the pastors mentioned that one of his neighbors works in a restaurant waiting tables. This woman has shared openly with my pastor friend that she has a certain contempt for Christians, even though she relates to him in a positive neighborly manner. Her contempt is linked to her job experiences. She works almost every Sunday and involuntarily cringes as she talks about all the people who come into the restaurant after attending church Sunday morning. What her experience has hammered into her heart as fact is that Christians- more accurately “Sunday morning church people”- are the worst tippers and biggest complainers (“I caught myself. I almost said whiners!”) They demand the most and give the least.
One of the other pastors at our gathering, Keith Hedstrom from Ascension Lutheran, made the cynical, but on-target, comment at that point. He said, “We shouldn’t be surprised! A lot of our church attenders just left a tip for God right before that.”
In case you’re wondering, this is not a reflection on giving the tithe. It’s a pondering on the relationship. We tip the server at the restaurant we’re dining in because he has given us great service, been there with the drink refills, taken our steak back for an extra few seconds of flame, cleaned up our spills, brought the extra side of honey mustard salad dressing, made sure the bread basket never stayed empty for long, and with great care put the uneaten food that we plan on making another meal out of into a take-out container.
Do you see it? It’s all about me! That’s the proper visual of a good server- making the dining customer feel special, a little pampering for a few minutes.
As Keith humorously revealed, however, sometimes “church people” put God in the position of server. Our lives, our beliefs, and our attitudes reveal that we think we’re sitting at the banquet table and God is running around filling our water glasses. And if he serves us well we leave him a decent tip that week…or maybe not.
Some might reply, “Yes, but Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at that last meal gathering in the Upper Room.” That is scripturally accurate, but it’s one of those biblical stories that makes me very uneasy. He concluded that foot-washing experience by saying to his disciples, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
In other words he was willing to serve them, even though everything in the culture at that time said the students should all be serving him. As I read and picture that story happening, however, I still have a feeling that the disciples, those closest to Jesus, must have felt pretty uncomfortable about what was taking place. Jesus was giving them a view of the role he was willingly taking…and that they must be willing to take.
Back to God the Father! Sometimes I realize that I have placed myself at the table and I’m looking for God to pamper me. My degree of satisfaction is elevated or plummeted by how he answers my wants and whims.
Tipping the Almighty. To quote a phrase one of the young people I know uses, “That’s messed up!”

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