Not too long ago, LeSean McCoy, running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, was singled out by a restaurant owner for leaving a lousy tip. The receipt was pictured and placed on the web to embarrass and shame him for his action. According to McCoy, the service was terrible and the low tip ($.20) was all that was deserved. In tipping poorly, McCoy made the statement that you get what you deserve and waiters & waitresses must earn their tip.
Another story that reached headlines was about Steven & Makenzie Schultz, who received less than stellar service due to the busyness of the restaurant. Their wait was longer than most typical Americans would handle well. In fact, they heard many customers complaining and saw some even walking out. So, what did they do? After a long wait and meal time, they gave their waiter way more than what was deserved… a $100 tip.
These two stories show two different approaches to similar experiences of poor service (though most likely not identical). One approach is that a reward (tip) is based on earning it. The other is giving a reward regardless of whether it was earned – which is based in mercy.
Whether they knew it or not, the Schultz’s demonstrated grace, that is, unearned favor. This tip of grace was given to the waiter, even though he was unable to perform to the standards of the customers. The Schultz’s were aware of the waiter’s inability to measure up to these standards. Their patience combined with their concern for his well-being led them to act with their grace-filled gift.
This act is an illustration of the grace that God gives to us…His unmerited favor for those He loves…us. We know we will never be able to measure up to His standards of being righteous on our own. It is impossible. Yet, though we are incapable of measuring up to these standards, He is patient with us, and His great love for us led Him to act with giving us an unmerited gift of Jesus Christ.
Just as the waiter accepted the gift of the tip (though he knew that he hadn’t earned it), we are also given the choice of accepting the gift of Jesus Christ. When we accept (believe in) Him (His death for our sins), we are stating that we cannot earn our way to heaven and we accept His sacrifice for us. Jesus earned which we could not – eternal life in heaven through meeting the standard of sinlessness. And we are given the gift of eternal life based on His merits and not on our own. This is what it means to be “saved by grace” (Eph 2:8-9).
May we accept this grace given to us by God through Christ and may we demonstrate this same grace to others who have not earned our respect, love, tips, or our favor.