February 16, 1999
A Florida journalist wanted to find out if it was possible for a person to live on minimum wages in America. She did something unusual. She moved out of her home, put her career on hold and began looking for another job.
She soon realized that finding low-wage work is not as easy as she supposed. After searching the want ads, calling at appropriate businesses and filling out application forms, she was finally hired as a waitress in a diner. Her story is long, informative and eye-opening.
One paragraph applies to people who believe in Christ. She says the most dreaded restaurant patrons are “Visible Christians” and goes on to describe them as “. . . the ten-person table, all jolly and sanctified after Sunday day-night service, who run me mercilessly and then leave me $1 on a $92 bill. Or the guy with the crucifixion T-shirt (SOMEONE TO LOOK UP TO) who complains that his baked potato is too hard and his iced tea too icy (I cheerfully fix both) and leaves no tip . . . .”
Does this mean us? Or is it shocking news? Many professing Christians are noted for continually looking for, if not expecting, bargain prices. While there is nothing wrong with being careful how we spend our money, being reputed as ‘cheap’ or stingy, calls for a change.
Of all the people in the world, we have the least excuse for being tight-fisted. God promises to supply all our needs. Certainly that means we do not have to worry that a generous tip will bankrupt His supply. But how did we get this reputation, this attitude of ingratitude?
It could be that we are stingy and greedy but it could also be a twisted spin-off of how we interpret the grace of God. Grace is God’s unconditional blessing, His free forgiveness of our sins. Grace is His lavish provision for all that we need in this life and in the next. However, grace does not mean everything else is free.
Some define grace as an acronym: God’s riches at Christ’s expense. The Bible says, “Though He was rich, He became poor for our sakes, that we might be made rich.” He not only became poor, He became dead, for our sakes . . . that we might live. Grace is free for us but it was costly for God.
Another definition of grace appeals to me. It is this: Grace is a revelation from God about Himself that somehow changes your life. The emphasis is on ‘changes your life’.
Discovering the generosity of God and living in His grace is fantastic; however, we are supposed to be “imitators of God” in every way. Since He intends a transformation from the inside out, this includes being like Him in character as well as doing the things He does.
In other words, we receive — but never hold or keep what is given for ourselves. We must share the gifts God gives, passing them along to others. We share His love, His mercy, His righteousness. We also share from the abundance of material blessings He bestows on us.
In the area of generosity, grace means being generous towards those we serve. It also means generosity towards those who serve us. We should not take God’s gifts for granted, nor should we take for granted the people He uses to bless us.
Some Christians do not have much money to spare but if we can afford a meal in a restaurant, we cannot afford to waste the grace of God associated with that meal. He allows us the privilege of being served. (Was not Christ a servant?) Do we pay it back by being rude, stingy or unthoughtful to the waiters and waitresses He brings to our table?
If this is true, shame on us. We need to re-examine our theology and our behavior.