Tipping Grace

 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

When I was a lot younger, college days in fact, I worked a few hours a week at the Ramada Inn across the street from Judson College (now Judson University), in Elgin, Illinois. A few other Judson students and I would serve at banquets, working hard as we served as many as 300 dinner patrons. Our “tip” was determined by the cost of the meal being served, not much for breakfast but a nice sum for a steak dinner banquet. No matter who the guests were or what the menu was, we hustled and served at hyper-speed. It’s what we did. The hotel banquet department expected it of us, but more than that we expected it ourselves.

However, I’ve noticed that the gratuity concept that we call tipping has changed. It’s become the expected. Yesterday, I was at a store that served Starbucks coffee. If all you wanted was a cup of Pike Place, there was an urn to the side. You ordered, the cashier handed you a cup, you paid, and poured your own cup of coffee. She was as pleasant as a welcome breeze on a July afternoon, but when I scanned my credit card (Since it was a cashless business. Huh!!), the screen asked me what percentage tip I’d like to add to it. I punched the 15% button because I felt a combination of Baptist guilt and the need to take care off my fellow man, but the situation perplexed me. My $4.00 cup of coffee had jumped to $5.00 with the tip and taxes…and the only part of the work experience the cashier had performed was to hit two buttons on the register and hand me a cup.

Before you classify me as a penny-pincher and tight wad, my wife and kids would tell you that I over-tip. I suppose it goes back to my Ramada days and the sympathy I have for restaurant servers and staff. It seems, however, that tipping has been redefined to mean “the expected, regardless of the service and effort.”

Tipping is now taken for granted. What was once a gesture of kindness, a gift, has become part of the payment. I wonder if Dave Ramsey has any episodes on tipping philosophy.

That tipping mindset has seeped into our shallow understanding of the grace of God. Grace has slipped into the wading pool of expected actions. Its days as a gift have drained away. It’s not thought of as a special category of compassion that God has for his created, but rather a tax added on to the cost, no questions asked.

Our culture has erased part of the equation. That is, the cost of grace has been scratched out. The gift of Jesus, crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, has been minimized in importance. The work behind the grace has been forgotten.

I know, I know…all this simply because of being handed a coffee cup, told to pour my own cup, and presented with the option of tipping. Well, I think it’s a proper analogy of the view we have plummeted to in our view of God’s grace.

And by the way, I had to pour my own cream and sugar into the coffee, as well!

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