Things have been pretty good for the body of Christ lately. We have had Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin represent in the sports arena. Lecrae just won a Grammy award, after his music also appeared on MTV and BET. We’ve been doing pretty well. That is, until now. The major news circuit is bubbling with a story so unreal, that you wouldn’t believe it unless you read it yourself.
It’s a Southern tradition. On Sundays, restaurants across the ‘Bible Belt’ are inundated with droves of church-goers, dressed in their finest and eager to dine. So the case was a few weekends ago at a St Louis Applebee’s. FOX and Yahoo News corroborate the details of Pastor Alois Bell (Truth In The World Deliverance Ministries) and her “tip” to the waitress.
Upon first reading the story, I was simultaneously filled with surprise and indignation, as you may be as well. The perfect, holy, and loving God has been misrepresented as cheap, selfish, and inconsiderate. This is why.
One can immediately deduce that Pastor Bell (at least in that moment) was out of touch with any reality that reached beyond the spare dollars in her wallet. Her beef seemed to be that the minimum ten percent of her entire income given to God should be the extent of her giving, or at least the largest number. Realistically, eighteen percent of one restaurant outing pales in comparison to an entire income’s tithe, but the printed number on the bill sparks something in Bell’s psyche, clouding the fact that someone else’s income is derived from the proposed gratuity.
Pastor Alois claims that although she both wrote the snide remark and marked “$0” in the space for a tip, her group left at least $6.29 in cash on the table. Exactly six dollars and twenty-nine cents. Not a convenient quarter and nickel, making an even $6.30. Not possibly just rounding up to $7, foregoing the disrespect of coins. Not even the eight members at her table leave just one dollar each. No, just $6.29. Ouch.
The worst part is that a talented worker is now unemployed due to Alois’s shame, and her value of reputation over repentance.
The entirety of Scripture echoes the heart of God as a giver. He gives earth. He gives life. He gives offspring, inheritance, victory, redemption, spiritual gifts, and so much more. God calls His people to reflect this heart by giving to the local church and its members, society’s disenfranchised, and joyfully display the bottomless bank of God’s provision by dispersing His resources throughout the earth. After all, what we have in our hands is not for our ownership, but for our stewardship. So, to see a Christian that has been graced with much by the Father, reprehensibly turn to be a stingy scrooge is disturbingly irking. Especially when the only apology uttered is, “I’m sorry that I wrote it… It was dumb of me.”
This story is the stuff that Jesus’ parables are made of. And as all parables, it leads us to unanimously find Pastor Alois Bell guilty on all counts of accusation. At the same time, however, we must understand that Pastor Bell serves an actor in a stage performance, playing the part of us: the guilty ones. When God makes it clear that we are supposed to give to a particular person, are we reluctant or eager? Do we view our bank accounts as a storage facility or distribution center? Do our schedules make us available to minister to others? Are there any of our skills that we are holding out on using to edify God’s people? Are our lives worthy of the job description Paul tells of in his letter to the Corinthians: “Ambassadors of Christ, as though God was making His appeal to mankind through us”?
Oh how effortless it is to dissect another’s heart, until we are confronted with the dark corners of our own. As we pray for Pastor Bell to embrace the generosity of the Father, let our prayers also be for Christ to make us all like Him.