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An Unfriendly Tip

An unfriendly tip has inspired me to give you a friendly tip: don’t complain about tipping or it may go viral.

Pastor Alois Bell found this out the hard way. Recently dining at a St. Louis-area Applebee’s with friends, she got a little hot under the collar when an 18% automatic gratuity was added to the check. “I give God 10%,” Bell scratched on the receipt, adding an angry zero where the additional tip would be. “Why do you get 18?”

A waitress snapped a photo of the receipt and posted it on Reddit, a social news site. From there, things went south. The pastor was quickly buried under an avalanche of hate mail. She called the Applebee’s manager to complain. The server who posted the picture of the receipt was fired. And sides have been taken.

Of course, the waitress shouldn’t have violated the privacy of the pastor by posting her signature for all the world to see. In my opinion, her poor judgment was adequate grounds for dismissal. I’m also embarrassed that a minister of the Gospel would have scrawled such a nasty note. After all, it wasn’t the server’s fault for the gratuity policy of the restaurant. Why didn’t she quietly take her complaint to a manager or send an email to corporate headquarters when she got home? This is just another bruise on the collective eye of the church, which is seen by more and more people as an institution full of stingy, judgmental hypocrites.

And I’m one of them.

Oh, I don’t try to be. Neither do you. We yearn to be shining representatives of Christ and never stumble in our discipleship. But we do. And we will continue to do so. That should pain us. And that pain should drive us closer to God, who is our only hope of sanctification.

Pastor Bell has confessed that her hastily-scribbled note was the result a “lapse” in her character and judgment, adding, “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.” She did the right thing–partially. Apologies are an essential first step when we realize we’ve messed up. But it can’t end there, can it? If the world is going to take notice of our message, they need to see that message put into action, day after day. It can’t just come out of our mouths, but it must be embodied in our actions as we live out the Christ-in-us we claim to know. 

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).

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