Yesterday I received a text message from a good friend that caused me to slam my phone down in disgust.
My friend had just delivered a large order of sandwiches to a church here in town to the tune of $1,500. He shared with me that it took he and another employee the majority of the morning to prepare the nearly two hundred box lunches. Although this church has a reputation for never tipping the delivery drivers from the business where my friend works, he thought surely they would tip this time. The order was enormous and the church had requested a discount. Perhaps, if nothing else, the church would tip the 10 percent discount to those who served them.
No such luck. When my friend delivered the full order on time with the kindness and professionalism one would expect, a church staff member signed the receipt, zeroed out the gratuity line and handed it back to him.
When my friend texted me to share what happened we were in the middle of our church staff meeting. I lost it. I slammed my phone down in disgust. When our associate pastor asked if I was okay, I erupted. I was not okay. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I was hurting for my friend.
You see, what this church didn’t realize is that the man who just delivered their sandwiches is an atheist. He doesn’t share many of their beliefs about God. They also didn’t realize that their lack of generosity just reinforced some of the very things that stand in the way of his believing. They didn’t hand him a tract (thank God) but a message was delivered loud and clear that day.
He texted me not out of spite, but out of shock. He wondered how on earth a community claiming to represent Jesus could behave in this way.
I had no answers for him.
It was about that time that one of the gals on our team had an idea: “We should go give them a big tip.” We all agreed.
So we pooled together the biggest pile of cash we could muster and headed to the shop. I found my friend, gave him a hug and apologized on behalf of Christians everywhere. I told him how angry and embarrassed we were. I told him that is not what Jesus is like and that is not what his church is meant to be either. I handed him the cash and asked him if he could forgive us for so misrepresenting Jesus.
My friend was clearly moved. He told me he would be tithing (TITHING!) 10% back to our church and sharing the rest with his coworkers, including the gal who had helped prepare the order all morning. He later shared with me that she tried to return the gift saying she didn’t feel she deserved it. So he told her if she wanted to return it, she would have to visit our church sometime. He even volunteered to go with her.
I am really proud of my friend, but I am embarrassed to admit he out-gave all of us yesterday.
I want you to just think about that for a moment. My atheist friend shows real generosity towards both God and others while the church was unwilling to give even the lowest industry standard. No matter how you cut it that is just plain wrong. In the words of my friend, “I figured they must be saving for another basketball court or something.” Ouch. That should hurt.
Rest assured I will be having a personal conversation with the church. But for any other pastors or ministry leaders reading this, please stop acting in ways the rest of us have to apologize for. It’s exhausting. Jesus gave his all to an unbelieving world so that we could turn around and give nothing or close to it? Knock it off.
For the rest of us, may this serve as a sober reminder that the little things we do each day matter. They ripple outward impacting the lives of those around us, for better or worse. This means even the smallest acts are meaningful for they hold within them the potential to draw people closer to Jesus or to push them further away.
What do your actions suggest about the character and nature of God? Do they suggest he is stingy or generous? Kind or cruel? Withholding with his kids or lavish in love? A God that primarily takes or a God that can’t help but keep on giving?
The world is watching.