A Generous Faith

"God's gifts aim to make us into generous givers, not just fortunate receivers"
Miroslav Volf in Free of Charge

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 
Matthew 10:8

Today, I read an article about a pastor who left the following message for his or her waiter:

This pastor refused the 18% gratuity that was added to his or her large party and instead left 10% (assuming it was cash as there is no tip on the receipt) based upon the pastor's concept that to give more would be to give more to the waiter than to God.

This is a great example of terrible theology, and even more incredulous, a terrible, terrible witness to character of Jesus and his people.  

Throughout scripture, God is described as a generous God.  He instructs his people to be "open handed" (Dt 15:8) and to be generous to others as we have been blessed, not because of our worthiness, but because of the grace and generosity of God.

Last Sunday, I shared a message with the New Hope family regarding the Biblical connection between sacrifice and the expression of love (Listen).  In that message based upon Matthew 12:41-44, Jesus speaks about the greatest commandment of loving God with everything you have and you are, and loving our neighbor.  From that discussion, Jesus immediately points out the widow who gives a few pennies in the offering but "gives more than the all the others" due to the degree of sacrifice.  It was her sacrifice that demonstrated the degree of love.

Putting that idea together that God demonstrated his own love for us through sacrificially giving to us (Romans 5:8).  It is that radical generosity, based solely upon the love of God that encourages our generosity in everything we do.

A couple of thoughts regarding the pastor's action:

1. Limiting our giving to God to 10% is like trying to figure out the minimum acceptable expression of love.  God's command to give a tithe is the minimal for the operation of the church/temple.  It was never to be the ultimate expression of our love and devotion to God.  It would be like a husband paying the utilities of the home as the ultimate expression of love for his family, but withholding affection, gifts, or quality time.  

2. Withholding pay from under-payed workers is despised by God.  (Dt 24:15, Mal 3:5).  Restaurant servers make less than minimum wage due to the fact that they are expected to receive tips above and beyond what they would make with just minimum wages.  By not paying a tip (assuming the service was fine), you are actually withholding what is fair and equitable.

3. Our generosity with others is an appreciation for the blessings we have received.  The Bible gives stories of people who received blessings such as forgiveness and then due to their failure to forgive, were punished (Mt 18:23-35).  We are to literally be conduits of blessings to others because Jesus, whom we follow, is a conduit of blessings towards us.

4. A Christian's failure towards generosity is betrayal of the character of God.  Theologian Miroslav Volf in his book, "Free of Charge", describes that nature of God in this way: "God gives and loves by nature as surely as a duck quacks by nature".  God does not chose to give, but gives because its part of his essence.  Volf then compares the common myth of the Santa Claus God who we create to give us things and the God of  Scripture who gives us things "so we can be joyful givers and not self-absorbed receivers".  There is an expectation that if we have been treated with generosity and grace, that we should then treat others likewise. (Luke 10:29-37, II Cor 1:3-5)

It is my prayer that the children of God can reflect his character in all that we do.  Tipping a waiter or waitress appropriately may seem like a small issue, but it truly shows our foundation.  Is our foundation on Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, or is it based upon self.  Lets decide today, that we will be agents of generosity instead of vessels looking only to receive.

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor